This past weekend, I visited a quirky, brilliant house called A La Ronde in Exmouth, Devon. It was built in the late 18th Century by Jane Parminter and her cousin Mary. Jane, her sister Elizabeth, and Mary had travelled across Europe prior to settling in Exmouth and building A La Ronde, and sadly Elizabeth died soon after they returned home to Devon.
A La Ronde is likely fashioned after the 6th Century Byzantium basilica of San Vitale at Ravena, and you can see that from the 16th-sides – from both the outside and in. Every window is built on the corners of the house, and there are quirky rooms set off everywhere, with a central room in the middle looking upwards to the roof – sadly we can’t see the lovely shell gallery on the second floor, but you can see pictures of it in the guide book and on screens in the room off the dining room.
What amazed me were the collections of shells. Jane, Mary, and Elizabeth had collected many on their travels, and they were on show in one of the drawing rooms, in a room off the bedroom, and the rest of the shells designed into intricate patterns set into the top of the building to create the shell gallery.
I especially loved the views out of the first floor windows – especially from the master bedroom, they were stunning. You can see out across the whole estuary of the river Exe, and on the day we visited the skies were blue and the sun was shining – it was perfect.
One of the living rooms shows off more of the cousins’ design and art skills. They have created ceiling borders and designed the edgings of the fireplace entirely out of feathers. And set in some of the tables are slices of semi-precious stones and sand. The cousins also loved paper art, and created lovely designs out of tiny slices of paper.
Outside, you can wander around the meadow gardens and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, watching butterflies and bees hover in the air. There is also a little bee garden, where you might spy a hive, and a good-sized greenhouse. There used to be a conservatory/glasshouse connecting the main house to the stables where the shop and entry is housed, but that sadly fell down as a result of a storm some forty or fifty years ago. All that is left is a great fig tree stretching across the side of the old stables, which still bears a good amount of fruit.
Overall it is a lovely place to visit. There is something very quirky and different about the house than some of the other places I’ve visited, and I definitely recommend it.
I’m a National Trust member, so I get in free to these places, but you don’t need to be a member to enter. You can pay entry at the door, and know that every bit of your funds goes towards preserving great properties and gardens like A La Ronde.
Plus, there’s always the little shop (where I collect the bookmarks of each and every place I visit), and currently a tea van where you can get a cuppa and a crêpe.
If you’d like to book your visit to A La Ronde, here’s the link to the National Trust website. You’ll need to book in advance of visiting.
Kate @ Kandid Chronicles x