The original medieval manor-house was rebuilt between 1490 and 1520 by Sir Richard Edgecumbe and his son. They followed the plan of house they were improving and enlarging using local granite, sandstone and slate.
Alterations made since have not touched their principal work. Cotehele is, therefore, one of the least altered medieval houses in Britain. Today it remains unconnected to an electricity supply.
The Great Hall has a display of arms and armoury beneath a high, arched timber roof and the solar has a collection of period furniture and tapestries. There are three internal courtyards and a splendid old kitchen.
The tower was added in 1620 and it contains three impressive bedrooms. King Charles I is said to have stayed the night here. The chapel clock installed in 1489 is a great rarity. It is pre-pendulum and is powered by two 90 pound weights.
The family moved to Mount Edgecumbe in the 17th century but they continued to appreciate the historic value of Cotehele.
The estate stayed in the hands of the Edgecumbe family until 1947 when it was accepted by the Treasury in payment of death duty and given to the National Trust. It was the first property to be acquired by Trust in this way.
The contents of Cotehele House are on loan from Lord Mount Edgecumbe's trustees.
The gardens are on many levels as they descend the steep valley to the River Tamar. The climate is mild and there are many exotic and tender plants.
There are ponds, old yew hedges, a medieval dovecote, a daffodil meadow, terraced flower borders, fine trees and shrubs that provide colour throughout the year.
The large estate has many footpaths. A short walk through the gardens and along the river leads to a quay which was busy in during in the 19th century.
The National Trust and National Maritime Museum have established a museum here to show the economical importance of the Tamar during this period. A restored Tamar sailing barge is moored alongside. A little further through woodland is a the restored estate corn mill which is now in working order.