Agatha Christie once wrote about Greenway: “I thought tonight – it’s the loveliest place in the world. It quite takes my breath away.” The house sits on a promontory, surrounded on three sides by water and set within a woodland garden, and it’s easy to see why the author chose to spend her summers here between 1938 and 1976.
Christie wrote 80 murder mystery novels, some of which starred her infamous creations Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. According to the Guinness Book of Records, she’s joint first with Shakespeare as the best-selling writer of all time. Only the Bible has outsold her collected sales of over four billion books.
The National Trust opened Greenway to the public in February 2009, after a £5.4 million restoration to bring it back to its 1950’s heyday. Since then, visitors have leapt at this rare opportunity to peep into the life of one of Britain’s best-loved authors.
The most magical way to arrive at Greenway is by ferry from Dartmouth, Torquay or Brixham. Not only does this give you a discount on admission, you also get to meander up the Dart Estuary and catch a first glimpse of the Georgian façade as it appears high above you on the wooded bank.
As you walk up the steep path from Greenway Quay, take the chance to zigzag through some of the 30-acre gardens, past swathes of camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias. Closer to the house, there’s a restored vinery, Victorian fernery, walled garden and a peach house fronted with fig trees. Three novels were set in or inspired by the grounds. In Five Little Pigs, artist Amyas Crale drops dead in the garden after drinking hemlock-laced beer, while Marlene Tucker was strangled in the boathouse in Dead Man’s Folly.
The house has a wonderful informality about it. You feel as if you’re visiting Christie and her family – you can even stay in a 10-person apartment on the first and second floors and take lunch in the kitchen.
In the hallway, there’s an oak dresser packed with Staffordshire and Walton pearlware and a Japanese Kutani tea service, among other treasures. It’s about now you start to realise that Christie and her family were avid collectors, and as you explore the rooms, you’ll find similar cabinets stuffed with all manner of barge ware, Tunbridgeware, silver, botanical china, books, pocket watches, tapestries and papier-mâché furniture inlaid with mother of pearl.
Christie didn’t write at Greenway, although her second husband Max, a world famous archeologist, wrote several books here. Instead, she came here to rest. She would write letters in the drawing room, play the piano, and throw dinner parties for family and friends.
Then, in the evening, she would read the latest manuscript to her assembled guests and challenge them to a game of ‘whodunnit?’ It’s this sense of eavesdropping on family traditions that makes Greenway so special. It’s hard not to feel nostalgic and more than a little lucky as you wander around the home of such a reclusive writer – a little of Christie’s mystery has finally been unveiled.
HOW TO GET THERE
Visitors are encouraged to take the Greenway ferry from Dartmouth (45 mins), adult £8, child £6 return. You can also walk via the Dart Valley Trail or the John Musgrave Trail.
FIND OUT MORE
Churston Ferrers TQ5 0ES
Open 10.30am-5pm, Wed-Sun, Mar-Oct (closed after 31 Oct).
Book in advance: adult (arriving by car) £9, child £4.50, family £22; adult (arriving by ferry) £7.40, child £3.70, family £18.40.
Enjoy afternoon tea in Greenway’s kitchen or local produce in the Barn Café.
0844 800 2070
A unique chance to stay in a 10-person apartment over the first and second floors of Greenway House. Guests have use of their own exclusive garden and open-air swimming pool.
Coleton Fishacre Brownstone Road, Kingswear TQ6 0EQ
Travel back in time to the Jazz Age at this wonderful Arts and Crafts-style holiday home, with a magical and exotic garden.