In the middle, stretches the brooding expanse of Dartmoor, 954 square kilometers, populated by wild ponies, a forbidding, early 19th century granite prison for men, deep-sucking bogs and creeks. Myths and legends abound of the howling Hounds of the Baskerville, of fierce winds and dense fogs, of ghosts and smugglers.
Thanks to the Trust's great devotion to preservation, today, you can visit Cotehele, and entering into the Great Hall -- with its fine displays of arms and armory beneath the high, arched timber roof -- you feel yourself stepping back eight centuries.
What I "got" was the fact that the temperature was many many degrees warmer in all these rooms. With good-sized stone fireplaces everywhere, it wasn't hard to imagine it being quite cozy back there in the 14th/15th centuries!
If you look carefully toward the back corner of the small chapel, through an archway, you can just make out some cogs and wheels. Installed in 1489, this is a pre-pendulum clock, powered by two 90-lb weights.
At the time the house was built, England was awash with unrest. Manor houses were quite small, compact, fortified with granite walls so they could be defended. Within the house itself, there were clever ways to check on any unwanted intruders getting into the Great Hall, such as this peephole from the second floor!
...and further on, the azaleas and rhodies, just blazing with color...
Restored by the National Trust in 2008, the interior of the house gives off the comfortable feel of a "country home". Hats are left lying on tables, umbrella stands are packed with walking sticks, clocks tick away the hours.
In the morning room, a portrait of Agatha Christie as a child shows a remarkable facial likeness to photos of her as an adult.
Above and below the house, some 30 acres of gardens wind up from the River Dart through swathes of camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias.
With its generally gentle climate, its glorious scenery and stirring history, its dialect that sounds like a pirate's accent, and not forgetting its Devonshire Teas with Clotted Cream, it's no surprise that people fall in love with Devon. Henry Newbolt sums it up pretty well:
Deep-wooded combes, clear-mounded hills of morn,
Red sunset tides against a red sea-wall,
High lonely barrows where the curlews call,
Far moors that echo to the ringing horn, --
Devon! thou spirit of all these beauties born,
All these are thine, but thou art more than all.