Holnicote and the National Trust

The Holnicote Estate, Somerset.

Holnicote Estate had been in the Acland family for nearly 200 years. It came to them through the marriage of Sir Thomas Acland to Elizabeth Dyke the heiress of Holnicote. Through the marriage, the families also joined their surnames and became Dyke Acland. The estate became their second home and was used as a hunting seat and kennels were built on the estate for the North Devon Staghounds.

In 1917, the National Trust was leased 8,000 acres of moorland for five hundred years. This included Dunkery Beacon, the valley of Horner, the wilder parts of North Hill and moorland on Winsford Hill. This agreement was initiated by Sir Thomas with the agreement of his brother the Right Hon. Arthur Acland and his nephew the Right Hon. Francis Acland MP. At the time it was the largest area of land to be managed by the Trust and a new way of preserving parts of Exmoor. This was the first time any part of Exmoor was conserved for the nation.

In 1932, the first donation of Holnicote land was given to the Trust by Sir Colonel Walter Wiggins. The Trust was given 860 acres of Dunkery Hill. In 1935, a cairn constructed of stone and mortar was built on top of the Bronze Age burial mound at Dunkery Beacon.  This structure commemorates the gift another part of Dunkery Hill to the National Trust by Sir Thomas Acland, Allan Hughes and Colonel Wiggins.

Holnicote Estate passed down through the Acland family to Sir Richard Dyke Acland, who followed in his great uncle’s footsteps and in 1944 he gifted 9,848 acres to the National Trust. At the same time, they donated their Killerton Estate in Devon. It was his wish that land to be enjoyed by everyone not just the landowner. To date this is one of the largest donations of land given to the Trust. The National Trust also purchased 767 acres and today still continue to care for 10,000 acres of Exmoor.

The estate is made up of many picturesque villages, which include Selworthy, Bossington, Allerford and Horner. On the estate there are 14 tenant farms and 168 cottages.

Holnicote has a contrasting landscape with everything from wild rugged moorland and shingle beaches to ancient woodland and charming villages. It is a fantastic place for walking, horse riding and cycling. Holnicote has 150 miles of footpaths and bridleways to explore.