North Devon Coast

National Landscape

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Hartland Abbey & Gardens

Hartland Abbey‘s delightful house, gardens and parkland are open to the public during the summer, with lots of great woodland and coastal walking opportunities, as well as the exquisite house interior. The gardens and parkland also open specially for spectacular Snowdrop, Daffodil and Bluebell displays during spring. This fine Grade I listed historic property dates at least as far back as 1150.


The origins of Hartland Abbey are actually pre-conquest, when the area was founded as a college of secular canons. Hartland Abbey was built in 1157 and consecrated by Bishop Bartholomew of Exeter in 1160AD as a monastery of the regular canons of the Order of St Augustine of Hippo. The Abbey remained as a monastery until 1539 when it became the last monastery in the country to be Dissolved by Henry VIII. The King made a gift of the Abbey to the Sergeant of his Wine Cellar at Hampton Court, Mr. William Abbot.

The house was formerly an Abbot’s lodgings. The property was developed, with an additional wing added in 1705. It was rebuilt in 1779, when the original hall and cloisters of the Abbey were incorporated into the house, and built in the same Gothic style. Part of the west front may be Tudor, and part of an archway dates to 1150.   

Arts and culture

In April 2015 the BBC filmed an adaptation of John Le Carre’s ‘The Night Manager’.

The Abbey played host to the Antiques Roadshow in summer 2011, and frequently hosts other local events.

Various locations within the Hartland Abbey estate have been the backdrop for a number of film shoots. This has included;

‘King Arthur’ (2004) – a historical drama about the legend of King Arthur set in Romano-British times starring Clive Owen; Kiera Knightly and Ray Winstone. The closing scenes are shot at Damehole Point and Smoothlands Valley.

In 1988, ‘Paper House’ was shot along the cliffs of Hartland Quay (the Warren) and  scenes of a fake lighthouse were created on Hillsborough above Ilfracombe Harbour.This dark fantasy film starred Charlotte Burke, Elliot Spies and Ben Cross

In 1985 areas around Hartland were used in the spoof comedy ‘Water’ – supposedly set on a Caribbean Island under British Rule. The film starred Michael Caine, Billy Connolly, the late Leonard Rossiter and loads of other stars. Paul Heiney from TV shows “That’s Life” and “In at the Deep End” also had a minor role in the film as a stuntman who abseils off Berry Cliff. A scene involving an exploding water rig film was set at Berry Cliff in Hartland. Ironically it was shot during one of the worst droughts North Devon has suffered, which did not go down well with the locals as they tankered in hundreds of gallons of water, which disappeared over the cliff edge.

‘The Shout’ (1978) starred Alan Bates, John Hurt and Susannah York. This strange film told of a person who could shout and kill people and was shot on location at Westleigh and Saunton Sands, and also at Hartland. The cricket match was at Hartland Abbey and Blackpool Mill was made to look around the headland from Saunton Sands.