The Chapel

The Chapel

Castle Drogo

Castle Drogo


Castle Drogo is a country house and mixed-revivalist castle near Drewsteignton, Devon, England. Constructed between 1911 and 1930, it was the last castle to be built in England. The client was Julius Drewe, the hugely successful founder of the Home and Colonial Stores. Drewe chose the site in the belief that it formed part of the lands of his supposed medieval ancestor, Drogo de Teigne.

The architect he chose to realise his dream was Edwin Lutyens, then at the height of his career. Lutyens lamented Drewe's determination to have a castle but nevertheless produced one of his finest buildings. The architectural critic, Christopher Hussey, described the result: "The ultimate justification of Drogo is that it does not pretend to be a castle. It is a castle, as a castle is built, of granite, on a mountain, in the twentieth century".

*** – History – ***

In 1910 Julius Drewe bought about 450 acres (1.8 km2) south and west of the village of Drewsteignton in the belief that he was descended from the Drewe family that once lived here. Born Drew, the son of George Smith Drew and his wife Mary, née Peek, both from substantial families of grocers, Drewe added the "e" to his surname later in life. By the time of his death in 1931 he had bought up an estate of 1,500 acres.

Around 1910 he asked Edwin Lutyens to build him a castle. According to his son Basil, he did so on the advice of Edward Hudson, proprietor of Country Life magazine, who was both a patron and a champion of Lutyens. Drewe was now 54 years old, but he still had time, energy and money to create his new family seat. The budget was £50,000 for the castle, and a further £10,000 for the garden. Lutyens wrote privately of his concern over Drewe's ambitions; "I do wish he didn't want a castle but just a delicious loveable house with plenty of good large rooms in it". On 4 April 1911, Drewe's 55th birthday, the first foundation stone was laid.

The castle took many years to complete, with the First World War and the economic downturn causing many delays. One reason for the slow progress was the very limited number of craftsmen used. The writer Christopher Hussey records that "after the first year, every stone was laid by two men alone...Devon masons Cleeve and Dewdney".

As significant, was Drewe's waning enthusiasm; his son and heir Adrian was killed on 12 July 1917, in early skirmishes prior to the Battle of Passchendaele. Drewe's daughter later recalled, "after my brother's death...the joy of life went out as far as my father and mother were father really was somewhat of an invalid afterwards. Overall responsibility for the construction work was held by Drewe's agent, John Coates Walker, described in the most recent guide to the castle as, "the unsung hero of the whole venture".

Castle Drogo was finally completed in 1930, roughly a third of the size of Lutyens's 1911 designs, and only a year before Julius died; he had, however, been able to live in the house since around 1925. The catalogue prepared for the 1981 exhibition at the Hayward Gallery on Lutyens' work describes Drogo as "one of his finest buildings". It was built at the same time as Lutyens's work in New Delhi, resulting in many similarities in design.

After Julius's death, his wife Frances and her son Basil continued to live at the castle. During 1939–45, Frances and her daughter Mary ran the house as a home for babies made homeless during the bombings of London. Frances Drewe died in 1954 and Basil was then joined at Drogo by his son Anthony and his wife. In 1974, Anthony and his son, Dr Christopher Drewe, gave Castle Drogo and 600 acres (2.4 km2) of the surrounding land to the National Trust.

It was the first 20th-century property the charity acquired. The writer and National Trust administrator James Lees-Milne recorded his impressions of the house and its owners in a diary entry dated 9 September 1976; "Reached Castle Drogo ... at eleven. Very satisfactory house of clean-cut granite. A new family aspiring to, rather arriving at, landed gentry-hood and now the representative living upstairs in a tiny flat, all within my lifetime".

The castle has been undergoing an extensive, five-year, restoration. A new visitor centre with shop and café opened in the summer of 2009, after English Heritage required that industrial kitchen equipment such as that used by the previous café within the house, be removed from Grade I listed buildings. In February 2011, the National Trust launched a public appeal for money to fund necessary restoration work.

*** – Architecture – ***

The castle as constructed represents approximately one third of the building Lutyens originally planned. The intended building would have run the entire length of the ridge, comprising three sides of a large courtyard. The existing structure broadly represents the planned eastern wing of the whole. It was to have been matched by a corresponding wing to the west, the two joined by a northern block enclosing the planned great hall.

Drewe balked at the costs, although his own decision to double the thickness of all of the walls on grounds of authenticity was a significant factor in their escalation. Pre-war, the plan for the western wing was abandoned, and after the end of hostilities, which had seen the death of Drewe's eldest son, plans for the great hall were also set aside, with the undercroft, which had been constructed, becoming the crypt chapel.

The castle borrows styles of castle building from the medieval and Tudor periods, along with more minimalist contemporary approaches. A notable feature is the encasement of the service staircase, around which the main staircase climbs. Its defensive characteristics are purely decorative. Additionally, the castle had electricity and lifts from the outset, with power being supplied by two turbines on the river below. The castle is a Grade 1 listed building.

The castle essentially comprises a three-storey main block, with a four-storey family and service wing to the side. The main block comprises four reception rooms, the hall, the library, the dining room and the drawing room.

*** – Gardens – ***

The castle has a formal garden, designed by Lutyens with planting by George Dillistone, which contrasts with its setting on the edge of Dartmoor. In 1915, Lutyens brought in Gertrude Jekyll to assist with the planning. Jekyll's involvement appears to have been limited to designing the planting for the approach to the castle along the drive. The garden is noted for its rhododendrons and magnolias, herbaceous borders, rose garden, shrub garden and circular grass tennis court now used for croquet. The gardens are Grade 2* listed

Created over 100 years ago by Sir Edwin Lutyens and George Dillistone this terrace garden was carved out of granite. There's something of interest to see in all seasons.

  • Autumn Highlights.
  • As the summer colour comes to an end the trees and shrubs start to put on a show, with bright oranges and reds creating an array of autumn colour.
  • The Shrubbery.
  • George Dillistone designed and planted the shrubbery in 1924 with plants bought from Veitch Nurseries; many of the original trees and shrubs are still thriving today. The shrubbery has trees and shrubs chosen with rich autumn colours so it's a great place to wander throughout the changing season.
  • Arbours.
  • The four arbours, one in each corner of the garden, each have four Persian Ironwood trees, Parrotia persica. During the autumn the leaves of the Persian Ironwoods turn from a vibrant green to a brilliant gold, before dropping over the winter. Every year the garden team prune the trees taking over a week to complete each arbour. The garden may be begining to rest but there's still plenty of work to be done.
  • Herbaceous borders.
  • 250 metres of exuberant herbaceous borders wrap around the middle terrace. Today the garden team create borders with high impact, a long season of interest and vibrant colours, reflective of the historic planting plans drawn up in the 1920’s by George Dillistone, a highly respected plantsman with a passion for bearded iris and lilies. These borders take a lot of annual work and the garden team constantly analyse, plan, split and divide, relocate and add new varieties. The team have had less time to work on these tasks over the last few months but the borders are still full of colour and interest.
  • The Bunty House.
  • Every child dreams of a play house of their very own. The Drewe’s realised this and the Bunty House with its own suburban front garden was set in the wooded outskirts of the croquet lawn.

    *** – Teign Gorge Classic Circuit – ***

    Perhaps the most famous walk on Dartmoor. From the imposing bulk of Castle Drogo – the last castle to be built in England – and following the breathtaking Hunters Path high above the River Teign, this walk is filled with chances to spot wildlife and stunning views. Pushchairs are not recommended on this route as the walk does include unfenced drops, steep terrain and steps. Classified as Moderate, this walk is just over four miles long and should take about two and a half hours to complete. It is a dog-friendly walk.

    Start: Castle Drogo main car park, Drewsteignton.

  • 1. From the car park follow signs for the Teign Valley estate walks back up the drive. Turn right, following signs for Hunters Path which take you down 2 flights of steps. At the bottom of the steps you join Hunters Path - turn left following signs for Fingle Bridge.
  • 2. Pass Sharp Tor on your right - pause a moment to enjoy the view. Continue on Hunters Path, following signs for Fingle Bridge.
  • 3. Go through a small gate between granite posts (Hunters Gate), then after 55yd (50m) take the right-hand path and go downwards following signs for Fingle Bridge.
  • 4. At the bottom of the path you join the road to Fingle Bridge - turn right and walk along the road to the bridge (please take care). The meadows are excellent places to picnic and the Fingle Bridge Inn sits adjacent to the bridge (check opening times).
  • Fingle Bridge. Cross the 13th-century packhorse bridge and turn right, for a less challenging alternative route, avoiding sections of steep steps.
  • 5. Here you have a choice; either follow Fishermans Path (before you cross the bridge on the right), or cross the bridge to the other side (National Trust car park and public toilets) and immediately turn right. Walk through the meadows to the small wooden footbridge at the far end and join the track (sometimes known as Foresters track). Both routes follow the river all the way back through the gorge.
  • 6. If you followed Fishermans Path you must ascend and descend the base of Sharp Tor. Please take care.
  • 7. The Hydroelectric plant; if you followed Fishermans Path, this is on the opposite side of the river, if you followed the Foresters track you will walk right past it. If you look up you will see Piddledown Common above you and you might just catch a glimpse of the castle above the trees.
  • 8. The Deer Park; if you followed Foresters track you will pass through a gate and walk along the lower wall of Whiddon Deer Park, enclosed in around AD1560 to contain a herd of fallow deer.
  • 9. Drogo Weir; if you followed Fishermans Path you will pass the end of this structure, built in 1928 to serve the hydroelectric plant downstream. When the river is high, this is spectacular.
  • 10. The Iron Bridge; if you followed Foresters track you need to climb a stone stile over the Deer Park wall and cross the suspension bridge - look downstream as you cross to see Drogo Weir. At the other side of the bridge, you rejoin Fishermans Path.
  • River wildlife. The River Teign plays host to a fine array of wildlife, not least the fish, especially salmon and brown trout. When the river is in spate (high water) and the fish are running, it is a spectacular sight to see them jumping up the weirs below Drogo and near Fingle bridge in search of their spawning areas. This mostly happens in September and October after heavy rain.
  • 11. The return; from the end of the suspension bridge turn left and then right, following signs for Castle Drogo and the Two Moors Way. Follow this route until it joins a tarmac drive near Gibb House and Coombe. Follow the drive uphill.
  • 12. When you reach a wooden gate on the right-hand side of the drive between massive beech trees, turn right and go through it following signs for Hunters Path. Continue along Hunters Path, passing below the castle and looking back down the valley you have walked through. When you reach the bottom of a set of steps (the same ones you came down at step one) climb these and return up the castle drive back to the main car park.
  • End: Castle Drogo main car park, Drewsteignton. You made it!


    *** – Visiting – ***

    Please book ahead before visiting. The garden, café, car park and toilets are open. Limited parking for Teign Gorge walks (no booking required). If you'd like to visit the garden at Castle Drogo please be aware that you need to book tickets before you visit. You can book either online or by calling 0344 249 1895 by 3pm the day before your visit. Members can book for free, while non-members will need to pay when booking. The National Trust will be releasing tickets every Friday. Please note they will be turning people away who arrive and haven't booked. They are looking forward to welcoming you back. Click here to book your visit now.

    Feeling peckish? The café has reopened serving a range of hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes and a selection of warming options perfect for the changing season. They have introduced new safety measures including screens at their till and collection points, and waymarked routes. In line with government guidelines you'll be required to wear a face covering in their café from 24 July. Please bring one with you. They will also only be accepting card payment. They look forward to welcoming you back and know that you’ll support them to make this a safe experience for everyone.

    The shop and plants centre is open. For the safety of staff and visitors they have introduced social distancing measures and changes to payment, which will be via card only. In line with government guidance visitors to the shop are required to wear a face covering. Please bring one along with you. It is through your purchases that they are able to continue to look after Castle Drogo for everyone, for ever.

    Their shop is open Friday to Tuesday 11am till 4pm. There is a one way system in place and face coverings are required to be worn. You can brighten up your home with their range of products including rugs, blankets, cushions, kitchen accessories and much more. For something a little different, take a look at ceramics on sale from nearby Spreyton Pottery. The shop has a great selection of locally produced jams and chutneys. Or there are traditional hard boiled sweets, chocolates and fudge.

    There’s so much more to discover about Castle Drogo. Pick up the National Trust guidebook to delve into the extraordinary history of Drogo, from Julius Drewe’s vision to build his own ancestral home through to the present day.

    Teign Gorge

    Teign Gorge


    *** – Facilities – ***


  • • The car park is currently open for Teign Gorge walks. They have limited spaces, so if the car park is full please come back another time.
  • • The castle and grounds around the castle are closed. It is currently not possible to get close to the castle. The formal garden, toilets and the Teign Gorge walks are open.
  • • The cafe is open for hot drinks, sandwiches, snacks, cake and ice-cream. Takeaway and limited indoor seating available.
  • • The shop is open Friday to Tuesday. Card payments only.
  • • In line with government guidance, you're required to wear a face covering in most enclosed spaces. Please bring one with you.
  • • Dogs welcome on leads throughout the Teign Gorge but not in the formal garden.
  • • Please follow social distance guidelines when using countryside benches and tables.
  • Family:-

  • • Baby-changing facilities.
  • • Children must be supervised at all times.
  • Access:-

  • • Mobility parking in main car park.
  • • Accessible toilet at visitor centre.
  • • Level access gravel paths around the edge of the garden.
  • • Limited wheelchair access to the Forge and Manor Mill.
  • • Step-free access available via gravel and grass paths (please note steep in places).
  • • Please click here for the full access statement.

    Location : Castle Drogo, , Drewsteignton, near Exeter, Devon, EX6 6PB

    Transport: Yeoford (National Rail) 8 miles. Bus Routes : Take the Dartline Coaches Bus 173 leaving from Exeter bus station (passing Exeter Central train station), available Monday to Saturday. The bus drops off at the bottom of Castle Drogo's drive which is a 800 yard walk uphill to the Visitor Centre.

    Opening Times Gardens: 10:00 to 16:30.

    Opening Times Countryside: Dawn to Dusk.

    Tickets Gardens: Adults £5.00;  Child £2.50;   Free for NT Members.

    Tel: 01647 433306