A medieval gem in the heart of Devon
April 2014. Built in the 1380s for John Holand, half-brother to Richard II, part of its function was to house the knights who formed the nobleman’s military force. They lived in wings that enclosed the medieval courtyard. Which still exist today; you can sleep there, eat there (at the White Heart) and generally wander round and hang out. The structure fell into ruin but was bought and restored in the 1920s. It makes an incredible getaway for a romantic weekend but also an epic place to run a Call of Cthulhu horror scenario or even a Murder Mystery Game (such as Murder at Sharky Point, ahem). There’s a large, low-ceiling and slightly musty room above the medieval hall and it makes a fantastic game room. If you speak to the Events team when you book a room to stay the night, ask them about it – you should be able to use it so long as there isn’t a wedding or conference taking place.
The place has this magical silence about it during the day. At night, the moon was shinning gibbous and bright into the empty courtyard. Very atmospheric. Very good place to spend time.
Dartington Hall is set in 1,200 acres of grounds. Most of the land is bordered by the river Dart so you can walk in blissful isolation, away from roads, away from people, lost within glades, woods and small hills. At one point a steam train came chugging past on the opposite shore.
Inside the Great Hall. The fireplace you can see may look fairly small, but compare it to the door nearby; the fireplace is as tall as an adult. Immense. Imagine that going on a rainy day. This place was fantastic. A real hush when I walked in. Could have stayed there for ages just soaking up the atmosphere.
April 2014. Oj and I took a taxi to the Tally Ho! Inn in Littlehempston the previous night, where we met up with a couple we befriended in Marrakech two weeks earlier. Small world – they live only a few miles from Dartington. They knew we were heading back to Bristol and said we had to stop at Buckfast Abbey.
Glad we did.
We parked up. Walked up. And just sank into the wonderful peace of the place. We stayed for 3 hours. Exploring the building, munching pasties in the nearby cafe – very nice! and then sitting in the gardens, enjoying the sun.
The Abbey forms part of an active Benedictine monastery and has been home monks since 1018. Henry the VIII put an end to this in 1539 with the dissolution. The monastic buildings were stripped, left as ruins and then demolished. However, in 1882 the site was purchased by a group of French Benedictine monks – after it had been the location of a Gothic mansion (Cthulhu Mythos maybe?). The church was consecrated in 1932 but not completed until 1938.
The stained glass is a tiny glimpse of a much larger piece of work. Very impressive. It occupies a room dedicated to prayer and contemplation. I went inside and immediately thought of my father and my mother – and her brother Rune, and more recently, my uncle Ole. I sat there for a while… thinking about this life I have, the people I know and care for, the friends I get to share laughter with. I also just gazed at the chunks of colourful glass and recalled what it was like being a child, transfixed by pieces of broken glass I used to find lying in back alleys or washed up on beaches, rubbed smooth by the sea and sand.
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