As we drove to Knightshayes Court for a morning of Easter Egg hunting with the family and friends, the weather was better than forecast. The 25 minute drive also meant that there was no time for boredom to set in, so things were looking good.
Knightshayes is a gothic, National Trust property located just across the Somerset border in Tiverton, Devon. Just seven miles from junction 27 of the M5 it was easy to find, and as we approached via the long driveway the children were excited.
The hunt itself was well organised, with the children being handed a sheet of questions before they ran off around the large garden to find the answers to enable them to later claim their chocolate prize. Us adults? Well we had more of a saunter.
The garden is divided into eight separate areas, although had I not read this I wouldn’t have realised. I think we managed to explore most of them, if not all.
Koi carp could be seen in the pool garden and this was one of my favourite areas; peaceful and elegant. The children much preferred tearing around the woodland walk and enjoying the play area near the restored kitchen gardens which originally date back to 1876. According to history the garden declined following the World Wars, and by the 1970s had been abandoned as it was no longer cost effective to run. A project to revive the kitchen garden began in 1999, and four years later it was back to its former glory, once again fully productive. It provides produce to the Stables café and Conservatory Tea Room, which is where we enjoyed a coffee before exploring the house. The conservatory is beautiful. A real indoors garden. There are plenty of plants and it was nice and warm, on what was turning into a rather cold and wet day. I could have stayed there for the entire afternoon, but then I would have missed the wonders of the house.
Built for the former MP of Tiverton, Sir John Heathcoat Amory, the foundation stone of Knighthayes was laid in 1869, but the elaborate interiors were not completed until four years later. William Burges was the flamboyant designer, but his rocky relationship with the family got him fired half way through the project leaving his imaginative vision incomplete. His replacement, John Dibblee Crace turned out to be another ill-fated choice with much of his work being covered up by the family, but later restored by the Trust.
From the Medieval Hall complete with Minstrel’s Gallery, to the well-stocked library packed with rare books, there is plenty to explore. The boudoir, where you’ll find the signs of the zodiac beautifully painted on the ceiling is very elegant and the children enjoyed the servant’s area where they could dress up and be transported back in time.