Powderham Castle – “The Home of Devon”
Well that’s it for another school year. Mia and Felix are now officially on holibobs. To kick off the summer holiday we have looked through Primary Times and Devon Life and each listed our top things we would like to do this vacation: they include wild swimming and generally discovering Dartmoor, surfing in North Devon, going underground at Beer Quarry Caves or Kent’s Cavern (or both) and maybe a little trip to Crealy to satisfy Felix’s urge for adrenaline-junky rides.
Back when it was cloudy and rainy in May we visited Powderham Castle for their half term jousting extravaganza, which was fab. They have plenty of summer offerings coming up so it seemed timely to write a little blog. There will be different themed activities each week from 30th July onwards throughout August on top of the castle’s usual attractions. We have been to Powderham twice and both times really enjoyed it, so here are our highlights of the “home of Devon”.
Powderham is the historic home of the Earl of Devon (who now lives in the converted stable block with his young family rather than the castle itself, but there are lots of family portraits and photographs on display). It is really a fortified manor house but it does feel very castle-y as you approach over the stone bridge and enter the courtyard surrounded by the crenellated walls. The views over the deer park and the River Exe from the castle and its gardens are just stunning. You get the sense that you have slipped back in time and a Tudor hunting party on horseback might trot past at any moment.
The Upstairs/Downstairs Tour affords you a glimpse behind the scenes into the bedrooms and the basement. Highlights were a very regal four-poster bed that was so high it required steps to get into (the steps double as a commode for a chamber pot, how clever is that?) and a beautiful rocking horse into which one of the younger members of the family once posted the contents of his mother’s jewellery box so the horse made a nice noise when he rode it! You get to go down the winding, rickety servant’s staircase to the lower levels of the castle where a glorious kitchen is still bedecked with copper pans, interesting kitchen-alia (including the biggest pestle and mortar we’d ever seen) and a magnificent range.
I would definitely recommend the tours to get the full ‘Powderham’ experience but if they are really not your bag, the ground floor state rooms are open for ‘free flow’ visitors each afternoon between 3.30 and 4.30pm.
The walled garden is a short walk from the castle and no longer boasts fruit and vegetables, instead it is home to a petting farm of animals including the cutest little albino chipmunks and gorgeous chinchillas. It also boasts a brand new play-fort that Mia and Felix enjoyed.
Pricing and discounts
Some might think that Powderham is a little pricey at £12.95 per adult, £11.95 per senior and £10.95 per child, but I think it is well worth it if you do both tours, enjoy the gardens and deer park, visit the walled garden and any other activities/extra exhibitions that are on (some activities and performances do have an additional charge).
It is definitely worth noting that if you are a member of the National Trust, English Heritage and numerous other member organisations they very kindly offer you a 20% DISCOUNT off your visit so bring your cards with you. For a full list of the valid discounts click here. You can also return for free within seven days, great if you don’t manage to see everything in one day. You could take a picnic to save money on lunch, but there is also food available (including fantastic cream teas) in the castle cafe.
It is also incredibly dog friendly – dogs are even allowed in the house but make sure you remember your lead. The only place they are not permitted is the Deer Park and Walled Garden. Dog admission is £1.
Extra activities and events
Powderham has plenty of events on throughout the year, including music concerts, open air theatre and food festivals. For full listings check out their website. We enjoyed displays of jousting and a Lego exhibition during the May half term.
Each week during the summer holidays has a different theme (extra fees apply to these):
From 30th July is Farmyard Fun
From 6th August is Bounce Week with lots of inflatables
From 12th August is Art-tastic Outdoors with the Creation Station
From 19th August is Medieval Mayhem with Pocketwatch Theatre Company.
On 15th August there will be a performance of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale in the castle courtyard.
On 18th and 19th August is Devon’s Fire & Spice food festival.
On 27th August there will be a performance of Sense & Sensibility.