Castle Drogo – National Trust

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Family including children under 16

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Whilst on holiday in Devon with my son, his partner and my 9 year old grandson, I was less than thrilled when he suggested a day trip to Castle Drogo in Exeter. To me the name conjures up count Dracula films and when I read in our guide book that it is in the middle of a multi million pound restoration it didn't sound like there was much attractive about the place. However I was out voted (I am sure Andre, 9 was convinced there WOULD be vampires there) so off we set. Although they advertise themselves as "the last castle built in England", Castle Drogo is not really a castle at all. It was a rich mans folly, built for his wife and he obviously did not build it too well as it now needs complete restoration. Whether it is good financial sense for The National Trust to pour millions of pounds into this restoration is up for debate but someone in their organisation obviously had the brilliant idea of keeping the place open whilst the restoration was going on and even making it part of the attraction.

As we walked down from the car park all we could see where thousands of large stones (all numbered and colour coded), these are the parts of the castle that have been taken down and they are marked so that everyone knows exactly where they go when put back together. It looks like a massive jigsaw (albeit one that you would need a fork life truck to complete!) Then the castle comes into view and is almost completely covered by scaffolding. Visitors can take a tour up the scaffolding (wearing hard hats and high vis jackets) and at first we were not sure that our 9 year old was tall enough to climb the stairs on the scaffolding but after assuring the guide that he was a sensible child (thank god they hadn't seen him the night before rushing round our hotel room like a sugar addicted whirling dervish!) he was given a hard hat that almost covered his whole head and a high vis jacket that almost reached his toes! We climbed the scaffolding stairs (there is a method to this, only one person on each section at a time) and the views of Dartmoor from the top were in themselves worth the climb. Then we passed through some plastic curtains and saw the fascinating sight of many carpenters and stone masons busily restoring this building. Despite myself, I was fascinated, and it was very different to any of the other venues we had visited in that week. Once down off the scaffolding we wandered around the rooms that are still open to the public. These are crammed full of old furniture, toys and knick knacks and in each room there was a red envelope with a clue or a piece of information for the children to look for. There was a lot more on show than I had expected and there was even a room with vintage clothes where children (or in our case, us adults) could get dressed up and take pictures. In the grounds the rose gardens are lovely and there is also a Wendy house in the grounds complete with its own miniature garden. From the Lutyens designed terrace garden the views of Dartmoor are again very dramatic. After climbing scaffolding, dressing up, and exploring we were in need of a Devon tea and this was available in the café at a fairly reasonable price. So we didn't see any vampires but I am so glad that I visited Castle Drogo, it really is worth a visit if you are in the area.

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