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Federations Devon & Cornwall - 12 to 16 April 2015

By Larry Breen

Devon and Cornwall proved to be an inspired choice for the Federations joint visit to the U.K. The trip as in previous years was fully booked with fifty three local historians from all over the island meeting in Rosslare for the journey.

There were thirteen counties represented including Dublin, Londonderry/Derry, Kildare, Laois, Down, Antrim, Donegal, Galway, Meath, Louth, Waterford, Roscommon, and Tipperary.

Societies represented were Knocklyon, Clontarf, Naas, Clane, Durrow, Tipperary, Rathcoffey, Banbridge, West Belfast, Carrickfergus, Donegal, West Galway, Navan, Drogheda, Waterford, Athy, Roscommon, Clondalkin, Foxrock, Rathmichael, and New Buildings.


On a soft misty morning we left Rosslare for Fishguard in Wales. It proved a somewhat rocky crossing but we did all arrive safe and sound on Welsh soil. The journey to Plymouth was a long one but our spirits were high and after a short stop near Swansea we finished the second leg with a fun quiz which helped to shorten the trip considerably. After dinner at 7.30 pm we were all off to bed early in anticipation of the start of our adventure in Devon & Cornwall starting in the morning.

Monday - Devon

After breakfast the morning started when we met our guide for the trip, Viv Robinson, who took us on a coach tour of Plymouth pointing out all the highlights and places of interest encompassing its very interesting and chequered history. "Viv" as she affectionately became know was a real "gem" and proved a big asset for the duration of the week. Historically one of Britain's greatest seafaring ports, Plymouth , had much to offer the visitor with the Barbican, Plymouth Hoe, the Mayflower Steps, art galleries, theatre and many interesting pubs and restaurants. We left the City and travelled to Buckland Abbey, originally a Cistercian Abbey which was founded in 1278. Two of its most famous owners were Sir. Richard Grenville, Marshall of Calais, and his great rival Sir Francis Drake. Set in the most beautiful countryside with equally impressive gardens alive with the colour of spring it presented a magical picture to the eye. Two exceptional features around the house were the famous Drake's Drum and the Great Barn.

Group in the Barbican - Plymouth Harbour
Group in the Barbican - Plymouth Harbour

We then traversed the Dartmoor plains seeing the famous Dartmoor ponies and took a break at Princetown near the infamous Dartmoor prison. It was then on to Exeter and a guided tour of this impressive Cathedral. One of the greatest cathedrals in England the tour showed why it is regarded as one of the most magnificent examples of Gothic architecture anywhere. After a most interesting day we returned to our hotel in Plymouth. The after dinner talk in the evening by local author and historian, Chris Robinson, proved something special. We were treated to a whirlwind presentation of Plymouth past and present by a man who was clearly in love with his native place and whose passion and enthusiasm were infectious.

Drake's Drum - Buckland Abbey The Great Barn - Buckland Abbey
Drake's Drum - Buckland Abbey
The Great Barn - Buckland Abbey
Full Group outside Exeter Cathedral
Full Group outside Exeter Cathedral
Interior of Exeter Cathedral
Interior of Exeter Cathedral
John Hulme makes presentation to Viv Robinson Presentation to Chris Robinson
John Hulme makes presentation to Viv Robinson
Presentation to Chris Robinson

Tuesday - North Cornwall

On another beautiful spring morning we headed out of Plymouth on the A38 into some captivating countryside taking us through Saltash and Liskeard. Our destination was the impressive Lanhydrock House, a late Victorian Country House with extensive servant quarters, gardens and a wooded estate. Home to the Robartes family it was resplendent in the morning sunshine with its extensive and beautiful gardens a blaze of colour with spring flowers. Touring the house gave a "glimpse" into life "below stairs" with its kitchens, servants' quarters, spacious dining room, many bedrooms and its magnificent Long Gallery. It was most refreshing to enjoy a little libation in the courtyard under the afternoon sun.

Long Gallery, Lanhydrock House Gardens, Lanydrock House
Long Gallery, Lanhydrock House
Gardens, Lanydrock House
Full Group at Lanydrock House
Full Group at Lanydrock House

We reluctantly left Lanhydrock and headed to the Cornish fishing village of Padstow on the coast, a beautiful village with its jumble of houses, quays, boat slips, cafes and restaurants all gathered around the quaint little harbour. Prideaux Place beckoned and was the subject of our next visit. We were not disappointed and the house, home to the Prideaux family, was most impressive. The beautiful house had changed little in the last four centuries and this Elizabethan Manor House was full of style, beauty, intriguing architecture and the most interesting artefacts one could imagine. That completed our day and we returned a little weary but happy to our base in Plymouth.

Padstow Fishing Village Prideaux Place, Padstow
Padstow Fishing Village
Prideaux Place, Padstow
Group at Prideaux Place, Padstow
Full Group at Prideaux Place, Padstow

Wednesday - South Cornwall

Wednesday we travelled south deep into the Cornish countryside. After driving through some panoramic scenery we stopped in the town of Truro Not having a lot of time we were still able to have a look at the impressive Gothic-revival Truro Cathedral which took thirty years to build. It was a lovely town with nice parks and many open spaces including Victoria Gardens, Boscawen Park and Daubuz Moors.

Interior Trudo Cathedral Group outside Truro Cathedral
Interior Trudo Cathedral
Group outside Truro Cathedral

Our next stop was in the beautiful town of Marazion situated on the shores of Mount Bay where there were stunning views towards the Lizard Peninsula and Land's End. Then we saw the magnificent vista of St. Michael's Mount out on the bay.

The Mount was once walked to by pilgrims in honour of St. Michael who was reputed to have appeared there. Separated from the mainland by a causeway it has been the home of the St. Aubyn family since 1650. After an interesting short boat trip across the causeway we climbed up the rocky pathway to the castle on the summit with some stunning views along the way. The three hundred and sixty degree views from the castle turrets were just magnificent with sweeping views all around the bay. The interior of the castle was full of interest. There was the Blue Room, the unique Chevy Chase Room with its intricate plaster frieze, the Garrison Room with its armour and weapons and the lantern cross in the priory church.

St Michael's Mount, Cornwall Boat to St Michael's Mount
St Michael's Mount, Cornwall
Boat to St Michael's Mount

Clinging to the granite slopes around the mount were exquisite sub-tropical gardens boasting exotic plants from all over the world. The Mount is the Cornish counterpart of Mont St-Michel in Normandy and was originally given to the Benedictines by Edward the Confessor in the 11th Century. After the exhilaration of our visit to the mount we made our way back via the beautiful little fishing village of St. Ives which was unfortunately shrouded in mist at the time.

Castle on St Michael's Mount Group on top of St Michael's Mount
Castle on St Michael's Mount
Group on top of St Michael's Mount


After a very early breakfast we sadly took our leave of Plymouth for the journey back to Fishguard and Rosslare. We made one stop near Swansea before boarding the ferry, and all arrived safe and sound, back on Irish soil.

We can only say it was another wonderful journey to a most beautiful part of England's West Country and one we will all remember with fond memories of the people and places we encountered.