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Killerton House

killerton house exterior

A Day Out Discovering Killerton House & Gardens

Just outside Exeter, the impressive Georgian mansion of Killerton House offers visitors the chance to explore centuries of one influential family’s history within an expansive 6,400 acre estate. Wander through ornate staterooms, follow woodland trails, and discover stories of the Acland family whose ancestral home this remains today.

With animal adventures, costume dress up and garden quests tailor-made for kids, Killerton House provides a fulfilling heritage day out that engages all generations. Here’s everything you need to know.

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Getting There

Killerton sits on the northeastern outskirts of Exeter, about 6 miles from the city centre. Well signposted just off the A377, free parking is included for visitors once inside the estate.

By Car

It only takes 15 minutes to drive to Killerton from Exeter city centre. Simply follow signs from the A377 towards Tiverton. A free parking area is signposted within the grounds.

By Bus

Frequent buses run from Exeter St Davids station past the Killerton entrance. Alight at Killerton Cross then follow footpath signs 5 minutes to the visitor centre.

Opening Times and Prices

The main house and gardens are open from March to October:

  • Tuesday – Sunday + Bank Holidays: 11am – 5pm

The parklands are open daily including Mondays for walking year-round. Visit the website to confirm openings before travelling.

Entry prices are:

  • Adults £14
  • Children £7
  • Family £35
  • National Trust members free
killerton drawing room

Killerton House History

The earliest threads run back to the 13th century, when the land where Killerton now stands was owned by the de Kildrington family. Their name, believed to have given rise to the estate’s title, whispers of an age of knights and yeomanry. By the 17th century, the land passed into the hands of the Aclands, a family whose fortunes were entwined with Killerton for generations.

In 1778, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, the 7th baronet, set the stage for grandeur. Dissatisfied with the existing Tudor manor, he commissioned the construction of the present Georgian house. Architect John Johnson brought forth a vision of Palladian grace, bathed in the golden light of Devonshire afternoons. The house, with its elegant proportions and understated splendor, became a fitting canvas for the Aclands’ refined lifestyle.

Life at Killerton was a delight of elegance and leisure. Lavish balls, lively hunting parties, and cultivated gardens punctuated the days. The interiors, awash in the soft hues of Georgian wallpaper and adorned with exquisite furniture, showcased the family’s refined taste. The gardens, designed by John Veitch, unfolded like a living masterpiece, blending manicured lawns with serpentine paths and exotic plants collected from the far corners of the globe.

In 1944, a pivotal moment arrived. Sir Richard Acland, a man of progressive ideals, made the momentous decision to gift Killerton and its sprawling estate to the National Trust. This act of generosity ensured the preservation of this Devonshire gem for generations to come and what follows below gives more information about your visit.

killerton house

The House Interiors

Gain insight into graceful Georgian living and the Killerton family history on a guided tour of the home’s 50 lavish rooms:

  • Fine Furniture – Elegant collections amassed by generations over centuries.
  • Library – Home to over 15,000 historic volumes.
  • Bedrooms – Sleeping quarters preserved in character.
  • Kitchen – Packed with charming utilities and tools feeding grand Country House parties.

Costumed room guides provide context on how the prosperous family lived through changing eras of style.

killerton dining room

Gardens and Grounds

The sprawling estate provides enchanting spaces to explore beyond the house:

  • Formal Gardens – Sculptures, temples and rare magnolias.
  • Walled Kitchen Garden – Traditional fruit, veg and flowers.
  • Woodland – Over 250 acres with nature trails and play zones.
  • Deer Park – Home to wild Exmoor deer and grazing longhorns.
  • Orchard Lakeside – Pretty walks circling the lake.

Kids will love the natural play areas like the wobbly rope walkway and fairy folklore trail.

dog at killerton house

Family Activities

Killerton adds extra magic for little visitors through:

  • Costumed dress up like housemaids and butlers.
  • Garden activity packs and quizzes.
  • Year-round craft weekends and events.
  • Woodland trail.
  • Pony grooming and tractor rides.
  • Natural play trail and summer water play.

It makes history and heritage accessible for children to engage with and understand.

stairs at christmas at killerton

The Bear House at Killerton

Nestled at the far end of the grounds lies a whimsical wonder known as the Bear House. Thatched with golden straw and adorned with rustic charm, it whispers tales of an intriguing past, where playful whimsy meets wild encounters.

Initially christened the “Lady Cot” in 1808, this charming hideaway was a romantic present from Sir Thomas Dyke Acland to his beloved wife, Lady Lydia. Built by John Veitch, a renowned landscape architect, the hut exudes a rustic elegance. Timber, sourced from the estate itself, forms its sturdy bones, while a quaint thatched roof, reminiscent of a hobbit’s dwelling, completes the fairytale look.

Step inside, and the air hums with secrets. Walls, woven with a tapestry of textures, tell stories of wilderness tamed. Deer skin, polished smooth, stretches across one expanse, while pine cones and bark add whimsical accents. The floor, a mosaic of cobbled deer knuckle bones, whispers of a time when nature and human ingenuity danced hand-in-hand.

But the true magic of the Bear House unfolds in its unexpected twist. In the 1860s, a new resident claimed the cozy confines – Tom, a black bear brought back from Canada by the adventurous Gilbert Acland. The hut, once a haven for love, transformed into a furry bachelor pad, earning its current moniker with pride.

Though Tom eventually moved on to grander quarters, his spirit lingers within the Bear House walls. It’s a place where imagination soars, where children peek through stained glass windows collected from faraway lands, and where whispers of laughter echo through timber beams.

bear house at killerton

Visitor Facilities

The Stables Restaurant serves hot meals, baked treats and refreshments. The Cow Shed Cafe offers light bites.

The shop stocks toys, Killerton souvenirs and gifts showcasing creative local crafts and produce.

killerton shop

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dogs allowed in Killerton House? – Dogs are not allowed in the house or the formal gardens, but they are welcome in the park if kept on leads and can roam free in the deer park

Who built Killerton House? – It was built in the 1770s by Sir Thomas Acland. The garden was designed by John Leitch.

How much does car parking cost? The car park is £2 per hour for non members and it is free for National Trust members.

killerton gardens

Nearby Attractions

Tiverton Castle:
Just a short drive from Killerton House, Tiverton Castle offers a fascinating journey back in time. This historic castle dates back to the early 12th century and is a testament to medieval architecture and heritage. As you explore the castle’s well-preserved grounds, you can immerse yourself in its rich history, including its role during the English Civil War. The castle boasts a dramatic gatehouse, ancient ramparts, and beautiful gardens. Visitors can take guided tours to gain insights into the castle’s storied past. The views from the castle walls are also breathtaking, providing a sense of the surrounding landscape and Tiverton town.

A La Ronde:
A La Ronde is an extraordinary and unique attraction situated in Exmouth, a relatively short drive from Killerton House. This 18th-century sixteen-sided house was designed and built by two adventurous cousins, Jane and Mary Parminter, who brought back decorative items and trinkets from their grand tour of Europe. The house is a delightful example of architectural whimsy, featuring a quirky, circular layout and an array of fascinating objects, shells, and mementos. The gardens surrounding A La Ronde are equally charming, with serene walks and beautiful vistas across the Exe Estuary.

Knightshayes
Located a mere stone’s throw away from Killerton House, Knightshayes is a stunning Victorian country house set amidst beautiful gardens and woodlands. The house itself is a masterpiece of High Victorian Gothic architecture and is renowned for its opulent interiors. Visitors can explore the lavishly decorated rooms, including the impressive Great Hall. The gardens at Knightshayes are a horticultural wonder, with vibrant seasonal displays, ancient trees, and peaceful pathways to stroll along. The estate also offers delightful tea rooms for a well-deserved break.

Bicton Park Botanical Gardens:
A visit to Bicton Park, situated just a short drive from Killerton House, is a treat for nature lovers. These spectacular botanical gardens boast a vast collection of plants from around the world, set within the stunning grounds of Bicton House. Explore themed gardens, glasshouses filled with exotic flora, and even a charming countryside museum. The gardens are beautifully landscaped, featuring everything from Italian gardens to arboretums. Bicton Park is a tranquil place to wander, with opportunities for picnics and nature appreciation.

You can find out more about other National Trust places in Devon here.

Killerton House provides stories and beauty to uncover across its expansive estate and elaborate Georgian mansion. Step back in time wandering through the family’s ancestral home.

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