Mount Edgcumbe, the Tudor home of the Earls of Mount Edgcumbe, has a dramatic view over Plymouth Sound, one of England's finest natural harbours.
In the early-16th century the estate which includes the Rame peninsular came by marriage to Sir Piers Edgcumbe. His family seat was ten miles to the north at Cotehele.
In 1539 Sir Piers created a deer park at Mount Edgcumbe and in 1547 his son Richard engaged Roger Palmer, a local mason, to build a new house high on the hillside overlooking the harbour. The house was built to a compact rectangular plan with a top-lit hall in the centre and circular corner towers.
When the Edgcumbes abandoned Cotehele in the late 17th century Mount Edgcumbe became their main family seat. During the 18th and early-19th century the family carried out much internal remodelling of the house and some external rebuilding.
In 1749 the corner towers were altered into their present octagonal form by Richard, 1st Lord Edgcumbe. Lord Edgcumbe's son, an admiral, became 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe in 1789. The 1st Earl and his son transformed the grounds at Mount Edgcumbe into one of the finest landscape gardens in England.
Today the Grade I listed gardens, Cornwall's earliest landscaped park, are mostly unchanged but in 1941 the house was gutted by German bombers during their Blitz on Plymouth. The building was left as a ruin until 1958 when the 6th Earl commissioned Adrian Gilbert Scott to rebuild it using a steel frame and concrete floors.
In 1971 the house and 865 acres of grounds were bought by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall County Council. The grounds were then turned into a country park.
In 1987 the 8th Earl moved out of Mount Edgcumbe and the building refurnished.
From the Cremyll passenger ferry a wide avenue leads up to the symmetrical, turreted house which is high on the hillside, surrounded by trees.
After World War II the rendering was removed from the walls which now show as red sandstone with granite dressings. The external details mostly date from the early 19th century but the entrance at the centre of the north front has its original mid-16th century doorway surrounded by late-17th century Doric pilasters and a pediment.
Mount Edgcumbe is rare among English country houses because of its post-War interior design. The comfortable house is decorated in neo-Georgian style. Much of the Edgcumbe family's collection of paintings and furniture were destroyed in the fire.
The Hall is the most impressive room and was rebuilt by Scott to provide a splendid staircase at the east end with a gallery on the first-floor. The Drawing Room, overlooking the 19th century garden, has a Boulle desk, a portrait of the 2nd Lord Edgcumbe by Reynolds and two Van de Velde seascapes.
In the Library is a 19th century painting of a tenants' dinner in the hall at Cotehele. The Dining Room has two 16th century Flemish tapestries with hunting scenes also brought from Cotehele. On the first floor are a number of comfortable bedrooms and bathrooms and a tiny chapel commemorating the 6th Earl's only son who was killed in the War.
The Mount Edgcumbe estate, which is almost surrounded by coastline, covers more than 800 acres. The grounds have eccentric features such as temples, forts, follies and a unique shell seat and were laid during the 18th century.
High hedges protect 7 acres of formal gardens from the salt wind. Close to the house is the formal mid-19th century Earl's Garden. This Victorian garden has terraces, lawns and shrubberies which provide colour throughout the year.
The gardens to the north of the house were laid out in the early 19th century in exotic styles from all round the world. These include French, English, Italian and American and are complete with their appropriate architectural adornments.
To the east there is a circular temple created in the mid-18th century and dedicated to the poet Milton. Close by is an amphitheatre which was carved out of the hillside now contains the National Collection of camellias. To the south of this is sham ruin set in a spectacular position overlooking Plymouth Sound.
There are two well-marked walks (of about three miles each) which provide superb vistas and magnificent sea views. Wild fallow deer graze in the park.