13 Hidden Gems the Cornwall National Trust Has to Offer

The Cornwall National Trust has a lot to offer, from St. Michaels Mount to Boscastle there are many well-loved venues most people are familiar with. We take a look at thirteen of the treasures in the charity’s portfolio of houses and gardens.

If you are planning a day out, we have some impressive Cornwall National Trust gardens and houses to show you. If you want to ramble across the beautiful Cornish countryside or explore the history found within Elizabethan manor houses, we may have some options you won’t have considered.

Trerice

Trerice House

The manor house of Trerice is located a couple of miles further inland from Newquay, down narrow country lanes. The Cornwall National Trust house was purchased from the County Council in 1953 in a dilapidated state. What had once been the ancestral home of the Arundell family of Trerice, was purchased by the charity for just £14,000.

The estate had been reduced from some 500 acres to only 20 under the ownership of Cornwall County Council. This now makes up the grounds which visitors can enjoy.

The relatively small Elizabethan house hasn’t changed too much through the centuries, after additions in the 16th century following the initial construction in the 14th century. This is, in part, thanks to ownership slipping from one absentee landlord to another, leaving the elaborate ceilings and decorative fireplaces saved from the trends of later periods.

The beautiful gardens not only offer woodland walks but additional entertainment is provided with archery and a bowling green. You can learn about and play long-forgotten games such as Cornish Kayles, which is similar to skittles, or Slapcock, which was a forerunner to badminton with its use of shuttlecocks. In the 17th century, it was decided that the name was too rude for some reason and it fell out of favour.

Be sure to make the most of the knowledgeable guides to learn more about the time capsule, which is Trerice. There is a lot of history to find out about if that is your interest. It is also a place renown for its peace and tranquillity, but don’t worry, there is a shop, restaurant and second-hand bookshop on-site to add more to your visit. 

Antony

Antony House

Another of the National Trust houses Cornwall not to be missed, is the impressive 18th-century Antony House near Torpoint, Plymouth. The house is still occupied by descendants of Sir William Carew who had the mansion built in 1718. Since the house is a home as well the opening times are restricted to between March and October, with some parts of the house and garden reserved for the family.

A tour of the house will uncover rooms panelled in Dutch Oak, with a collection of 18th-century furniture mixed in with a few more modern items. Since the rooms are still lived in, don’t be surprised to see some of the children’s toys or the family’s pet dog during your visit to the house. The bedrooms offer impressive views over the gardens laid out by Humphry Repton and beyond to the River Lynher and surrounding Cornish countryside.

Antony also offers landscaped gardens. These include a formal garden containing the National Collection of Day Lilies and a woodland garden. Throughout the gardens, you will be able to find stone carvings from India, a Burmese temple bell and Japanese granite lanterns acquired by ancestors of the current family.

Mixed in with these, are more modern features like the Antony Cone water fountain and Hypercone sculpture, continuing the theme of an 18th-century property which is still evolving and still used as a home.

Also not to be missed in the gardens is the enormous conical-shaped Yew which is almost as tall as the main house and features a shaded seating area. A Japanese pond and knot garden changes the feel of the garden further, giving the impression you are in another world, just feet away from the main house.

On a lovely summers day, you will be able to picnic on the lawn or take advantage of the tearoom. The well-kept gardens offer a lot to explore, though it should be mentioned that dogs aren’t permitted.

Trengwainton Garden

Trengwainton Gardens

Located near Penzance close to the village of Madron is the country estate of Trengwainton. Owned by Cornwall National Trust since 1961, the house is grade II listed and is thought to have been in existence since the 16th century. The house is still lived in by the family and isn’t open to the public, though it is the gardens which shouldn’t be missed.

Trengwainton is known for some of the most exotic Cornwall National Trust gardens, with a collection of trees and shrubs from around the world. Visitors have been coming to the gardens since they were opened to the public in 1931, keen to see species not found elsewhere in Britain.

The walled garden is divided up into five sections and packed with beautiful plants which generally thrive in the colder British conditions. The walled garden was created to stop warm air from escaping and submitting the delicate fruit trees to a frost they couldn’t survive. There is a glade filled with tree ferns and a stream with eye-catching flowers along its banks.

Woodland walks are also available with views over The Lizard and Mount’s Bay for those willing to make the climb uphill. The site also offers tea rooms and a gift shop.

There are several events throughout the year. The Christmas lantern walk is very popular with visitors and is now a fully ticketed event. Lanterns, torches and fairy lights are used to illuminate the walled gardens and orchard, with bands performing Christmas favourites on the evening at the beginning of December.

Glendurgan Garden

Glendurgan Gardens

The year after Trengwainton became a Cornwall National Trust property, it was joined by Glendurgan Garden. Situated in a steep valley which leads down to the hamlet of Durgan with its sheltered beach on the Helford River. The garden is near the village of Mawnan Smith, south-west of Falmouth.

Alfred Fox created the garden in the 1820s and 30s to offer a vista of unusual and colourful plants all year round. Particularly notable is the maze which was grown using cherry laurel which was planted in 1833 and now restored.

If you don’t get completely lost in the maze, you will find that Glendurgan actually occupies three valleys. Each valley provides different treasures with the top part of the garden containing plants from more arid climates.

The garden is particularly noted for its spring display of camellias and magnolias. Though, whatever season you choose to visit, there should be something to intrigue and delight in this garden.

If you make your way down to Durgan, you can take a paddle on the beach, if the weather permits it, or watch the birds and boats if it doesn’t. The site has a shop and a tea house to make your visit complete.

Trelissick

Trelissick

Between Truro and Falmouth, next to the River Fal can be found Trelissick. The Trelissick house and garden were donated to Cornwall National Trust in 1955 and lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A visit to the house allows you to make the most of these views out across the estuary towards Falmouth.

The house hasn’t been open to visitors for too long and is only modestly furnished. The best views can be had from the Solarium and the East Library. A tearoom is located in the house kitchen if you need some refreshment and there is also a specialist plant shop at the venue. The Trelissick Gallery presents a wide range of art created by local artists. There are paintings of the local scenery, prints, glass-work and pottery to view and purchase.

Trelissick house has stood on the site since 1755. With each new family, changes were made, and the building has developed with the architectural style of the day. The neoclassical columns of the house’s current façade were constructed in 1824, and demonstrate the status of the then owner Thomas Daniell.

The sweeping grounds of the house offers over 300 acres to stretch your legs and explore. Enjoy the riverside walks through oak woodlands and roam across the rolling parkland while taking in the impressive panoramic views.

They offer set trails for you to follow if you wish, this includes a secluded path which takes you to an iron age fort and the 18th-century quay of Roundwood. Dog owners can bring their pets to most of the garden except the formal areas.

Brush past the wildflowers or find a secret path through the woods. Whatever you choose to do, there is lots of wildlife within the grounds of the estate to make this a memorable visit.

Cotehele House and Gardens

Cotehele

On the west bank of the Tamar, near Saltash is the location of Cotehele, a Tudor house which was the ancestral estate of the Edgcumbe family. The family maintained the manor house, which was built in medieval times, as a historic showcase instead of a luxury family home.

This allows today’s visitors to wander through 600 years of history which was carefully curated by the family and includes a collection of weaponry including swords, shields as well as suits of armour. 

The gardens cover some 14 acres with another 12 acres of orchards. There are both formal and less planned areas as well as a quay on the River Tamar where a Victorian sailing barge is moored.

Port Quin

Port Quin

The cove of Port Quin is a natural harbour which was once a fishing village. The cove is pleasant during the summer but is known to suffer some severe storms during winter months. One such storm destroyed the fishing boats sheltering in the cove during the 19th century. The village was abandoned and what remains is owned by the National Trust, the four remaining homes are used as holiday lets.

Overlooking the cove entrance, you will find the small Doyden Castle. This Gothic tower was built in 1827 and was used by its wealthy owner to entertain his friends. This is now available as a holiday let and would undoubtedly make for an interesting holiday.

You can walk along the coastline, joining the South West Coast Path or take the Lundy Bay trail which takes you into a secluded valley and a rocky bay. If you follow the coastal path north, you head towards Tintagel Castle about 9 miles further along.

Tintagel Old Post Office

Tintagel Post Office

If you are looking for a Post Office in Tintagel, don’t expect to be able to change any foreign currency or send a parcel from the National Trust’s Old Post Office. This quirky building dates back to the 1300s and was built to the plan of a medieval manor house. 

The property was only briefly used to receive post in Victorian times. The National Trust acquired the cottage in 1903 and restored to as it would have been in those times. On display are furniture and postal equipment from the 16th century.

The building has a distinctively wavy roof-line and is grade I listed. There is a postbox built into the wall of the property, but if you really do need a Post Office, the visitor centre in Tintagel has a limited part-time service.

Boscastle

Boscastle

Just 5 miles north along the Cornish coast from Tintagel lies the village of Boscastle. Famous in more recent times for the flash flooding of 2004 which saw a fleet of helicopters rescue trapped residents, the village has now been restored. The National Trust owns much of the land in and around the village.

The village takes its name from Botreaux Castle, a motte and bailey fort built in the 12th century. Boscastle harbour was the only place for some 40 miles along the coast where ships could dock and was an important means of trade for the area before the railway was introduced into northern Cornwall in 1893.

The harbour entrance was treacherous to navigate, however, requiring the ships to be towed into port by teams of men in rowing boats. Then the goods the ships brought in had, to be hauled up the steep hills surrounding the village to reach their destinations in north Cornwall.

Today a visit to Boscastle offers many opportunities to stretch your legs on coastal walks. Explore the area following clifftop paths around Boscastle and the Valency Valley on the National Trust Cornwall trails.

St Michael’s Mount

St Michaels Mount

The small tidal island of St Michael’s Mount is accessible along a causeway at low tide at by boat the rest of the time. The island has a long history of occupation, with flint arrowheads found which date back to the Mesolithic period of 3500 to 8000 BC.

A monastery is thought to have been located on the island since the 8th century, the current chapel of St Micheal dates from the 15th century with parts of the castle constructed in the 12th century. A small number of houses make up a village inhabited by around 30 people.

Visitors to the island can take the cobbled path to the top of the mount to explore the castle’s turrets. View the armour and medieval weaponry or admire the portraits of the family. There is also a sub-tropical garden on the south side of the island which is home to a more exotic range of plants than you would typically find.

Godolphin

Godolphin

Five miles inland from St Michael’s Mount is the National Trust Cornwall property of Godolphin house and gardens. The Trust took ownership of the estate in 2007 and features what is considered one of the most spectacular historic houses in the county.

Access to tour the house is limited to specific dates, but the gardens are open almost all year round. There are four separate gardens for you to explore or you can take a walk to the top of the hill to enjoy views of the area.

King’s Garden – The walled 16th century leads out from the King’s Room in the main house and offers a private space for any passing monarchs. It provides neat pathways and a sheltered suntrap stocked with roses, lavender and primrose.

Side Garden Paddock – The paddock area is home to beehives and honey is available to purchase.

Side Garden – The main side garden is assumed to be very similar to how it was created in the 16th century. The garden is part of a Tudor design and is planted with traditional species.

The Orchard – Cornish apple varieties, as well as other fruits, have been recently replanted in the orchard.

Also offered on the estate, are riverside walks giving access to diverse habitats, woodland, conservation areas for butterflies and patches of bluebells.

Levant Mine

Levant Mine

Six miles north along the coast from Land’s End you will find the National Trust Cornwall Levant Mine. Part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage area, Levant Mine clings to the windswept clifftop offering unobstructed views out to sea.

The mine has a fully restored and working beam engine which was initially installed in 1840. It operated for the full life of the mine until 1930, narrowly avoiding being scrapped five years later. It operated to bring copper, tin, arsenic and the miners to the surface and was the cause of a disaster in 1919. The engine failed when a link snapped which resulted in the deaths of 31 miners.

Today you can learn about the history and the stories of the miners who worked at the site. Up to 600 men, women and children worked in the dangerous conditions present in mining, over a hundred years ago.

It was considered bad luck to send women down the mines, so while the men went underground, the women remained above ground, breaking small rocks and working the tin. The youngest children were employed to sort the ore and could be as young as 8 or 9 years old,

Lanhydrock House

Lanhydrock House

Just south of the town of Bodmin you can find the National Trust Cornwall headquarters, a stately Victorian home surrounded by extensive grounds. The impressive gatehouse leads the way to very well cared for formal gardens and a house which has some parts that date back to the 1620s.

You can tour the house visiting the large bedrooms, the classic dining rooms and well-appointed family sections. The servant’s areas are available to view as well as the kitchens so that you can get a feel for how people lived and imagine the Downton Abbey like characters inhabiting the rooms.

If that isn’t enough, the large estate offers riverside paths, cycle tracks and ancient woods to stroll through. The estate covers nearly 900 acres, and bicycles are available to rent if you didn’t bring your own.

The estate was formerly owned by an Augustinian priory, passing into the hands of a merchant from Truro following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The initial design of the house began construction in 1620. It was a square layout around a central courtyard, later one of the wings was demolished to create the current building shape.

Disaster struck in 1881, with much of the building becoming engulfed in flames. The fire began in the kitchen, and when rebuilding, the unusual decision at the time was taken to restore it to its original design.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this has given you some ideas to explore Cornwall National Trust properties which you may not have considered. Whether it is National Trust houses Cornwall or the gardens which hold your interest, there is plenty to do if you are a member on a visit to the county.

Whether you have been a National Trust visitor for years, or if you are new to it, these venues should provide something to engage you if you have a few days or a few hours to spare in Cornwall.


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