In the end of May, it was FINALLY time to travel over to the UK, a trip we’d originally planned two years earlier when Covid struck. One missed wedding, one postponed wedding, one niece and one nephew later, we were so excited to see everyone and celebrate Pat and Adrian’s big day.
Luckily, the large flight credit we had from our cancelled flights in 2020 put us most of the way toward purchasing our tickets this time around, and the best deal was to fly through Vancouver. After one hour up to Auckland and then twelve to Canada, we had six hours to kill at the airport. Thankfully, it was a gorgeous spot, with massive aquariums and views like these out the windows.
After some poutine and relaxing, in that order, we were on our last nine-hour leg to London Heathrow. From there, we took a bus down to Exeter in Devon, where Pat & Adrian picked us up for the beautiful hour drive to their home in Landcross, just outside Bideford. They’d moved since we last visited and their new house had fabulous views from the top floor, where we set up for the week.
I could look at this view all day, and it was fabulous waking up to it in the morning, with mist hugging the river valley.
A couple days into our stay, we picked up a rental car from nearby Barnstaple so we could explore further afield. They pretty much only have manual/standard rental cars in the UK, so Andy was the designated driver. It ended up being for the best considering his calm disposition on some of the narrowest country lanes, barely wide enough for one car.
Our first destination was the Hartland Heritage Coast, only about a half hour from Bideford and known for its abbey and stunning coastal views. On our way, we parked up in the village of Hartland to stretch our legs and grab some tea and cake at a cute cafe. This is just what I picture when I think of idyllic English country villages.
Because of the upcoming Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration, there was patriotic bunting everywhere.
Back on the (tiny) road, we soon came to Hartland Abbey. Built in 1157, with quite a few updates and additions since then, it sits on gorgeous grounds with extensive gardens and walking trails. We drove through some rain, but the day was clearing as we parked and set out to explore.
We followed the Ladies’ Walk through the dense forest, heading toward the walled gardens.
The gardens were incredible, lush with life and filled with surprises.
The hidden doorways and gazebo were some of my favorite parts. You could easily spend hours wandering within these walls.
Even the gatehouse looked like something out of a fairytale, not to mention the rhododendron-lined lane leading back to the abbey.
I was definitely reminded of Downton Abbey here, and not surprisingly the abbey is often used as a filming location for TV and movies, from the BBC’s Sense and Sensibility to Mallory Towers more recently.
We next explored the “shrubbery” (I can’t think of it without Monty Python popping into my mind). As you can see, it was incredibly colorful.
The grounds have very vocal peacocks, as well as sheep, cattle and donkeys.
Since we had plenty of time, we decided to do the coastal walk to Blackpool Mill. Twenty minutes and a steep climb up a bluff later, and we were treated to this view.
Having worked up an appetite, we decided to turn back toward the abbey.
We passed Blackpool Mill Cottage, which can actually be rented as accommodation for up to eight people. What an incredible experience that would be! Built in the 15th Century, it was… well, a mill, I think.
On the way back, in addition to passing lots of cute dogs on this popular walking track, we came across a herd of cows who fled onto a side path.
One of them was particularly suspicious…
Before settling in for a delicious meal at the abbey, I had to get a few black lamb pics.
Our last stop for the day was Hartland Quay and a hike to Speke’s Mill Mouth Waterfall.
After about a half-hour or trekking, with lots of ups and downs, we got to the breathtaking waterfall. At 48 meters in total (157 feet), it falls in three steps to the ocean below and is a popular North Devon outing. Not hard to see why!
With so many vantage points to choose from, it was hard to pick, so of course we had to check them all out.
We figured we’d done plenty of walking for the day (and plenty of eating, to be fair), so it was time to head back to our car.
The geography of this coastline is incredible, and reminds me in some ways of the rocks at Castlepoint in NZ.
Before we hit the road, we wandered through Hartland Quay, which is primarily a hotel but also features touristy shops, ice cream and food.
Time for the beautiful road back to Landcross, with more adventures to come. Stay tuned for our outing to Cornwall, including an ancient stone circle, a charming seaside village and the Eden Project.