Cotehele House and Gardens
Discover Cotehele, a Cornish gem in the Tamar Valley
Cotehele House and Gardens
Cotehele is a traditional Cornish manor house with very little alteration since its construction in the 1500s’. The house has three internal courtyards, a great hall and warren of dark corridors and cosy rooms.
The house is fascinating and the gardens are a joy. Before the 1860s the upper gardens were orchards and the rest thick woods with magnificent Spanish Chestnuts. The family laid out the terraces and structure of the gardens after 1862; they are extremely pretty.
If you love gardens, you will love Cotehele. The Tamar Valley is idyllic and well worth exploring. Our England’s South Coast Tour suggested itinerary features Cotehele - please take a look.
A hidden garden of great beauty
A brief history of Cotehele
The location of any property is important. So why build a house in the middle of a steep and treacherous valley. The answer is security, the steep cleft in the hill encloses and protects the estate. The Tamar River has always been a vital trade and communication route, and the border between Devon and Cornish peninsula. Therefore, the location is a good one, although, at first glance, this may not seem the case.
Sir Richard Edgcumbe and his son Piers remodelled the house in the 1500s’, after being rewarded for supporting the Henry Tudor at the famous Battle of Bosworth (1485). This confrontation was the last and most significant battle of the Wars of the Roses.
The wild west
Cornwall in the early 16th Century was rather lawless, hence the thick walls and internal stone courtyards. The house is built with coarse granite and gives it a lovely rustic and regional style. It is certainly not a cookie-cutter country home.
For a chunk of time, the house was neglected and unchanged. Then in the 18th Century, Richard, 2nd Baron Edgcumbe and his brother George, 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe had developed an interest in the house and appreciated its attributes. By the 19th Century, the Edgcumbe’s displayed the house as a curiosity. They would invite parties up from Plymouth by boat to walk around the dark tapestry clad rooms and enjoy the romantic gardens.
Today, the house is still dark, with no electric light, it feels like an intriguing Cornish time capsule.
The upper garden is often missed and should not be - it is a tranquil and beautiful place. You slip through a doorway, and up a level to see the lily laden square pond fed from a natural spring. There you will see a Tulip tree (stunning in autumn) and a golden Ash. By the yew hedges is a cutting garden with flowers to be displayed in the house, lifting its spirits and splashing colour in dark places.
Cotehele Gardens has a network of openings and tunnels. See specimen trees and a working Dovecote. The three terraces are planted with roses and herbaceous plants, work your way around to find the tunnel taking you to the valley gardens. There you will see a thatched summer-house near a spring-fed stew pond. In the distant past, Kitchen staff kept fish here. The fish fed until needed in the kitchen – guaranteeing a fresh fish supper.
The Edgcumbe’s planted Spruces, larches and hemlocks in the valley to protect the garden from the cold easterly winds. Once down by the River Tamar, you can relax and enjoy a cup of tea and watch the traditional boat builders on their next project.
The great hall is petite by great hall standards, but impressive none the less. The space conjures up the feel of a medieval barons hall of sorts. There are swords, shields and weaponry on the walls. The obligatory coat of arms is on display over the fireplace. The weapons on-show are purely for decoration, but in the past, the occupants hung the tools of war for easy access in times of trouble.
Most of the rooms have an incredible array of tapestries, pieces of delicate needlework and four-poster beds. Before the days of modern central heating, a four-poster bed was essential for those who could afford it. The canopy and curtains would keep the occupant free from cold drafts.
The old Kitchens in old houses are always intriguing. There are places to hang game, and immensely high ceilings allow the heat and smoke to escape. The giant hearth is ten feet wide; also at Cotehele, there is a maze of larders for different produce. With no safe drinking water, brewing ale on-site was normal and so was the consumption of weak ale at breakfast.
Touring and accommodation
After spending time in the Dartmoor National Park stop at Cotehele for a few hours before heading further west into glorious Cornwall. Our tour designers will tailor our England’s South Coast itinerary to match your style and pace of travel. Alternatively, we can create a new tour from scratch. You can visit Cotehele from Bovey Castle Hotel and continue your journey and stay at Hotel Tresanton in the delightful village of St Mawes.
After exploring Dartmoor National Park for a few days, head further west into Cornwall and stop at Tintagel, the legendary clifftop ruins steeped in the myths of King Arthur. Continue your journey south to the world's greatest eco attraction, The Eden Project – a magical place of discovery. You can enjoy the peace and tranquillity of Fly Fishing; here are a few options.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands.
The Secluded Traditional Cornish House with Delightful Gardens
- Boat Trips on the River Tamar
- National Trust Historic House
- Hike the Estate
- Secluded Terraced Gardens
- Traditional Cornish House
The Relaxing Water Gardens
Tender Plants Thrive in the Tamar Valley
The Valley Garden with Dove Cot
Stunning Terraced Gardens at Cotehele
Help us make your trip exceptional
Our UK, EU and US office-based staff will listen to what you want to see and experience.
Whether you are a honeymoon couple, a family or a corporate incentive group, our team’s collective resources will be brought together to build the experience that’s right for you.
We will require your arrival and departure dates, details of your personal preferences and places that you would like to visit as well as the events you would like to experience.
We will then prepare a draft itinerary and send it to you by email for your approval. Once agreed, we will send you a Booking Confirmation with Personalised Itinerary and Information Pack via email.