Arlington Court is on the A39 to Lynton and was going to be an easy day for me. Wrong! We were heading out of Barnstaple on the A39 when I saw a sign saying 'ROAD AHEAD CLOSED' accompanied by a sign saying 'work starts 14/10/13'. Confused! Is it closed or not? I decided that because the signs were not at the end of the road where large vehicles had a choice of another route, they must be just preparing for the upcoming roadworks, so I carried on with plenty of traffic coming towards me from the supposed roadworks. We were only 3 miles from Arlington Court when we hit a road block, had to do a U-turn and find another way.
The main roads in this area are not very good for large vehicles so I wasn't going to risk using a country lane. So I was left thinking on my feet how we were going to get to our destination. I turned onto a road to skirt around the roadworks, went around the corner to see a sign saying 'THIS ROAD WILL BE CLOSED 8/10/13'. Panic! What was the date today? It's the 7th, I should be OK. So finally we arrived at Arlington Court, although we had to go a long way round, but the passengers appreciated the scenic drive and how I had navigated my way.
The first part of our visit to Arlington Court was a guided tour of the carriage museum. The group was split into two with a guide each.
The Carriage Museum in the stables has a vehicle for every occasion from cradle to grave. Currently on loan from the Houses of Parliament is the Speaker’s State Coach, a glorious, gilded carriage with over 300 years of history.
After our tour of the carriages we were free to explore the house and grounds. Arlington Court is an unexpected jewel on the edge of Exmoor, a complete family estate held by the Chichester family for over five hundred years. The collection consists of treasures for all tastes, from model ships to shells, collected over several generations. The house itself, built in 1823 and extended in 1860, has an austere facade.
Jacob sheep and Red Devon cattle graze the estate and provide seasonal dishes for the restaurant menu. There are over 20 miles of footpaths to explore, including the popular lake walk, which is just under two miles and tours the man-made lake and bridge piers of an unfulfilled Victorian dream. The formal Victorian garden with conservatory was rebuilt in 2012 and is planted with exotic species and a walled garden providing produce for the tea room and flowers for the house. There is an abundance of wildlife to discover including two species of bat roosting in the cellars, an ancient heronry and a birdhide, to view nature at its best.
After 4hrs here we had another scenic drive back to our hotel. We just skimmed the edge of Exmoor before following the route of the river Bray back to the main road and into Barnstaple arriving at our hotel in time for an included afternoon cream tea.
The other drivers at work keep having a friendly dig at me for always getting the cream of the work. Well boys, today I certainly have the cream and it was lovely!
I had a couple of hours to myself then before dinner and went for a long soak in the bath where I fell asleep. Dinner again tonight was excellent accompanied by a nice glass of wine. I just love staying at this hotel :-)