Situated just outside the city of Exeter is a gem of a castle and one well worth visiting. Unlike other stately homes, it has been the Courtenay family home for over 600 years and still is. The current Earl and Countess of Devon live on the estate. Powderham Castle is open every day except Saturdays and when weddings are taking place. This is a beautiful setting in which to get married!
Author: Helen Bolton
At the entrance, we were met by friendly staff who booked us on the guided tours and gave us a map. There was a large map sign at the entrance and fingerpost so we took a look then headed up the drive to the castle. When we reached the very tidy courtyard there was a cafe, toilets, a gift shop and the Courtenay Gallery which gives a fascinating insight into the history of the family and of the surrounding area. We didn’t have long to wait before our first tour started.
Powderham Castle Tours
There are two tours which take place three times a day, but no photography is allowed inside. We chose the State Rooms tour at 11am to see the grandest rooms in the house, and the Upstairs Downstairs tour at 12.15 which took us through some of the servant’s staircases and corridors.
Both tours take around an hour and I would recommend taking the first tours of the day because the house is open to all of the public at 1.15pm and you get to look around the house without lots of people meandering around! It was quiet when we arrived with maybe a dozen people on the first tour with us.
At Open House time there was a much larger queue of people waiting to go inside. The tour guides Ali and Dave were excellent hosts and made sure that the tour was interesting to children by personally involving them in opening secret doors and asking them questions about the house. Our son certainly asked them lots of questions too! A refreshing to see that not a lot in the house was out of bounds. Our guides explained that we were welcome to sit on the chairs and explore different rooms but hardly anyone used the furniture!
After the tours we hopped to the Courtyard Cafe for takeaway teas to warm up as the weather was very cold and rainy. We had brought our own lunch and ate it in the comfort of the car. Had it been sunny we would have sought out one of the park’s picnic benches by the beautiful lake at the front of the castle.
Riding School and Pet’s Corner
After lunch we headed in the opposite direction to the castle towards the Old Riding School which is a large undercover menage now used for events and was home to a woodcarver displaying his wood sculptures inside. An artist’s studio shed stood next door.
A little walk further down the path takes you to a great family area which is Pet’s Corner situated inside the Walled Garden.
You would never know what was beyond the wall and we were pleasantly surprised when we went through and discovered lots of ducks, chickens, geese free roaming, small animal enclosures, guinea pigs, chipmunks, goats, and a rodent house (which was a bit smelly but we took a look at the tortoises in here!).
Pets Corner also has picnic benches, undercover seating, a snack shed with a hot drinks machine, a toddler tractor play area, a really fast zip wire and play fort. We had to drag our son away from the zip wire! It was very quiet here compared to the people visiting the castle but you can tell it would get busy in summer.
Other Things to see at Powderham Castle
If you feel up for a longer stroll you could take a walk to the American Garden or for the more energetic, a hike up the hill to Belvedere Tower. Tractor and trailer tours take place twice daily and take you through the fallow deer park and up to Belvedere Tower.
The sun finally came out when we reached the American Garden and it was quite pleasant walking underneath the huge trees up to the Pavilion. The Pavilion is largely a shell but looks like it may be undergoing some restoration. Walking back along the road, my husband was disappointed to find the Forge was closed but it is independently owned so opening times may vary.
A quick stop to the Farm Shop before we left completed our visit. Pick up a unique gift here or choose something different to eat from the butcher or deli counter.
Powderham castle offers a free return visit within 7 days and if you live close, a season ticket is a good purchase. Discounts also offered for National Trust and English Heritage members. Powderham Castle is very family orientated and has seasonal events for families taking place throughout the year so take a look at the website before you go. The current event is the Sheep Show for the Easter break, but there is lots more here to explore than we expected and we will definitely go back when the weather gets a little warmer! You can purchase tickets for Powderham Castle online.
Disclaimer: Helen and her family received complimentary tickets for the purpose of this review. All words, opinions and photos are entirely her own and must not be duplicated.