Enjoy a fascinating family day out and explore the recent history of Castle Drogo on Dartmoor.
Although it looks like it's been embedded in the wooded hillside for centuries, Castle Drogo is a relatively recent addition to the northern fringe of Dartmoor. In fact, this is the youngest castle in Britain and it's never experienced battle - except the ongoing struggle by the National Trust to protect it from the elements of Dartmoor weather.
[Image: Kerry Garratt]
The castle is actually a unique country house built between 1911 and 1930 by Julius Drewe, who founded The Home and Colonial Stores and made his fortune from everyday staples like tea and margarine.
Retiring at the tender age of 33, grocer Julius indulged a whim to be 'king of the castle' when he discovered amongst his ancestors a Norman baron from the Crusades named Drogo de Teine.
Purchasing land near the village of Drewsteignton, Julius engaged the fashionable early twentieth century architect, Edwin Lutyens, to build him a seat fitting for the opulent lifestyle of a country squire.
[Image: Tim Hodson]
The building you can visit today was the extraordinary result, a massive edifice with granite walls up to six feet thick styled on medieval and Tudor influences, whilst the most cutting edge technology of the day created a modern, avant-garde interior with a shower, refrigerator and electric candle lamps powered by a turbine house on the River Teign below. Formal gardens completed the vision.
[Image: Kerry Garratt]
However, Castle Drogo has since proven a folly of ambition, and its leaking windows and rooﬁng and ﬂawed pointing have failed to withstand Dartmoor wind and rain. Castle Drogo was the first 20th century property to be purchased by The National Trust, which is now in the midst of a massive six-year conservation project to save it.
So visitors are more welcome than ever. From exploring the gardens and walking the dramatic Teign Gorge, to taking a guided tour and hearing stories from the castle’s 100 years of history, there’s plenty going on here for the whole family and, with an all-terrain mobility scooter available for hire, Castle Drogo is accessible to everyone.
[Image: Bonita de Boer]
The main, formal garden is a stunning 12-acre combination of interconnecting vistas, granite walls and domed Ironwood trees, making it a wonderfully tranquil area to wander. You can visit the rose garden, designed for Mr Drewe’s wife Frances, which has proved over the last century that roses can thrive 250 metres above sea level. Exploring the gardens, you’ll ﬁnd Mr Drewe’s daughter’s Bunty House with its own miniature garden and the croquet lawn – always busy with children’s games in the summer – as well as the recently reopened Rhododendron garden. There’s even a new dog-walking path to make your four-legged friends happy.
Extensive work has already taken place on the outside to preserve the building, and the inside of the castle has also seen some changes. Whilst the collection of the castle is stored safely away from the building work, the rooms have been redisplayed to tell the story of the Drewe family, bringing to life the building of the castle 100 years ago and the current work through interactive displays and installations.
EXPLORE THE TEIGN GORGE
The surrounding landscape never fails to impress. After heavy rainfall, foaming torrents of water can be seen cascading into the River Teign below and winding paths lead from the castle down to the gorge where, if you’re lucky, you might spot some residents of the river, including otters, dippers and kingﬁshers.
Pick up a free spotter sheet from reception and see if you can track down wildlife and identify trees or head down to the gorge at night, where you and the little ones can stargaze away from light pollution. Perhaps the adventurer in you would enjoy wild swimming in the river or mountain biking along the rugged tracks around the gorge? Hunter’s Path and Rectory Woods are both great routes for the intrepid to enjoy a two-wheeled thrill ride!
We've a choice of five welcoming cottages in and around the pretty village of Drewsteignton, all pet-friendly and within walking distance of Castle Drogo and the Teign Gorge.
A thatched idyll in its own three acre valley. Sleeps 6.
A gorgeous thatched cottage in Drewsteignton, 400 yards from the good pub and village shop. Sleeps 6.
A dear little cottage in the village, a stroll through the pretty churchyard from the pub and close to footpaths. Sleeps 4.
A tranquil farm cottage for starry skies and tranquillity. Sleeps 4.
A chocolate-box cottage in the heart of the village with roses growing round the door. Sleeps 4.
[Main image: Bonita de Boer]