Devon & Dorset
Andrew and Laura have a long weekend at the
Swiss Cottage in Milton Abbot, Devon.
On the Monday, Andrew and Laura leave to join Carole, Peter and Nick at
Wolveton Gate House.
Words are by the Luscious Laura. Except these ones, and ones that are italicised.
They're by Nick.
29th June 2001
We set off to spend my birthday at Swiss Cottage in Milton Abbot, Devon, a lovely Landmark place. We drove to Weston Super Mare,
stopping for an average lunch of fish and chips.
We explored the Helicopter museum nearby.
It is the largest in the world apparently, with 58 old helicopters dating back to the first one ever built in 1936. Andrew really enjoyed
it. I did too, but found it a very sad place a graveyard of lovely old helicopters, which will never fly in the sun again.
We arrived at Swiss Cottage at 7pm. It is utterly beautiful and the view is stunning, breathtaking, one of the most spectacular we have ever seen. The River Tamar and the whole valley set out below us. It looks just like a rainforest from up here. The mists and the sun are changing the scenery by the minute and Andrew’s camera is working overtime! We love this place. The chalet is of wood with 3 floors and a balcony, which goes all the way around the middle floor, which is the living room. The bedroom and bathroom are on the top floor and you can hear the squirrels scampering up and down the walls and on the roof! There is a stone wall surrounding the bottom of the chalet which is very handy to sit out on and look at the view, eat, drink etc.
I think we will spend most of our time here.
Went to Liskeard for lunch at the White Hart, a lovely lunch up in the terraced garden of fresh salmon, prawns and baguettes.
We caught the train to Looe, very touristy but the Banjo Pier area is very nice with lovely silver sand and the sea is very blue. We went for a paddle then caught the train back to the car, drove back to Tavistock.
In Tavistock we stopped for dinner at Christopher’s restaurant. Lovely food and wine and excellent service too.
By 9pm we were perched on our hilltop again and spent the rest of the evening with a bottle of wine, just watching the scenery changing.
After a bacon sandwich we set off to visit the Monkey Sanctuary at No Man’s Land. We watched the monkeys and chatted to the keepers who live in a commune there, so that they are with the monkeys full time. As we sat watching the sea and drinking coffee at the café, one of the keepers was spreading something on leaves for the monkeys, I asked what it was and he replied
"apple and pear conserve, a Sunday treat, as the monkeys all love it!" We had a walk in their woods and garden then watched the monkeys enjoy their jam on trees.
We drove down to Portwrinkle and had cream tea in the garden of the hotel with a lovely view of the
sea. We were the only people there: it was very quiet and relaxed.
Arriving back at Swiss Cottage about 5.20pm, we eat Cornish pasties for dinner, and relax with the wine and the view. At about 9pm a herd of deer with their young waded across the river below
us. It was a beautiful sight.
Woke up late this morning so had to dash about a bit as we leave by 11am. We are sad to leave this place as it is up there with the Gothic Temple and Saddell as a favourite landmark house with the views and the peace and tranquility.
We are going to Wolfeton Gate House near Dorchester for a few days too and Carole, Peter and Nick will join us there till Friday.
We have decided to go via Lydford Gorge as a lot of people have written in the logbook about it. There is a 3-mile walk that takes us all round the gorge and past all the waterfalls, which are stunning. Well worth the walk, which is very steep, and extremely narrow and frightening if you don’t like heights like me!
The Devil's Cauldron is amazing and has steep slippery very narrow steps, but is worth the journey as it is spectacular when you reach it! We had a late lunch there, then drove
to Dorchester and our second holiday home, Wolfeton Gate House
Wolfeton Gate House
|This is a wonderful house too, large airy rooms and apparently the ghost of a catholic monk called Cornelius who haunts Andrew and I’s bathroom! We all arrived within an hour of each other and having settled in, we went to find dinner.
A lovely little restaurant in Dorchester at 6 North
Row provided us with lovely food and Old Thumper beer etc.
We mooched about at the house all morning whilst Andrew dozed.
At lunchtime we set off for Lyme Regis; a pretty little seaside town. We had lunch in a pub in the main street.
Carole and I bought some skirts in a little shop nearby. We went down to the seafront where we sat, walked, paddled etc. for a couple of hours. The beach is very pretty with lovely golden sand and the sun has got her hat
on. It’s definitely the hottest day so far this year! We had a lovely cream tea in the fudge shop then a short stroll by the river.
headed off to West Bay near Bridport for a walk on the extremely painful shingle and a
sit watching mad people leaping off the harbour into the sea.
We return to Dorchester and find the Sala Thai restaurant, another excellent meal which we all thoroughly
enjoyed. But they had run out of all decent red wine, beer, vodka etc. so we
settled for warm
Pimms and frozen (literally) Carlsberg!
Back to the gatehouse for some wine!
|We are all a bit tired today: we had the loudest and most terrific thunderstorm we’ve ever known, amazing sheet and forked lightning and rumbles that shook the house and turned the electricity off. It started at 1am and continued till after 9am, going further away and returning to over our heads again. This morning there are rust droppings from the windows on all the ledges! We sat around till 10am then decided it was time to whinge, as we needed coffee or tea and hot water etc. John (the house factotum) came to our rescue and
reset the trip switches.
|We then fortified ourselves with mushroom omelette and bacon and then drove off to explore
Lulworth, which has a castle, a beach, a cove and a deserted village! The castle was rigged up for tourists and the deserted village was being used for army
manoeuvres with ”no access“ and ”beware of gunfire” notices everywhere, so we settled for the cove and beach where we bumped into Jackie Weeks and family who also live in Yardley Gobion!!! This is also a very pretty area with no tourists and some lovely rock formations with natural “doors” leading out to sea.
Dungy Head and Durdle Door
Peter and Nick attempt to see Durdle
Door, an eroded cliff arch a mile or so east of Lulworth. We climbed a
well made path over a headland, Dungy
Head, but we were soon enveloped in a mist.
A hoard of kids from a school trip said that there was nothing to
see, and that the sweet shop was "back that way." So we aborted,
and rejoined Andrew and Laura in Lulworth Cove for a cuppa and a generic
sticky bun. (By which time the mist had cleared.....)
Steak and Guinness Pie
We meandered awhile there, then adjourned to good old
Tesco’s for some ingredients so that I could prepare Steak and Guinness
pie with green pie and mash for tonight’s supper. Which was very
nice too, thankyou!
We are now all sitting around having had an evening stroll, still too full and drinking plum brandy procured at a little wine shop in
Lulworth. Tomorrow we'll explore the delights of Weymouth!
After a relaxing morning we toured the “house” as arranged. It still needs a lot of repair work, as the housekeeper says “It’s been let to go to rack and ruin” but the present owners are gradually sorting it out and the plasterwork on the ceilings and the incredibly ornate oak panelling, beams and fire and door surrounds are well worth seeing. It is a majestic old house, and will be quite wonderful again in time! There is an old cider house in the grounds dating back at least 150 years and still in use, unfortunately (or maybe not!!) there is none for sale just now as it is the wrong time of year. We finished our tour with the chapel, which has unusually carved ancient signs of the zodiac to decorate it.
|We then drove to Weymouth for lunch at Bennett’s fish and chip shop, one of the best ten in Britain according to something or other that Andrew has read – certainly very good!
We wandered around the old harbour area, around the shops and, of course, the seafront.
The harbour was lively and busy: lots of restaurants, full pubs and
boats being unloaded with crabs. The seafront was quiet: the weather was
overcast, and not really inviting.
The sun has disappeared since the storm, and we were left with a very drizzly sort of
day. (Apparently there was another less spectacular one last night, but I slept through it.)
We retired defeated by the weather to Wolfeton, but ventured out again at 8ish to find dinner. The Mock Turtle (again on recommendation from previous Landmarkers) proved a worthwhile choice. Lovely dinner, wine and champagne and delicious
puddings. We have retired to quietly enjoy our last evening here.
We head for home again in the morning.
So it is an end to another intrepid explorers (plus friends) holiday. Why do they pass so quickly?
A week isn't long enough!
Nick's back at the keyboard.
Here I ask to be forgiven for the bad naughty wicked things that some of us
- Feed chips to the seagulls at Lyme Regis.
- Encourage the local youth at West Bay to leap from the quay side.
- Ring the chapel bell.
Writing it up on this web page will assuage my guilt...
Apparently seagulls have attacked visitors, and given dogs, with small bows in
their hair, a serious pecking. The locals give short gruff warnings to any
The waitress serving us our cream tea explained all this to us. She added
"I'm looking forward to next winter's sea bird cull. I'll be there,
smashing a few eggs open!"
West Bay Youth
"Is that a camera?" a youth enquires.
"What are you doing with it?"
"Taking pictures of you lot diving off of this jetty."
"I like taking pictures."
"You don't work for the Bridport Gazette?"
"Or the Dorset News?"
"No, why do you ask?"
"We'd get in to some serious shit with our mums and dads and teachers if
they knew what we're doing. This water's dangerous and it's really risky if a
boat gets into the quay when there's someone in the water."
"Then I would urge you to leave this structure, and play in a safe area." I said in my 1950's public information film voice.
"Bollocks to that. Here, take my picture. I'm going to dive in. Email it to
In the lounge at Wolfeton Gatehouse there is a bell rope. OK, not a bell
chamber, just a rope running up the wall. It could easily be mistaken for an
electrical cable. Except it's a rope. A rope with a bell on the end of it!
Above the lounge is a locked room. In the locked room is a large dusty bell,
with the end of the rope tied to the striker.
Beneath the lounge is the Captain's Private Chapel, complete with devotional
Within the lounge, a gentle tug on the rope yields a wondrous
"dong" from the bell above.
Five Go Mad In Dorset
Yes there was five of us in Dorset, but actually we didn't go mad. We
returned home as mad as we went.
Dorset is a relaxing place, and not likely to send you mad. OK, the shops and car parks shut early, and only
accountants live in Dorchester.
So here's a link to Five
Go Mad In Dorset and other Comic Strip episodes.
Swiss Cottage and
Wolveton Gate House are Landmark