One of the gardens I visited during my Devon tour was Killerton House near Exeter. I always try and arrange my tours for when the weather is at its best – and this time I got it right. The garden stretches into Parkland so it’s a wonderful place to explore – especially if you have a dog.
Killerton is about twenty minutes from Exeter by car. Leave M5 northbound at Junction 29. Keep right onto the A3015 and take 4th exit at the roundabout to B3181 signposted to Pinhoe and Broadclyst. Killerton is on the left just after Broadclyst – there are brown tourism signs from the roundabout.
The estate is massive with a formal garden around the house adjoining woodland and parkland much of which was planted in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century by the head gardener, John Veitch and his son James. Sir Thomas Acland did not want to lose John so as well as working at Killerton, Sir Thomas gave John money so he could start his own business. The nursery continued to grow and it became one of the biggest nurseries in Britain often sending plant hunters across the world to find and bring back specimens – some of these specimens were planted at Killerton.
The Bear’s House was built around 1808 and has three rooms including a hermit’s cell decorated with deer skins, knuckle bones and fir cones. Just above here is the Ice House which was built the same year. This area was converted by the head gardener, John Coutts, from a quarry into a rock garden c1900.
The History of Killerton
The present house was designed in 1778 by John Johnson as a temporary dwelling for Sir Thomas Acland. It is not known why James Wyatt’s plans for a new house in 1779 were abandoned but as a result Johnsons’s house was kept and enlarged in 1830. The gardens were laid out in 1770s by John Veitch and contain rhododendrons, magnolias, specimen trees, herbaceous borders, an ice house and an early nineteenth century summerhouse. The terrace next to the house was designed at the beginning of the twentieth century by William Robinson. There is an early nineteenth century woodland garden set within a larger park. The Acland family gave Killerton to the National Trust in 1944.
As with most National Trust properties, there’s a cafe and shop at Killerton.