Sunday, 23 May 2021

I have been to ... Tiverton ... again!

The last time Sue and I visited Tiverton I had the phone call from the hospital that informed me that they had found cancerous cells in my colon. I was determined that once I was declared cancer free, I would return to Tiverton again. The restrictions imposed by the government meant that we could not go to one of the apartments or houses at Tiverton Castle until 17th May, but we decided to go as soon as the ban was lifted ... so at 10.30am on 17th May, we had packed our luggage in our car and were on our way to Tiverton!

Monday 17th May: Getting there

Our journey to Tiverton took far longer than expected. Google Maps predicted that the journey using the M25, M3, and A303 would take 3 hours and 30 minutes, and the in-car satnav suggested that it would take slightly longer. In fact, it took nearly 6 hours and 30 minutes ... mainly due to very heavy traffic on the A303.

We tried to stop for a break not far from Yeovilton, but the first place we stopped was so crowded that we drove on to Podimore Services. We were able to eat the rolls we had brought with us from home and to take a comfort break. Suitably refreshed, we then drove across country to join the M5 near Taunton, and by just before 5.00pm we had parked outside Castle Lodge, Tiverton Castle, and the castle’s owner had handed over the keys to the house.

At 7.30pm we set off into the centre of Tiverton to find a restaurant where we could eat dinner. Luckily, Branzino (an Italian restaurant we had used before) was open, and Sue and I ate a very filling meal of pizza (Sue) and spaghetti bolognese (me). We returned home and watched TV for an hour or so before going to bed.

Tuesday 18th May: Tiverton and Barnstaple

We both work up at about 8.00am, and after breakfast Sue and I set off for the centre of Tiverton. After a quick look around the Pannier Market, ...

... we did some shopping ... just as the rain began to fall.

We had hoped that the rain wouldn’t last long ... but it did ... and it was torrential.

In the end, we made a mad dash for home in the hope that we would not get too wet.

In fact, we did get soaked and after drying off, we each had a hot drink and discussed what to do for the rest of the day. By just after 1.00pm, the rain had stopped, and after a short discussion we decided to drive to Barnstaple. The journey took just under 45 minutes, and after parking in the multi-storey car park at the Green Lanes Shopping Mall, Sue and I went for a walk around the centre of Barnstaple. We ate lunch in Costa Coffee and did some very successful shopping in a number of stores, including The Works, WHSmith, TKMaxx, and Rieker.

We were back home not long after 4.30pm and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and resting. Sue and I had intended to go out to eat dinner, but by 7.00pm the rain had returned, and after a short discussion we drove to the nearby branch of Marks & Spencer Simply Food to buy something to eat. This took us about 30 minutes, and by the time we had cooked and eaten what we had bought, it was just after 8.00pm.

We spent the rest of the evening resting, reading, and watching TV.

Wednesday 19th May: Tiverton Castle and Congresbury

After a very restful night's sleep (the quarterly chimes of the clock on St Peter's Church, which is next door to the castle, did not disturb us at all!), ...

... we had a leisurely breakfast before the owner of Tiverton Castle took us on a conducted tour of the castle.

We started outside in the ruined Solar Tower, which was used as the main living area of the castle when it was first built.

The tour then looked at the only remaining part of the original castle wall (which is in need of repair) ...

... and the modern road into the castle, which runs along the site of the original wet moat. (Castle Lodge can be seen in the centre background.)

Our tour then took us inside the main courtyard and into the round tower.

The stairs inside were very steep, but the tower did give an interesting view of the castle's main gate.

Returning downstairs, we entered the main part of what remains of the old castle, and passed through a storeroom that contains, amongst other things, a portrait of one the Courtney family, who owned the castle during the Tudor era.

(The portrait is of Edward Courtney. After his father was implicated in a plot against Henry VIII, Edward, who was twelve years old at the time, was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and only released in 1553 by Queen Mary. He was romantically linked with the young Princess Elizabeth, and when he was suspected of being involved in a plot against Queen Mary, he was imprisoned for a second time in the Tower. He was eventually banished and died in Padua in 1556.)

Another flight of stairs took us into the long gallery, which is full of items relating to the English Civil War ...

... as does the small room that we visited next.

The final part of our tour took us into the Napoleon Room.

The current owner's family connection to Napoleon is Major General Sir Neil Campbell CB, who was in charge of escorting Napoleon to Elba and then overseeing his exile there. Sir Neil was absent due to ill health at the time that Napoleon set sail from Elba for France. After an enquiry, into the matter he was exonerated.

His career as a soldier took him to the Caribbean, where he saw active service on the Turks and Caicos Islands, Jamaica, Martinique, Iles des Saintes, and Guadeloupe. In 1811 he was seconded as a Colonel to the Portuguese Army, and in 1813 he was a military attaché to the Russian Army. He took part in the Battle of Fère-Champenoise, where he was wounded by a Cossack who mistook him for a French officer. In 1813 he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and was subsequently knighted in 1815.

Sir Neil took part in the Waterloo Campaign and later commanded some of the British troops who occupied France until 1818. In 1825 he became Governor of Sierra Leone, where he died in 1827 of disease.

Once our tour was over, we got ready to drive to Congresbury, Somerset, where we were going to have lunch with two old friends and neighbours who had recently moved there. We ate lunch in the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill which is situated in the Doubletree at Hilton, Cadbury House, Congresbury, and then paid a visit to our friends' new house.

We returned to Tiverton Castle during the early evening and spent the time until we went to bed reading, resting, eating a snack supper, and watching TV.

Thursday 20th May: Tiverton and Exmouth

We both slept well, and took our time getting ready to go out. It was raining quite heavily, and we did not leave Castle Lodge until 11.00am.

It was probably a good thing that we were walking into Tiverton, as someone had parked their car so that we could not get our car out!

We discovered later that this is quite common, as there is a doctor's surgery on the opposite side of the road, and locals often park illegally 'for just a minute or two'.

Sue and I walked down into Tiverton, and across the bridge over the river ...

... and then on the Heathcoat's Fabrics.

They are a long-established firm that specialises in producing fabrics for all sort of uses, including the material used for the parachute fitted to the recent NASA Mars Lander.

Sue spent some time in the retail shop and left with a very interesting selection of material that she intends to use to make a dress.

We walked back to the castle through the rain, and after dropping our bags off and having a quick drink, we drove to Exmouth to have lunch. The journey took us about 50 minutes, and we parked in a small seafront car park.

Because of the inclement weather and high winds, the sea was very rough, and the beach was almost deserted.

We ate lunch in 'The Pavillion', ...

... and then drove into the centre of town for a walk around. Despite visiting several shops, we bought absolutely nothing, and by just before 5.00pm we had driven back to the castle ... only to find that another local had parked so that the gate was pretty well blocked!

I managed to negotiate my car through the gap they had left, whilst they continued to sit there and read their newspaper!

The weather improved somewhat, and at 7.30pm, Sue and I went to the 'Tiverton Steak House' for dinner. We have eaten there several times before, and as usual the food and service were excellent. We were back home by just after 9.30pm, and after watching some TV, we did some packing and went to bed.

Friday 21st May: Home again ... eventually!

If Sue and I thought that the drive to Tiverton had been difficult, then the drive home was worse!

We handed back Castle Lodge to the owner's wife at 10.00am, and after a visit to the local branch of Morrison's supermarket for a cooked breakfast and to fill up with petrol, we set off for home just before 11.00am ... and arrived home at 6.00pm!

A combination of heavy rain, high winds, roadworks, and a higher than usual level of traffic flow meant that our journey lasted nearly 7 hours. (We stopped for a 15-minute-long comfort break about halfway through the drive back.) The final icing on the cake was a traffic jam on the M25 caused by the Dartford Bridge being closed due to high winds. This caused a massive tailback, which we tried to avoid. Unfortunately, when the Dartford Crossing experiences holdups, so do all the roads feeding it and the M25, and it seemed to us that almost the entire road network in South East London was gridlocked. We did find a way through using local roads, but each junction was blocked by waiting traffic.

We arrived home very tired, very hungry, and very frustrated. We spent the evening trying to recover, had an early night, and both slept like logs!


  1. Hello BOB,
    I've enjoyed your well written and illustrated Travel Log- such lovely places there - pity about the rain. We visited England in April 2015 and it rained just about every day! No wonder things are so green and lush. One week of Autumn left here - with Winter just around the corner - it has been very cold at night and we're well rugged up. Best Wishes. KEV.

    1. Kev Robertson (Kev),

      I am very pleased to see that you enjoyed my travelogue. The rain was a bit of a downer BUT the change of scene really helped to raise our lagging spirits. We hope to go back when the weather is better and we can spend more time outdoors.

      The weather here has been autumnal for quite some time, and it is difficult to realise that it will be June in just over a week’s time. We are hoping for some better weather soon ... if only so that we can turn our central heating off first thing in the morning and during the evening!

      All the best,


  2. 'A change is as good as a rest' as they say, so I'm glad you enjoyed your break, despite the at times inclement weather, the very long journey and the idiots blocking the entrance/exit! The place you stayed looks wonderful and nice to have a guided tour too.

    1. Steve J.,

      You are absolutely right! We needed a break from our usually routine, and even though the journey there and back was awful and the weather was bad, we had a great time.

      The guided tour was interesting, and it was helpful for our guide, who spotted things that needed be dealt with before the castle reopens to the public.

      All the best,


  3. Fascinating trip and tour. Doing it in style!

    1. Landlubber66,

      Cheers! I thoroughly recommend Tiverton Castle was both a place to visit - when it reopens - or to stay.

      All the best,


  4. Hi Bob

    Enjoyed reading about your (wet) mini break. We lived in Salisbury for 20 years, and know that part of the country very well. Lovely when the weather is good, as is most of the UK.

    I reminded me of just how wet it can be in the UK, even in the late spring and summer. It also reminded me how stoic we Brits can be, indeed have to be. Fond memories of very wet summer holidays throughout the UK.

    It does rain here in Spain, but usually not for long. We usually take our walking group into the mountains each Monday, but have had to cancel the last three out of four due to rain. Nothing like you would expect in the UK, and still quite warm. But we feel it is a shame to waste a good walk on a wet day, particularly when they are so unusual. And each of the four Tuesdays were bright sun and clear skies.

    Hope the weather improves soon and you can get out to enjoy a good summer.

    1. Thistlebarrow,

      We have friends who live not far from Salisbury, (Goodworth Clatford) and have visited the city many times. As you say, it’s great when the sun is shining and the weather is fine ... but less so on wet and windy days.

      Is it stoicism ... or just an acceptance of the reality we have to live with? I suspect that when the weather isn’t good, we just shrug ... and get on with life.

      From the rain I’ve experienced in Spain, it seemed to be torrential for a short time, followed by a period of sunshine that soon removed most of the evidence that it had ever been wet.

      I hope that we can all enjoy a sunny summer.

      All the best,


  5. Replies
    1. Steve8,

      I’d love to own somewhere like Tiverton Castle ... but I need to win the National Lottery first!

      All the best,


  6. Not quite a Mediterranean cruise but it must have felt good for you two to holiday away from home.

    1. Ross Mac,

      It was great just to spend time away from home. The weather was a minor inconvenience in comparison to the boost to our morale.

      All the best,



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