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Buckland Abbey

buckland abbey

Experience History and Nature at Buckland Abbey

Nestled in the lush Devon countryside, Buckland Abbey offers a glimpse into England’s past while providing plenty of opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of the southwest. Families looking for a great day out should certainly put this historic estate on their itinerary.

buckland abbey

Getting There

Buckland Abbey is located about 10 miles north of Plymouth, near the town of Yelverton.

By car, it’s an easy drive of just over an hour from Exeter or Torquay. Simply take the A386 towards Tavistock, then turn onto the B3357 signposted for Buckland Abbey. There’s ample free parking on site.

If traveling by public transport, take the train to Plymouth, then bus 35 towards Tavistock, alighting at the Buckland Abbey stop. From there, it’s a short walk to the entrance. Total journey time is around 1.5 hours from Exeter or Torquay.

Opening Times and Prices

Buckland Abbey is open from 10am to 5pm daily from March to October.

The normal admission fees are:

Adult – £14.00

Child – £7

National Trust member – free

Special rates are available for families and groups.

There are some different opening times during the winter when there are Christmas exhibtions on and you should check the website for details.

The grounds remain open year-round from 9am to 6pm for free self-guided walks.

buckland abbey

History Brought to Life

Originally built as a Cistercian monastery in the 13th century, Buckland Abbey was one of England’s largest and wealthiest abbeys. After the dissolution of the monasteries, it became the home of Sir Francis Drake in 1580. Today, visitors can explore this 700 year history through the mansion, museum, and grounds.

Inside the mansion, intricate plasterwork ceilings, oak paneling, and elaborate fireplaces hint at the abbey’s former grandeur. The various exhibits paint a picture of Buckland Abbey’s journey from monastery to private home. Don’t miss Drake’s Chamber, where the famous explorer once lived.

The museum delves into Drake’s adventures and the Tudor era. Interactive displays engage kids’ imaginations while teaching about 16th century seafaring. Costumed interpreters provide hands-on demos of period cooking, crafts, and music. Special events like Elizabethan theater performances truly bring the abbey’s history to life.

second hall

Nature Trails and Family Activities

Beyond the abbey walls, acres of woodland, riverbanks, and meadows are there to be explored on miles of marked trails. The easy Cider Orchard Walk makes for a pleasant stroll amongst apple trees. For longer hikes, the Great Wood and River Walk provides scenic views. The Deer Park Trail offers prime wildlife watching opportunities.

gardens

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake, an iconic figure of the Elizabethan era, left an indelible mark on history through his daring exploits and maritime prowess. Born around 1540, Drake’s early years were marked by seafaring adventures and an unwavering spirit of exploration. His circumnavigation of the globe from 1577 to 1580, aboard the Golden Hind, stands as a testament to his audacity and strategic acumen.

Drake’s naval victories against the Spanish Armada, notably the 1588 Battle of Gravelines, earned him national acclaim and secured his status as a hero in England. His tactical brilliance and fearlessness in the face of formidable odds elevated him to the ranks of Elizabethan legends.

Buckland Abbey served as Drake’s home and a witness to his remarkable life. The abbey, acquired by Drake in 1581, became a sanctuary where he could reflect on his exploits and it remained his home until his death in 1596.

John Sugden’s biography, “Sir Francis Drake,” delves into the life of the legendary Elizabethan sailor and gives more detail about his history. You can buy it here.

Sir Francis Drake

Facilities

The Ox Yard Cafe provides locally sourced light meals and snacks to fuel up for outdoor adventures. They do lovely hot and cold meals throughout the day.

Kids will love running around the outdoor playground and special nature-themed children’s trails and activity bags add some education to their play. Seasonal highlights like bluebell woods in spring or autumn colors make for picture perfect family outings.

cafe at buckland abbey

A Full Day Out

With so much to see and do, Buckland Abbey truly offers a memorable, educational, and fun family day out. Arrive early to take in the mansion, museum, and grounds at a leisurely pace. Break for lunch at the Brewhouse Cafe or bring a picnic to enjoy in the picturesque meadows. Spend the afternoon following sculpture trails, clambering over the natural play area, and spotting wildlife. Leaving before closing means there’s time to browse the gift shop for unique souvenirs on the way out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dogs allowed at Buckland Abbey? – There are plenty of walks in the woods and grounds where dogs are welcome and they are also allowed into the cafe on a lead. Only assistance dogs are allowed into the Abbey.

Is Buckland Abbey accessible for wheelchair users? The National Trust have worked on making Buckland Abbey as accessible as possible, but there are some steep gravel pathes in the gardens which may be a challenge. They have designated parking for blue badge holders and the staff can arrange to lend wheelchairs if needed.

Other places to visit near Buckland Abbey

While in the area, you should think about some of these other nearby attractions:

  • Tavistock Abbey – Impressive ruins of a Benedictine abbey founded in 961 AD. Interesting to explore for history enthusiasts.
  • Okehampton Castle – Ruins of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle with interactive exhibits bringing history to life. Great for kids.
  • Lydford Gorge – Dramatic gorge with waterfalls and lovely nature trails along the River Lyd. Owned and managed by the National Trust.
  • Morwellham Quay – Living museum that recreates a historic port and copper mine from the Victorian era. Ride the mine railway.
  • Roadford Lake – Large reservoir near Tavistock with walks, cycling, fishing, water sports and outdoor adventures available.
  • Launceston Castle – Impressive Norman motte-and-bailey castle ruins with fascinating history. Wonderful views from the top.
  • Tamar Valley Line – Scenic railway running along the Tamar Valley from Plymouth to Gunnislake, offering idyllic valley views.
  • Cotehele House & Quay – Medieval house and historic quay on the River Tamar. Explore the vaulted halls and gardens.
  • Finch Foundry – Historic 19th century working water-powered forge open to visitors to see traditional iron work skills

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