A wander round the rolling expanse of the 200-acre (81ha) Knightshayes Estate is a step back in time to the days when wealthy Victorians commissioned the construction of grand country houses in idyllic surroundings. The estate has been under the ownership of the National Trust since 1973, and somehow manages to swallow up the huge number of visitors each year. An information board near to the start of the walk displays a useful map with a number of different walking route options.
A country mansion
Knightshayes Court was built for the lace millionaire Sir John Heathcoat-Amory, and designed by the eccentric architect William Burges. It’s an imposing and rather romantic building, sited to give views over the family factory on the banks of the River Exe in the valley below.
The building was commissioned in 1867, and the foundation stone laid two years later. Work was completed in 1874, by which time Burges had fallen out with his employer and been replaced by J D Crace. The beautiful gardens were designed by Edward Kemp, and include a wonderful topiary of a fox and hounds, as well as many specimen trees, rare shrubs, amazing seasonal colours, and a huge walled kitchen garden that has recently been restored to full working order.
Knightshayes also has a rare stické court – there are only two known in the UK – dating from 1907. Stické is a racket-and-ball, court-based game invented by the military in the late 19th century.
The walk starts at the sign for the Impey Walk, opposite the disabled parking area just below the public parking area behind The Stables. Follow the broad woodland path into Knightshayes Plantation.
The path soon drops to run parallel to a lane. Follow it through the plantation to a path junction.
To shorten the walk to 0.5 miles (800m) turn sharp right to return to the car park. For the parkland stretch on the main route keep ahead as signed, descending gently through beechwoods.
At the next footpath sign turn right through an iron gate into The Blackeries. Follow park railings, with a wire fence on the right. Pass through iron gates into and out of The Copse, and into parkland. Keep straight ahead, and look right for a wonderful view of the front of the house. Head towards the park railings, aiming for a big gate a few paces to the right of a smaller one.
Cross the main drive and go through a gate to reach a waymarker post. Follow the arrow to pass beneath huge horse chestnut and oak trees across rough grassland. As the land drops steeply, with a wooden seat left, bear right downhill past a fenced plantation to your left, heading for a five-bar gate. Pass through and keep ahead, then bear left to cross a small stream.
Turn right to walk past a fenced-off pond among trees, then keep ahead, gently uphill, parallel to the stream.
Pass through a gate in iron railings and keep straight on, passing to the left of Azalea Dell. Continue uphill to a signpost pointing back, downhill, to ‘Parkland’. Keep ahead towards The Stables and car park, passing the restored Victorian walled garden.
Woodland paths (mat be muddy after wet weather) and pathless grassland
Woodland and parkland
On lead in parkland, can run free in woods
OS Explorer 114 Exeter & the Exe Valley
Knightshayes Court car park (free)
At The Stables, Knightshayes Court
The park is open all year round
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
With magnificent coastlines, two historic cities and the world-famous Dartmoor National Park, Devon sums up all that is best about the British landscape. For centuries it has been a fashionable and much loved holiday destination – especially south Devon’s glorious English Riviera.
Close to the English Riviera lies Dartmoor, one of the south-west’s most spectacular landscapes. The National Park, which contains Dartmoor, covers 365 square miles and includes many fascinating geological features – isolated granite tors and two summits exceeding 2,000 feet among them.
Not surprisingly, in Dartmoor the walking opportunities are enormous. Cycling in the two National Parks is also extremely popular and there is a good choice of off-road routes taking you to the heart of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Devon’s towns and cities offer stimulating alternatives to the rigours of the countryside.