I have just returned from a surprisingly fun family holiday in the West country, helped by the glorious weather and staying in two very different but equally lovely rented houses.
Firstly Greenway near Brixham in Devon which was once Agatha Christie’s holiday home. The location is stunning, right on the river Dart just up river from Dartmouth. During the day we shared the gardens with hundreds of visitors but once they left we had the walled garden, the boathouse, the Battery, the deckchairs on the wide lawn and the winding paths all to ourselves.
We rented “The Apartment” in the house which sleeps 10 in 5 bedrooms and can be booked through the National Trust. It is not that special inside but very comfortable and really you are there for the gardens, the location, and the rest of the house which you are allowed to wander around. We arrived by car but it would be possible to travel light and take the train to Paignton and then the steam train to Greenway Halt (special request stop, then 30 minutes walk) or Kingswear then a boat to the jetty. The train also runs along the edge of Broadsands Beach where we hired a beach hut from Torbay Council. Agatha Christie’s books set at Greenway are Dead Man’s Folly (filmed there by ITV), Five Little Pigs and Ordeal by Innocence.
The other house was on the north coast of Cornwall. Despite the holiday mayhem of Rock in one direction and surfers at Polzeath in the other it was peaceful and secluded. A short walk away is the 12th century St Enodoc church, buried in a sand dune and unearthed in the 19th century, where John Betjeman is buried. He was also a member of the nearby golf club (see his poem Seaside Golf :” How straight it flew, how long it flew… A glorious, sailing, bounding drive / That made me glad I was alive.”)
I’ve often walked along the coastal path and wondered if it feels rather public to stay one of the houses right on the path. The answer is, you don’t feel exposed at all – you just feel smug! Though it’s even lovelier in the early mornings and late evenings when no one is around.
GREENWAY, GALMPTON, DEVON
Greenway can be rented through the National Trust. It sleeps 10 in 5 bedrooms. Use of the gardens (shared with the public) and a (very) small swimming pool (June-Sep) and private area of the garden.
The incredible location. Having the whole place to yourself after 5.30 and on Mondays. Perfectly placed for exploring Dartmouth, nearby beaches, Dittisham (boat trip across the river) etc.
Parking is 100 metres away via the very busy cafe/shop area (10% off) and it’s a bit of a slog with heavy luggage. The private garden is not particularly secluded, it is overlooked by the National Trust offices and members of the public can wander in.
Not particularly as it’s 2 floors up but the furniture and bathrooms are all quite utilitarian and hard-wearing.
You can also rent South Lodge, once the Head Gardener’s cottage, which sleeps 6 in three rooms, and the Lodge (the gate house) which sleeps 2 in one room. I particularly liked the cosy Lodge though in high season it is noisy as it’s right by the entrance, so the traffic jam of cars arriving and the NT people on their walkie talkies is annoying. However in low season it must be wonderful.
Ours was a private hire but there are many similar houses to rent on the Cornish coast. Email us for recommendations.