Perhaps the most famous National Trust property in the area is Greenway which has been preserved in excellent condition. Agatha Christie called Greenway ‘the loveliest place in the world’ and treasured it as a holiday home for her and her family. The house has been preserved as it was when she lived there, with many of the original fixtures and fittings, including her Steinway piano in the drawing room, and her collections of China and Silver.
As well as the house you can tour the grounds and go down to the boat house on the riverside.
Getting to Greenway is also part of the fun. Parking at Greenway itself is limited and needs to be booked in advance but you can, instead, make the final part of your journey by ferry or steam train.
There are many attractive country houses and gardens in South Devon and Overbeck’s, situated just outside Salcombe, is one that is a fascinating combination of an Edwardian house, an eclectic museum, exotic gardens and some fabulous views over the estuary and coastline.
The house takes its name from the eccentric inventor, Otto Overbeck, who lived there between 1928 and 1937 and who is famous for patenting his invention, the ‘rejuvenator’, a device that gave mild electric shocks with the aim of ‘renewing youth’! The museum includes his inventions, a collection of dolls houses, a giant 19th century Polyphon music box, and a history of Salcombe.
The seven acre gardens include palms and banana plants, but are most famous for their views.
Over the Easter weekend there is usually an Easter Egg hunt in the garden for children.
Another attractive country house to visit is Saltram House, which is an 18th century Georgian mansion overlooking the Plym estuary.
Although a house had been on the site since Tudor days, it is now most famous for the work of Robert Adam who made extensive alterations to it in the late 18th century. The house has been virtually unchanged since then and remains one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture.
Visitors can see a number of rooms in the house including the Velvet Drawing Room, the Chinese Chippendale Bedroom, the Library, Morning Room, Mirror Room and the Great Kitchen.
The house is set in beautiful gardens and is surrounded by landscaped parkland.
There is a tree trail in the garden and walks you can take through the park, the woodlands and by the river.
To the North of Totnes, Compton Castle is a rare surviving example of a medieval fortress with high towers and portcullis gates. It has been the home of the Gilbert family for 600 years, dating back to Sir Humphrey Gilbert who was an Elizabethan adventurer and explorer, and a half-brother to Sir Walter Raleigh.
The house includes details of Sir Humphrey’s explorations, along with spiral staircases and viewing points from various ‘squints’ in the castle structure.
Set against the backdrop of rolling Devon hills and local orchards, the Castle has some attractive views and its own rose, knot and herb gardens.
There are many other National Trust properties in south Devon including Little Dartmouth, the rugged coastline of Brownstone and Coleton Camp and the medieval manor house at Bradley near Newton Abbot. Full details of all South Devon properties can be found at National Trust South Devon.