Federations Devon & Cornwall – 12 to 16 April 2015
By Larry Breen
Devon and Cornwall proved to be an inspired choice for the Federations joint visit to the U.K. The trip as in previous years was fully booked with fifty three local historians from all over the island meeting in Rosslare for the journey.
There were thirteen counties represented including Dublin, Londonderry/Derry, Kildare, Laois, Down, Antrim, Donegal, Galway, Meath, Louth, Waterford, Roscommon, and Tipperary.
Societies represented were Knocklyon, Clontarf, Naas, Clane, Durrow, Tipperary, Rathcoffey, Banbridge, West Belfast, Carrickfergus, Donegal, West Galway, Navan, Drogheda, Waterford, Athy, Roscommon, Clondalkin, Foxrock, Rathmichael, and New Buildings.
On a soft misty morning we left Rosslare for Fishguard in Wales. It proved a somewhat rocky crossing but we did all arrive safe and sound on Welsh soil. The journey to Plymouth was a long one but our spirits were high and after a short stop near Swansea we finished the second leg with a fun quiz which helped to shorten the trip considerably. After dinner at 7.30 pm we were all off to bed early in anticipation of the start of our adventure in Devon & Cornwall starting in the morning.
Monday – Devon
After breakfast the morning started when we met our guide for the trip, Viv Robinson, who took us on a coach tour of Plymouth pointing out all the highlights and places of interest encompassing its very interesting and chequered history. “Viv” as she affectionately became know was a real “gem” and proved a big asset for the duration of the week. Historically one of Britain’s greatest seafaring ports, Plymouth , had much to offer the visitor with the Barbican, Plymouth Hoe, the Mayflower Steps, art galleries, theatre and many interesting pubs and restaurants. We left the City and travelled to Buckland Abbey, originally a Cistercian Abbey which was founded in 1278. Two of its most famous owners were Sir. Richard Grenville, Marshall of Calais, and his great rival Sir Francis Drake. Set in the most beautiful countryside with equally impressive gardens alive with the colour of spring it presented a magical picture to the eye. Two exceptional features around the house were the famous Drake’s Drum and the Great Barn.
On another beautiful spring morning we headed out of Plymouth on the A38 into some captivating countryside taking us through Saltash and Liskeard. Our destination was the impressive Lanhydrock House, a late Victorian Country House with extensive servant quarters, gardens and a wooded estate. Home to the Robartes family it was resplendent in the morning sunshine with its extensive and beautiful gardens a blaze of colour with spring flowers. Touring the house gave a “glimpse” into life “below stairs” with its kitchens, servants’ quarters, spacious dining room, many bedrooms and its magnificent Long Gallery. It was most refreshing to enjoy a little libation in the courtyard under the afternoon sun.
Wednesday we travelled south deep into the Cornish countryside. After driving through some panoramic scenery we stopped in the town of Truro Not having a lot of time we were still able to have a look at the impressive Gothic-revival Truro Cathedral which took thirty years to build. It was a lovely town with nice parks and many open spaces including Victoria Gardens, Boscawen Park and Daubuz Moors.
The Mount was once walked to by pilgrims in honour of St. Michael who was reputed to have appeared there. Separated from the mainland by a causeway it has been the home of the St. Aubyn family since 1650. After an interesting short boat trip across the causeway we climbed up the rocky pathway to the castle on the summit with some stunning views along the way. The three hundred and sixty degree views from the castle turrets were just magnificent with sweeping views all around the bay. The interior of the castle was full of interest. There was the Blue Room, the unique Chevy Chase Room with its intricate plaster frieze, the Garrison Room with its armour and weapons and the lantern cross in the priory church.
After a very early breakfast we sadly took our leave of Plymouth for the journey back to Fishguard and Rosslare. We made one stop near Swansea before boarding the ferry, and all arrived safe and sound, back on Irish soil.
We can only say it was another wonderful journey to a most beautiful part of England’s West Country and one we will all remember with fond memories of the people and places we encountered.