Devon has a great sense of its own separate history. Throughout the centuries it was relatively isolated, with two long coastlines and comparatively short land boundaries, both ancient: Celtic Cornwall to the west and the rest of England to the east. Until the 19th century communications were very poor and Devon developed a distinct culture, economy, dialect and landscape – contributing to its strong local pride and character. That Devon is different is a fact, and helps explain the interest in its history shown by Devon folk and their many visitors. This history can be experienced in an abundance of different locations, including those listed below.
Buckfast Abbey – this abbey forms part of an active Benedictine monastery at Buckfast. Dedicated to Saint Mary, it was founded in 1018 and run by the Cistercian order from 1147 until it was destroyed under the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1882 monks began living there again, and today it is a Benedictine foundation. A trip to the Abbey takes in the Abbey Church, Sensory Garden, Lavender Garden, Monastic Produce Shop selling products from monasteries around the world and a restaurant serving a large variety of delicious food.
Dartmoor National Park – Taking two facts into account, that firstly, over the past 12,000 years man has hunted, farmed, mined, quarried and lived on and around Dartmoor, and secondly, that there are approximately 11,000 individual monuments on the Moors, one soon realises that there is more than enough for anyone with an interest in history to absorb them on Dartmoor. From hut circles, hillforts, and stone rows, to tin mines, a prison and isolated burial sites, there is plenty to see and do in this iconic area of Devon. Dartmoor can be seen either with me driving you, or on foot, a bicycle or horseback, all of which I can organise.
Dartmouth Britannia Royal Naval College – this magnificent naval training college is located on the hill above the picturesque town of Dartmouth. I will organise a private guided tour for you, covering its intriguing history and its role within the Royal Navy today, providing Naval Officer training. You will also hear and see evidence of the very strong connection that the College has with the Royal family.
Devon Rural Archive – For those of you who are looking for extra information about Devon and the people who have lived here, the Devon Rural Archive, situated at the aforementioned Shilstone House, can provide it in abundance. This fantastic resource, set up by the Fenwick Charitable Trust in 1996, contains a growing reference library and display gallery, and is a great place for historians, archaeologists and genealogists alike to discover much of what rural Devon has been about over the centuries.
Exeter Tunnels – Dating from the 14th century, these medieval passages under Exeter High Street are a unique ancient monument: no similar system of passages can be explored by the public elsewhere in Britain. Their purpose was to bring clean drinking water from natural springs in fields lying outside the walled city, through lead pipes into the heart of the city. The pipes sometimes sprang leaks and repairs to buried pipes could only be carried out by digging them up as we do today. To avoid this disruption the passages were vaulted and it is down some of these vaulted passageways that you, as a visitor, can be guided.
Plymouth Museums and Galleries – Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is a family-friendly museum right on the edge of Plymouth’s city centre. It includes art, natural history and human history collections. The main building features ten permanent galleries, a shop and cafe, plus two galleries where they host a series of changing exhibitions throughout the year.
RAMM – Exeter’s world-class museum has stunning new displays and galleries, fabulous exhibitions and modern amenities (it won “Museum of the Year” in the United Kingdom in 2012). The displays reveal Devon and Exeter’s rich history and global connections. Exotic animals, birds and insects delight adults and children alike, and the World Cultures Gallery displays stunning items from all over the world. I will arrange a private guided tour with one of the curators if you wish to have a more focussed experience.