Canonteign Falls is home to the highest waterfall in the South West. Located just 30 minutes from Exeter on the north eastern edge of Dartmoor National Park in Devon. A great day out for all ages, marvel at the 70 metre high Lady Exmouth Falls, explore the Secret Garden, climb the original 90 Victorian steps to the Victorian Fern Garden and cross the bridge at the wonderfully named ‘Devil’s Leap’.
Originally owned by Sir Edward Pellew, a naval officer who saw battle during the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars and earned the titles Vice Admiral of All England, Baron of Canonteign and Lord Exmouth. His son, Pownall, the second Lord Exmouth lived at Canonteign and the Estate remained in the Pellew family line for ten successive Viscounts.
The walk up to Lady Exmouth falls is steep and strenuous, but the view is worth the effort. Canonteign Falls are in fact man made, having been created by diverting a leat that used to serve the old sawmill and silver and tin mines. They are named after Lady Exmouth who, in the 1880s, wanted to save the local miners from redundancy so came up with this project to keep them employed.
Victorian Fern Garden
After lying dormant for over 100 years, the fern garden was rediscovered by chance when heavy snow broke through large laurel boughs, revealing the elaborate fernery. The original waterfall stream flows through this hanging valley, which retains a mysterious and magical feel with dancing fairies made by renowned artist Rachel Ducker, as well as a family of deer, heron and even a T-Rex made by local artist Katherine Miles.
The estate has seven lakes to wander around, including the Lily Lake, with a peaceful pagoda and waterlilies, and Swan Lake, so named as a group of rare black swans used to live there. The more recently created Lower Lakes have plenty of secluded spots to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, and are most pretty in spring and early summer when the area is bursting with buttercups and orchids. The lakes are home to all sorts of wildlife, and you may be lucky enough to spot a kingfisher.
Walks around Canonteign Falls
The Canonteign estate covers 90 acres of ancient woodlands and meadows, so there is plenty of space for you to roam. There are three trails for various abilities:
- The Waterfall Walk takes you through the Secret Garden and Fern Garden, Lady Exmouth Falls and back down to the Lily Lake. It takes about an hour and a rocky and steep climb.
- A gentle, flat walk around the Lily Lake, taking in the old sawmill and waterwheel, takes about 30 minutes.
- The 40 minute walk around the Lower Lakes to Poet’s corner and the standing stones is mostly flat with a few gentle slopes.
The grounds are home to a huge variety of wildlife including deer, bats and woodpeckers. Children can try the nature trail, which is part of the Waterfall Walk (buy online or at admission.
The children’s play area is the perfect place for your little ones to let off some steam. There’s a wooden play galleon, named the Indefatigable after Admiral Edward Pellow’s most famous ship, trampolines, swings and a climbing frame. Near the Lily Lake is a mini assault course and zip wire, and by Swan Lake is at the Green Ship, a life-sized deck inspired by Quentin Blake’s book.
Canonteign Kitchen cafe
A really pretty cafe with views of Lily and Swan Lakes, this is the perfect place to revive yourself after all the exploring! Priding itself on using local produce, you’ll find seasonal breakfast and lunch menus, and of course Devon Cream tea and cakes. Sit by the roaring fire in winter, or outside on the terrace in summer.
Canonteign Falls shop
The shop at Canonteign Falls is gorgeous – filled with everything from locally made pottery to Devon fudge and local beer. Everything is chosen from local artisans and boutique suppliers, so you’ll be sure to be supporting independent makers.
Image credit: Melanie Crownshaw via Flickr