A journey through time

As you wander through Buckland Abbey, you will discover a wealth of fascinating tales, amazing architecture and over eight centuries of history.

The original 'Grand Design'

Beginning life as a tranquil monastery with a productive estate, Buckland has been redeveloped, restored and adapted, passing through the hands of famous seafarers and facing a devastating fire. There's no better place to venture on a voyage of discovery.

Founded in 1278, Buckland Abbey was the last of the Cistercian monasteries to be built in medieval England and Wales. For over 250 years, the monks who farmed the vast estate lived in the peaceful solitude of the Tavy valley. The Dissolution of the Monasteries saw Buckland sold to Sir Roger Grenville, who began to modify the abbey into a house and home, and later it was sold again to privateer Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe.

Buckland Abbey remained in the Drake family for around 400 years, until, following a fire in 1938, it was sold to Captain Rodd, who presented it to the National Trust in 1948. Visitors have been welcomed here since 1951, and the Trust has slowly been purchasing back pockets of the estate to form the comparitavely modest 650 acre property you see today.

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A visit to the house

It's hard to imagine the Abbey as a church in its current layout, but look closer and you'll spot scarring on the walls where once a transept stood, secret doorways and stairs that no longer lead anywhere. Archways and pillars, now built into walls, give a nod towards the building's monastic past.

Beginning in the Nave Gallery, which houses the newly verified Rembrandt self portrait, you'll walk in the footsteps of monks, sailors and servants as you journey through rooms from a panelled Tudor chamber to a cosy Georgian dining room. Imagine yourself cooking in the kitchen which boasts features from Elizabethan to Victorian times, and marvel at the original tiled floor in the great hall.

Don't miss Drake's drum in the Treasures gallery, said to beat when England is in danger.

The great barn

The impressive great barn, a mark of the monks' wealth and influence, was used for the storage and winnowing of corn.

Today it is home to a cider press, a reminder of the 27 acres of orchards that once stretched down to the river. We're hoping to restore it to full working order using funds raised by our property raffle - look out for more information about this project soon.

Other buildings

It's impossible to escape Buckland's rich agricultural heritage as you visit other parts of the estate. The guest house - now home to the shop, restaurant and visitor welcome - was likely once to have been stabling for animals with a hay loft above, and the Ox Yard buildings were, as the name suggests, once inhabited by the ox teams that were kept here until the 1880's. Look out for the linhay where farm machinery is now displayed, lovingly looked after by our conservation team.