A one-day sightseeing guide to Tallinn in Estonia

If you are visiting Tallinn for a short time or perhaps as part of a cruise excursion, you’ll want to use your limited time to make the most of the wonderful attractions available in Tallinn. This guide from our guest author, Brian Schweitzer will give a rundown of the best way to see Tallinn to make the most of your precious time.

The perfect day sightseeing in Talinn, Estonia

What to See in Tallinn

Old Town – This is the best place to start  your day in Tallinn as there are many different attractions located inside Old Town. Tallinn’s Old Town belongs to UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 1997 and is a medieval fantasy land that will take you back in time to the 11th – 15th century.

Sightseeing in Talinn, Estonia

Sightseeing in Talinn, Estonia

Town Hall Square – Also called Raekoja plats, the Town Hall Square has been in existence since 1322. The square is famous for an open air market for souvenirs and the Christmas tree display, which is over 570 years old. This is a great place to buy traditional Estonian souvenirs.

Town Hall Pharmacy – Also called Raeapteek, it is one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe and has been in operation since the 15th century. The strange array of medicines available throughout history includes mummy juice, unicorn horn powder, bat powder, and hedgehog powder. Inside there is a museum displaying medieval medical instruments and chemist tools. This is another place to buy interesting souvenirs.

Town Hall Pharmacy in Talinn, Estonia

Town Hall Pharmacy in Talinn, Estonia

Toompea Hill & Castle – The Estonian parliament is located here and the hill offers visitors several viewing platforms for taking amazing photos with Tallinn in the background. This was one of the first inhabited areas that is now known as Tallinn and the natural hill offered a stronghold that would be used throughout the history of the city.

St Mary’s Church – Located on Toompea Hill, the church is also known as Dome Church and is the oldest church in Estonia. The original wood church was built in 1219 and numerous famous people throughout history have been buried here. It was originally a Roman Catholic Church but in 1561 it became a Lutheran Church.

The Dome church in Talinn, Estonia

The Dome church in Talinn, Estonia

Kiek in de Kök & Bastion Tunnels – Kiek in de Kök was the Baltic’s most powerful cannon tower defense and construction lasted from 1475 to 1483. The name literally means “peek into the kitchen” as the guards could actually peer into the kitchens of the houses below. After viewing the tower defense you can head underground into Bastion Tunnels. Construction started in the 1630’s and with a purpose to secretly flank any enemy trying to take the city. These secret underground passages helped guard the city during the time of Swedish rule.

The Bastion tunnels in Talinn, Estonia

The Bastion tunnels in Talinn, Estonia

St Nicholas’ Church – This church was dedicated to St Nicholas, the saint of sailors and fishermen. Inside the church is a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia which focuses on medieval artwork. The church is also used as a concert hall because of the excellent acoustics inside.

Town Wall – Also known as the Margaret Wall, it was ordered to be constructed by Queen Margaret Sambiria in 1265. Walking along the walls visitors will have another great chance for memorable photos.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – This is a beautiful Orthodox church built in Russia style between 1894 and 1900. It is Tallinn’s largest orthodox cupola cathedral and was dedicated to Saint Alexander Nevsky, who was the prince of medieval Rus.

Kadriorg Park & Palace – After leaving Old Town, head out to Kadriorg Park on the outskirts of Tallinn, Kadriorg Park and Kadriorg Palace was founded in the beginning of the 18th by the order of Peter the Great of Russia. The park is a great place to walk in the fresh air and includes several interesting buildings including the Presidential Palace, Kadriorg art Museum, KUMU (one of the largest art museums in the Baltics), and the Peter the Great museum. Kadriorg Park also includes Kadriorg Palace, which was built in baroque style by Peter the Great for Catherine I in 1718.

The Kadriorg Park and Palace in Talinn, Estonia

The Kadriorg Park and Palace in Talinn, Estonia

Where to Eat in Tallinn

No day in Tallinn is complete without a medieval feast. Old Hansa restaurant in Old Town offers traditional medieval Estonian cuisine that makes you feel that you have gone back to medieval times. The atmosphere, attendants, music, and menu are all meticulously created to showcase the “Golden Age of Tallinn.”

Souvenirs to Buy in Tallinn

Take something home to remember your Tallinn shore excursion with these recommended souvenirs:

Vana Tallinn – Based on a traditional Estonian recipe this liquor is based on Jamaican rum and includes natural spices including citrus oil, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Juniper – Kitchen items crafted from juniper trees can be found inside the Church of the Holy Spirit and around Old Town. When cooking they emit a sweet, aromatic smell.

Kalev Chocolate – This is the largest chocolate maker in Estonia and includes a large variety of chocolates including some stranger variants such as white chocolate with blueberries.

Wool Clothing – The traditional choice of clothing in medieval Estonia, you will find wool clothing available throughout Old Town with a large selection of items from socks, sweaters, and hats.

About the author: Brian Schweitzer is a travel writer for Travel Guru – A smart travel community dedicated to connecting travelers and saving them time and money on their travels.

For more European adventures:

Cycling by the sea in Istria – in Croatia
Culture and clubbing – my 18 year old daughter hits the town in Budapest
Thermal springs and rubber rings at Hévíz – in Hungary

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Hiking the Dry Stone Route in Mallorca – from Deia to Lluc monastery

November 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Europe, featured, Leisure, Mallorca, Nature, Spain, Walking

My friend Julia and I spent a few days in Mallorca this September, walking the GR221 Drystone Route that runs along the west coast and through the Tramuntana mountains. Having walked the Tour de Mont Blanc together over the previous four years, we were ready for something a little gentler this year. Mallorca seemed to fit the bill with autumn sunshine, some challenging mountain walks combined with sea views and comfortable hotels to stay in rather than a communal dorm in a mountain hut. You can read here about the first two days of our walk starting at the pretty artist’s village of Deia when we walked to the mountain monastery at Lluc.

Heather and Julia ready to set off on our walk from Deia in Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather and Julia ready to set off on our walk from Deia in Mallorca

We’d flown in to Palma late the previous evening and after breakfast in the pretty courtyard of Hotel Born, we hoisted our rucksacks on our backs and walked through the narrow streets towards the bus station at Placa d’Espanya. There is an excellent and regular bus service joining all the major towns of Mallorca and we took the bus 210 which passes through Valldemossa, Deia and Soller which are all convenient points to pick up the Dry Stone Route – timetables and more information on the tib.org website.

From the bus we could see Valdermossa, a picturesque town surrounded by mountains with views of the sea in the distance, where the writer George Sand spent a winter in 1838 with her lover, the composer Frederick Chopin. They had an uncomfortable and unhappy time and she wrote a rather scathing account of the Mallorcan people and customs in her book “A Winter in Mallorca“. We got off the bus at the next stop of Deia, a hilltop town which became popular with writers and artists because of the writer Robert Graves who made his home here. Exploring the small streets off the main road we discovered the village shop where we bought a few provisions for lunch and some water before starting our walk.

Dry stone route from Deia to Soller, Mallorca

Dry stone route from Deia to Soller, Mallorca

Further along the road from the bus stop, we soon picked up the signs for the GR221 which took us along the hillside winding through olive groves with views towards the sea. Seeming easy at first the path then crossed a few stiles and became quite rocky, so I got out one of my walking poles to avoid twisting an ankle. We snaked down the valley and followed the road for a short while before turning up steps between two houses and joining a path that ran parallel to the main road below.

This stretch was very pleasant as we walked in the shade, with cicadas chirping and the scent of pine needles in the air. The path was now taking on its ‘dry stone’ character, with stone terraces containing olive trees, the occasional stone built house and the retaining walls by the path making a grey patchwork with the stones fitting together perfectly.

Around 2 hours after walking out of Deia we came upon Can Prohom, a gorgeous large Mallorcan farmhouse with an outdoor terrace serving fresh orange juice and home-made lemonade with an array of quiche, meringues and almond cake. This was a taste of the wealthy country houses of Mallorca with an old carriage on display in the entrance and a mural of local costumes above the kitchen and we were perfectly happy to sit for a while on the terrace to take in the views over the valley.

Can Prohom between Deia to Soller, Mallorca

Can Prohom between Deia to Soller, Mallorca

Feeling refreshed, we walked down below Can Prohom, following the road for a while before it turned into a path that took us through fields and scrubland, until we came over a rise and could see the sea in the distance. A little further and we caught a glimpse of the Far des Cap Gros lighthouse and a small cruise ship just below the point at the entrance to the bay of Port de Soller. We stopped at the Rifugi de Muleta, a solid stone building which was once a telegraph station but now offers simple accommodation and refreshments for passing walkers like us. Never one to miss the opportunity for a drink of fresh orange juice or a terrace with a view, we sat here for a while before walking down the hill past the whitewashed lighthouse.

Far des Cap Gros lighthouse above Port de Soller, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Far des Cap Gros lighthouse above Port de Soller, Mallorca

The point where the road reached the lighthouse and Refugi de Mulata offered fabulous views over the bay and was clearly a favourite spot to walk up to for a photo opportunity for the more adventurous holiday makers of Port de Soller. Our Hotel, Citrix Soller was a modest establishment set on the same small road just above the resort, so we checked into our room and relaxed there a while before walking down to explore the resort, which encircled the bay with the usual selection of shops, bars and restaurants aimed at the tourists. Along the seafront stretch of sand were kayaks, pedalos and a marina at the far end of the bay with the old fashioned tram going up and down the promenade.

Admiring the view over Port de Soller, Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Admiring the view over Port de Soller, Mallorca

The vintage tram ran every half an hour from the seafront at Port de Soller to the older town of Soller and took us to the Placa de sa Constitucia surrounded by outdoor cafes and the 17th century church of Sant Bartomeu. We decided to have dinner in Soller, enjoying the authentic, Mallorcan feel of the town and took a recommendation on Tripadvisor to find the charming Café Scholl down a side street. This pretty cafe had the retro feel of a Viennese tea house, with cakes and light veggie dishes – perfect for morning coffee or a light lunch but also open in the evening. We sat on the covered patio at the back and enjoyed a delicious meal of beetroot gazpacho and fluffy ricotta ravioli with an orange Aperol Spritz that has become my favourite aperitif since I tried it in Italy.

The tram to Soller and our dinner at Cafe Scholl Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The tram to Soller and our dinner at Cafe Scholl

We made an early start the next morning, taking the taxi into Soller where the Saturday market was just setting up with a van selling cheese and sausages and some clothing stalls. Picking up the GR221 signs from the central Placa, the walk soon took us away from the residential streets, through the orchards and orange groves for which this valley is famous. Soon we were approaching the Binibassi, all green shutters and bright pink bougainvillea and then on to Biniarix, another pretty village with old stone houses, a couple of bars and shops and a communal washing house at the end of the village.

Walking through the lemon groves outside Soller in Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking through the lemon groves outside Soller in Mallorca

Looking back towards Soller, the mist was still hanging over the valley as the sun tried to come out to burn off the haze. Below us the fields were terraced, with figs, water melons and tomato plants irrigated with fat black pipes fed from stone reservoirs at the corner of each field.

View back towards Soller in Mallorca Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View back towards Soller in Mallorca

Now we were at the start of the Serra de Tramuntana with craggy stone peaks rising ahead as the path became a broad series of cobbled steps snaking up between orange and grey sandstone cliffs. It was striking how the sides of this valley were terraced everywhere we looked and I wondered how they could maintain the walls, terraces and even houses so well in such an inaccessible place. Many of these terraces are centuries old and the Mallorcan government has put a lot of investment into maintaining and developing these walking paths in recent years, in the drive to develop rural tourism.

We passed a mule coming down the path, laden down with paniers on either side, perhaps filled with the olive harvest. Since no roads go up this far, this seems to be the only way to transport goods up and down to the few small houses that the farmers use when tending the land.

Walking on the dry stone route from Soller to Cuber, Mallorca

Walking on the dry stone route from Soller to Cuber, Mallorca

After following the path steeply uphill through a place where the gorge narrowed, we finally reached a viewpoint at the top where we sat under a tree to eat our late picnic lunch. The path continued through dense woodland and finally opened out to a spot where we could glimpse the Cuber reservoir below us in the distance. Plenty of walkers passed us from that direction, since it seemed to be a popular day-hike to take the bus up from Soller and get off at the reservoir, then walk downhill back to Soller, a much easier incline than our arduous uphill struggle!

View towards Reservoir Cuber in Mallorca

View towards Reservoir Cuber in Mallorca

The path led us through an open valley grazed by sheep and horses and along the side of the milky blue reservoir. The water looked inviting but we didn’t dare pause too long since we were heading to the carpark at the far end of the valley where the bus was due to pass through only once that afternoon. The GR221 continued from here to the more remote Refugi de Tossals Verds where we would have loved to have stayed, but it was closed for renovation, so we had no option but to take the bus on to the Lluc monastery where we had booked for 2 nights.

View towards Reservoir Cuber in Mallorca

View towards Reservoir Cuber in Mallorca

We arrived in good time at the car park and waited there for some time, since there was no official bus stop, hoping that the bus would come and we wouldn’t be left stranded. Eventually it did and in 20 minutes we were entering the gates of the imposing complex of Lluc Monastery, one of the major pilgimage sites of Mallorca. Stay tuned for my next article about our stay at Lluc Monastery and the final stages of our walk on the GR221 Dry Stone Route in Mallorca.

If you’d like to walk the Dry Stone Route

Trekking in Mallorca GR221 guide

Click to buy on Amazon

If you plan to walk the GR221 Dry Stone Route I recommend the guide book that we used Trekking through Mallorca – GR221 The Dry Stone Route by Paddy Dillon published by Cicerone.

To transfer from Palma airport to the centre of Palma we took the airport bus No 1 which runs every 15 minutes and will leave you at Placa d’Espana where you will find both the train and bus station. Cost around €3 one way.

Information on routes, timetables and costs of the excellent regular bus service throughout Mallorca, visit the www.tib.org Mallorca Transport website. We used the bus to get from Palma to Deia, from Cuber to Lluc and from Pollenca to Palma.

You can buy the rather uncomplimentary account of Mallorca “A Winter in Mallorca” written by George Sand about the winter she spent there with her lover, the composer Frederick Chopin.

We stayed at Hotel Born in Palma, Hotel Citric in Soller and Santuari de Lluc. In Soller we ate at Cafe Scholl.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Our weekend break at the Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon – video

What a night for a drive down to Devon! With rain pelting down on the windscreen and leaves blowing across the road, any thoughts we had of stopping at a country pub on the way were abandoned in the hope of just arriving safely at the Moorland Garden Hotel.

Lily of the valley room at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Lily of the valley room at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

We’ve arrived at the Moorland Garden Hotel!

Just north of Plymouth we turned off the main road and down a secluded drive to reach the gates of the hotel, a long two-storey building with all the bedrooms overlooking the lawned gardens. Parking the car and running inside to escape the downpour, we were soothed by the warm welcome at reception and the sounds of music and celebration coming from the room at the other end of the corridor. This being rural Devon, the Young Farmers’ annual dinner dance was in full swing with lads in DJs and lasses in full-on evening glamour and tottering heels, wandering in and out of the bar, not a wellie or barbour jacket to be seen.

I hope you enjoy my video below of the Moorland Garden Hotel

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Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Harking back to the hotel’s glamourous heyday

The hotel was built in the 1930s, originally named the Moorland Links Hotel because of the nearby golf club and enjoyed a glamourous reputation in its heyday, attracting celebrities such as David Niven and Rex Harrison. With a large ballroom complete with sprung dance floor and resident orchestra, guests flocked to attend tea dances and balls, while in the 1940s the hotel was popular with army and naval officers stationed at nearby Plymouth. In 2011 the hotel was bought by the current owners Brian and Sonia Meaden who have gradually put the hotel through a complete refurbishment of the 44 bedrooms and public areas. While the swimming pool and tennis courts of the 1930s are no longer there, the hotel has taken on a new character as a welcoming place for guests wanting to combine the wild walks of Dartmoor with the Waterfront attractions of the Ocean City of Plymouth. To celebrate its 80th anniversary this year, the hotel has been drawing on its heritage, with a 1940s themed tea dance, Agatha Christie inspired afternoon teas and summer picnics in the wildflower meadow that adjoins the gardens.

Dartmoor bar at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Dartmoor bar at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Relaxing the Dartmoor Bar and Lounge

Having left the cases in our bedroom (more about that later) we settled into the comfortable Dartmoor lounge for a warming bowl of haddock and sweetcorn chowder and chilli Exe river mussels from the bar menu. The decor was cosy and traditional with some modern touches and looked as if it had benefited from the recent refurbishment with an inviting air of fresh paint and new carpets. We settled into the oversized patchwork armchairs by the fireplace, which would be a favourite spot in winter when the fire is lit, admiring the striped tapestry, brocade and velvet fabrics with gilt mirrors and glowing red glass lamps. The walls were covered with artistic photos of Dartmoor, reminding us of the wild landscapes, granite tors and mossy covered river boulders that we had explored on previous visits to Devon. In one corner was a desk covered with useful information leaflets of local attractions and on the shelves were games and jigsaws to while away an autumn evening.

Dartmoor bar at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Dartmoor bar at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

The adjoining Dartmoor bar had been similarly refurbished with plenty of comfortable seating areas, leather sofas and velvet banquettes by the wall. The wild landscapes of nearby Dartmoor were referenced in the black and white photos of moorland miniature ponies and twisted oaks, with metal stag heads on the wall and stag motifs on the cushions. Guy was keen to try a pint of the Dartmoor Best ale although we discovered from the barman that it actually comes from St Austell in Cornwall.

Lily of the valley room at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Lily of the valley room at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Settling into the Lily of the Valley Suite

After recovering from our windswept Friday night drive, we were able to enjoy our spacious Lily of the Valley Suite on the first floor, where home-made biscuits had been laid out for us. All the rooms in the hotel have been individually redecorated with the help of West Country designer Nadine Judd, drawing on a garden theme to bring the natural beauty of the moor into the hotel. Like all the bedrooms, ours overlooked the garden and so when we awoke we had delightful views over the lawns and down to the Tamar valley beyond.

I had a peep in a few of the other bedrooms and found the decorative style was colourful and modern, often using patterned feature walls, bright floral prints and striking pieces of furniture. Our Lily of the Valley suite took up the fresh floral theme, with leaf green walls, pretty cream linen curtains with a delicate floral sprig and a feature wall covered with hand-printed lily of the valley paper on a dark background. We sat eating our warm biscuits on the green crushed velvet sofa with pastel floral cushions and flicked through the books and magazines that had been thoughtfully left under the glass of the coffee table. The overall effect was very pleasing although there was the odd item that seemed more high street than high end – a metal garden chair at the desk and a strange IKEA style metal shelf on the wall beside the bed. The en suite bathroom was clean and fresh with pale grey tiles and a shower above the bath although I suspect that this was one of the few remaining bathrooms in the hotel that was due for refurbishment, since I saw other rooms with more modern bathrooms.

Wildflower restaurant at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Wildflower restaurant at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Elegant Dining in the Wildflower Restaurant

On Saturday night we planned to eat in the Wildflower restaurant, having heard great things about the restaurant which won a Gold in the 2013 West Country Taste of the West awards and was named Best Restaurant in the South West. The Head Chef, Bruce Cole has been at the hotel for 18 months now and has created new menus that feature locally sourced and seasonal produce from nearby farms and food producers. After dinner we had a chance to chat with Bruce and he told us “When I arrived much of the food came from the freezer and the menu changed twice a year. Now everything is freshly made including the bread and pastries, we use the best local produce and we change the menu every 4 to 6 weeks with the seasons”

The Wildflower restaurant has large French windows that overlook the gardens which open in summer leading out onto the terrace. There is an elegant silver and turquoise theme with patterned turquoise velvet chairs, silver leaf wall decorations and a striking private dining area with silver and turquoise floral wallpaper and silver mirrors. I’d love to visit the restaurant in summer to enjoy a cream tea overlooking the gardens or to be there in September when the hotel hosts the Delicious Drake’s trail that ends on those lawns.

Dinner in the Wildflower restaurant at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Dinner in the Wildflower restaurant at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

We had invited a friend who lives in Plymouth to join us for dinner and we were all wow’ed by the dishes which were beautifully presented and above all delicious. I started with a crab mille feille, a soft crab pate piled into a tower with crispy biscuits and a  piquant mango garnish. To follow I ordered the sliced breast of duck which was well cooked with a ring of crispy fat, served with vegetables and a prune puree that gave a fruity piquancy. My desert was a perfectly creamy crème brullee with a crisp caramel topping and ball of lemon sorbet in a brandy snap basket. Guy tried a board of delicious West Country cheeses and our friend had the Langage Farm lemon and lime sorbet on a creamy jelly with pretty edible pansies. I thought that the three course dinner which included coffee was incredible value at £28.95 considering the elegant surroundings, friendly and attentive service and of course the delicious food.

The next morning we were back at our window table for breakfast to enjoy the garden views in daylight and of course I had to have the English cooked breakfast while Guy ordered a kipper from the breakfast menu. There was the usual range of hot toast with jam and marmalade, croissants, fruit and yoghurts, a choice of packet cereals, although the selection was fairly limited and I thought the breakfast didn’t quite live up to the magnificence of the dinner the previous evening.

Crystal room at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

Crystal room at Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

You can get married here too!

After the Young Farmers’ party on Friday night I noticed that the ballroom was being laid out for a wedding on Saturday and went to have a nose around while the staff were setting out the tables. The large Crystal room at the far end of the hotel is on two levels, the first of which was being set out with chairs for the marriage ceremony while the ballroom area was arranged with tables for the dinner-dance that followed. The room lived up to its name, with sparkling chandeliers and mirrors, and would be the perfect setting for a summer wedding when guests can walk out onto the lawn. In the gardens I spotted the wrought iron rose arbour which was designed and made by local blacksmith Matt Dingle and is popular for wedding photos or even for the wedding ceremony itself. Although the wedding reception was in full swing on the Saturday night when we were dining in the Wildflower restaurant, I was impressed that the staff managed to keep everything running very smoothly, accommodating both groups of guests, although I probably wouldn’t want to be sleeping in the bedrooms immediately above the ballroom when a major event like this is being held in the hotel.

Gardens of Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon

The morning market at Tavistock

On Saturday morning we ventured out from the Moorland Garden Hotel to explore the nearby market town of Tavistock, which sits on the western edge of Dartmoor. The town became prosperous in the Middle Ages from the wool trade and was one of the “Stannary Towns” around Dartmoor that controlled the local tin mining that took place on the moor.

Market in Tavistock, Devon

Market in Tavistock, Devon

In front of the impressive stone Guildhall we chatted to the owner of the fruit and veg stall and wandered through the covered craft market. Through an archway we found the Pannier Market, a historic covered market that was given its charter 900 years ago and houses an eclectic mix of different stalls that change daily, with antiques, crafts and daily necessities. On the Saturday it seemed to be a bustling general market of everything you could hope to find in a Devon town, from birdseed to fishing bait, tweed hats to moleskin trousers and country fudge to old books and antique costume jewellery.

Around the courtyard that enclosed the Pannier market there were a number of small specialist shops, including de la Torre’s selling a huge variety of olives and Mediterranean foods like houmous, olive oils and jars of condiments. Right next door was the Country Cheese shop where the staff were only too happy to let us try a sliver of this or that before we decided which of the many West Country cheeses to buy, deliberating between the delightfully named Miss Muffett, Tilly Whim and other Devon specialities.

Market at Tavistock, Devon

Market at Tavistock, Devon

The Garden House at Buckland Monachorum

On the way back from Tavistock that afternoon we stopped in at The Garden House, a privately owned gardens in a secluded Devon valley, set around a Georgian vicarage. The garden was bought in the 1940s by Lionel and Katharine Fortescue who moved to live in the vicarage and started planting the 10 acres of garden which was further developed in the 1960s by head gardener Keith Wiley who introduced the naturalistic landscapes of the cottage garden, wildflower meadow and Acer glade.

The Garden House in Yelverton, Devon

The Garden House in Yelverton, Devon

Walking past the house where I made a mental note of the tea-room, we started our tour of the garden at the small lake where the water lilies and sculptural gunnera made a picturesque setting with the half submerged blue rowing boat that was moored to the bank, but not going anywhere. Most beautiful at the end of summer was the walled garden where the long herbaceous borders were filled with hostas turning to yellow and decaying brown, with fraying silver thistles and the bright spots of dahlias blazing pink and pumpkin orange. In the middle of the walled garden was a small stone thatched cottage, perhaps the gardner’s cottage making a backdrop for the dusty pink hydrangeas and pink penstomen.

At the furthest end of the garden we enjoyed the rhododendron walk which was now full of autumn colour with golden maples and acers lighting up the dark rhododendron foliage. The path led us gradually up hill through the Acer glade beside a small stream trickling over shale which had been cut into the grassy bank. Having completed the circuit of the garden we hurried back to the tea-room in the house before it closed, to have a Devon Cream tea and a slice of home-made fruit cake. Please note the Garden House is now closed for the winter and will re-open again in March.

The Garden House in Yelverton, Devon

The Garden House in Yelverton, Devon

Buckland Abbey, home of Sir Frances Drake and a Rembrandt self-portrait

On Sunday before we headed for home, we drove the short distance to Buckland Abbey, a medieval abbey which later became home to the Elizabethan sailor, Sir Francis Drake and is now run by the National Trust. We spent a few hours here, enjoying the great barn, medieval house, the Rembrandt exhibition and had lunch at the cafe before driving back to Bristol, although it would be very easy to stay a whole day here if the weather was fine.

Buckland Abbey at Yelverton, Devon

Buckland Abbey at Yelverton, Devon

The Cistercian Abbey was founded here in the 13th century, but after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the abbey was sold to Sir Richard Grenville who demolished some of the monastic buildings and converted it to a family home. In 1582 Sir Francis Drake bought the property with the proceeds of his bucaneering raids on the Spanish fleet in the Americas and it remained in the hands of his heirs until earlier this century. This year Buckland was in the news due the Rembrandt Portrait which came to Buckland Abbey in 2010 and after a 2 year investigation by art experts has now been confirmed as a genuine painting by the master himself. We enjoyed looking around the special Rembrandt exhibition within the house showing the portrait and details of all the ways they had confirmed it was genuine, as well as other museum exhibits such as Drake’s Drum which accompanied him on his voyages and is said to sound when England is in danger.

Buckland Abbey at Yelverton, Devon

Buckland Abbey at Yelverton, Devon

There are no shortage of things to see in this part of Devon and another time we might enjoy a walk up to one of the Tors on the moor or drive into Plymouth where the waterfront is being developed with new restaurants and museums. If you’re looking for a comfortable and welcoming hotel with an excellent restaurant to use as a base for exploring the area I’d certainly recommend the Moorland Garden Hotel and would love to come back in summer to enjoy the gardens and sit out on the terrace, perhaps enjoying a Devon cream tea.

The Moorland Garden Hotel, Yelverton, Devon. Rooms for a weekend stay range from £100-125 based on B & B for 2 people sharing or £125-155 for a suite. Check the hotel website for information on special breaks such as 3 nights for the price of 2, Sunday night stays or breaks that include dinner and afternoon tea. Dogs are welcome in the hotel and can stay in certain rooms. My tip would be to check whether there is a wedding or function taking place in the hotel when you book and if so request a room at the opposite end of the hotel where you won’t be disturbed.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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