Built by the D’Oyly Carte family in the 1920s, this Arts and Crafts house is imbued with the Jazz Age – but step outside and the exotic garden takes centre stage.
We have three National Trust houses and gardens very close to us at Dittiscombe Holiday Cottages: Coleton Fishacre, Greenway near Dartmouth, and Overbeck’s near Salcombe. Here is how we spent a day at Coleton Fishacre, former home of the D’Oyly Carte family.
Part of the enchantment of this trip was taking the lower car ferry to cross the estuary from Dartmouth to Kingswear. The on-board entertainment was a one-legged seagull making short work of a mussel. Despite the wildlife distraction we couldn’t cross this pretty stretch of water without glancing back to shore: to the cobbled quayside of Bayards Cove lined with ancient buildings and stories to tell. Its old wharfside has appeared in many films and TV series and was perhaps a fitting preamble for a visit to a glamorous National Trust property. Just 15 minutes later and we’d arrived.
Imagine a scene from The Great Gatsby, add an English twist and a flute of champagne, and you will be close to the feel of this house. In the great Arts and Crafts tradition the house is not overly large, perfectly formed and well balanced with original Art Deco interiors and wonderful sea and garden vistas. Sadly it’s not filled with original family treasures, but the National Trust have sourced furniture and ornaments of the period giving the house a luxurious but simple ambience, and with light jazz music playing quietly in the saloon we were transported back to that most romantic of eras.
The terraces, pools and lawns immediately outside the house are landscaped and formal, with hot herbaceous borders buzzing with bees and, when we visited, several magnificent Cherry trees in full bloom. With Kes on the lead we took the meandering paths through the sheltered woodland filled with spring bulbs, down to Pudacombe Cove and the South West Coast Path listening to the birds and the tinkling stream en-route. Here and there the trees give way to fabulous sea views and as we descended the valley the morning mist lifted like a curtain, and the craggy island of the Mewstone appeared as if by magic.
We liked the charm of this house and garden and felt that the National Trust had set the scene to truly reflect what the D’Oyly Carte family had built their country home for – easy elegance combined with outdoor living.
For dog owners it’s a relaxing visit. Although Kes was not permitted in the house she was allowed throughout the gardens on a lead, and surprisingly she was welcomed in the cafe where we all plumped for a generous cream tea!
Our visit wasn’t a full day out so you may wish to combine it with something else: a walk along the rugged South West Coast Path; a wander around Dartmouth on the return trip; or a visit to the Queen of Crime’s home at Greenway. Find out about Overbeck’s near Salcombe, another National Trust Garden and House by reading Ruth’s Blog.
If you are not a National Trust member then entry costs £9.90 for adults, £4.95 for children. The gardens are open for most of the year and according to the Head Gardener, who gave us a tour of the garden, the best time to visit is in the Summer when exotic hot reds and bright orange plants are at their best. There is plentiful and easy parking, with a short walk to the shop and house from the car parks. Dogs are allowed on leads in the garden (not in the house), and we were told by the National Trust that they are welcome in the cafe providing it is not super busy.
If you like visiting gardens and historic properties then take a short break at Dittiscombe Holiday Cottages and visit this National Trust gem which is open almost all year round.