We were really looking forward to visiting Powderham Castle on the banks of the lovely River Exe. This trip didn’t for once live up to our expectations. First of all we visited the cafe, not a great experience. I overheard the next table saying their coffees were virtually cold. The waitress didn’t offer a good explanation, just that they could have asked for the setting on the machine to be turned up. How are you supposed to know whether you need a higher setting?! Sure enough our coffees were tepid, virtually undrinkable. I then heard another table complain about the bread with the soup, the waitress gave them a baguette instead. I had unfortunately already struggled with mine…it was tough and virtually uneatable. I did mention this when paying. The soup itself was the smallest portion you could imagine. No aristocratic generosity here. F’s baked potato with tuna was ‘underwhelming’, potato not crisp on the outside and inside fluffy, tuna not seasoned, really just a mush.
We then went on the tour of the ‘grand rooms’ as opposed to the ‘upstairs/downstairs’ tour. The guide unfortunately was, what can I say, not well-trained. I don’t blame her, it is a difficult job. But anyway she didn’t have much knowledge or authority. So, whilst some of the rooms, particularly the Library and the Music Room, were impressive, the tour itself was an enormous disappointment. As usual with it being a private house, no photos….from the net, here’s the beautiful sequence of rooms forming the library.
and the splendid Music RoomThe formal dining room, a Victorian addition, was very much High Victorian…We wandered outside to the chapel and there some pretty impressive wisteria adorning the outside of the buildings.and the views down to the river were nice enough…although by no stretch of the imagination would you call the gardens impressive.Looking for something else to do we wandered up quite a way to the walled garden and Victorian glasshouse where we immediately had to shelter from a heavy downpour. Again a great disappointment. There were two fig trees inside plus some very scruffy tables and chairs. The huge walled garden was entirely given over to petting areas with ponies, birds etc and a children’s play area. All very well but I think some token acknowledgement of what the garden was originally used for would have been nice.The dash through the rain to our car virtually summed up the whole experience unfortunately. What a disappointment for what should be one of the premier houses and experiences in Devon.
However, we were cheered up by a diversion over to the opposite side of the river to visit Topsham, a lovely village with a character all of its own. The houses and shops all quirky, Dutch gables reflecting its maritime heritage, the riverside very interesting and the pubs and cafes all looking good. We had a quick coffee in The Globe an excellent establishment with a fascinating history. We would certainly go again. And as for Topsham itself, we will be back.