Cotehele in Cornwall

Cotehele in Cornwall

Cotehele (pronounced a lot like coat-EEL) is a beautiful manor house located near Saltash in Cornwall. When we heard that it was one of the best preserved Tudor-era houses in England, we decided to pay a visit.

The house’s Tudor Hall was the first room we saw, and it was impressive.

great hall

Whale jaw bones flanking a doorway, armor displayed on the wall, an albatross head mounted on the wall, flags, banners, guns. This house was owned by the same family for roughly 600 years – that’s quite a long time to amass a collection of all sorts of items. I felt like I could have stayed in the great hall for several hours, just looking at everything.

I believe it was at Cotehele that we saw a small cupboard-like area in one of the bedrooms that opened onto the church below. The guide explained that it was constructed so that those who were ill could still hear the church service.

We also saw the Punch Room, which takes its name from its tapestries depicting scenes of Bacchic revelry and the making of wine. And of course, its little hideaway cupboard for beverages:

punch room 2.jpg

The gardens at Cotehele are beautiful. There are terraced gardens, a peaceful pond, a bowling green, and palm trees and rhododendrons in the steep Valley Garden. An orchard on the property boasts 120 different varieties of Tamar Valley apples.


But the real star of the show is the Cotehele tapestries. There are so many!  Many have been altered to fit the space in which they hang. In the Punch Room, a tapestry hanging over the cupboard has a slit in it so the door can be easily opened and closed. Here is one of the many magnificent tapestries from Cotehele.


One of the most remarkable things at Cotehele is its clock, which is the earliest turret clock in the United Kingdom still working in an unaltered state and in its original position. It has no face, but is attached to a bell which strikes the hour. Many other clocks from this time period have long since been converted to pendulum, but the clock at Cotehele never was.


The clock is located in a small alcove that appears to be custom made for that purpose – it has a chimney-like chute that goes up to the bell and has just the right dimensions for the clock, the weights, and the double-pulley system.

As with most of the places we visited in Cornwall, it was very family friendly, with children’s activities and a bit of a scavenger hunt for young visitors to enjoy. The theme of the scavenger hunt was things that didn’t make sense, such as tapestries that were cut and sewn together. It was a fascinating way to find peculiarities and I think I enjoyed it just as much as my daughter did!

It would be easy to spend an entire day here. In addition to the house and extensive gardens, there is a triangular tower folly known as Prospect Tower, a Chapel in the Woods, a Mill, the (free) Cotehele Quay Discovery Centre, and The Shamrock, a traditional Tamar sailing barge launched in 1899. It’s a great day out with all sorts of fascinating sights.

Cotehele is open every day from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Its address is St Dominick, near Saltash, Cornwall, PL12 6TA, but they recommend that you not use GPS as it can be misleading. Telephone 44 1579 351346.  It is a National Trust property.

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