Greenway is a white Georgian building dating from around 1780–90, surrounded by lush woodland and enjoying spectacular views over the River Dart. Since it’s been restored and is now run by the National Trust, it’s a place no Agatha Christie fan will want to miss.
Here’s the story of my much-anticipated visit during a stay with my family in the south-west of England.
From Dartmouth to Greenway
I’ll be forever grateful to the Tourist Information in Kingsbridge where a nice, helpful young woman advised me that the best way to reach Greenway was by taking the ferry from Dartmouth. I’ll tell you what, not only does arriving at Greenway from the water add to the magic of it all, but Dartmouth itself is such a delightful town, full of the character of Devon. Believe me, you won’t regret spending a little time there, maybe even using it as a base for your explorations.
The town is basically an ensemble of steep cobbled alleys between half-timbered houses, seagulls sitting on tall chimneys, misshapen gables. There’s an old church in the town centre built in the local stone, its unusual interior resembling a ship, surrounded by an unmissable graveyard. And, of course, the town boasts a pier.
Before taking our ferry, we visited a number of attractive independent shops with engaging window displays. It’s such a pity when the facades of old buildings are ruined by ugly chain store signs above window displays that do nothing to represent the special atmosphere of an old English town.
A ride on the Dart River
But it’s time to go, now: the ship’s horn is calling us back to the harbour.
The ride on the windy Dart River is a precious way to take in the beauty of what looks like a fjord. A last look at Dartmouth from the water, and then you can let your thoughts wander through the sailing boats and tongues of land stretching out into the river.
Greenway, Agatha Christie’s house
On our arrival at Greenway Quay, my heart was going pitter patter with excitement. Following a walk through a beautiful forest, Giovanni and I came across a simple Georgian building overlooking the Dart from the top of a hill. We stopped at the café in the garden; I wasn’t impatient to get inside, as every moment was creating a precious memory. We were with Frodo, our golden retriever and perfect travel mate, and when we visit a museum with him, we take it in turns to go inside.
The first one to go in was me. I’d purposely avoided reading much about Greenway; I wanted it to be a surprise, so I had no idea of what it would look like inside.
The tour started from the living room: a cosy room with comfy sofas in front of a fireplace, card games laid out on a little table, and dominoes spread across the carpet as if children had just been playing a game. And this is the recurrent feeling in all the rooms, all the corners of Greenway. This is not a dusty museum; it’s a living home.
Pictures, family photographs and portraits, collections of porcelain adorn Agatha Christie’s library; in her bedroom, the wardrobe is half open as if she has just got back from a long trip in the Middle East. It’s all geared to give the impression that she and her family still live in the house and have simply nipped out for a walk in the garden.
I’m telling you, I love the guys of the National Trust; they’re awesome!
Another stand-out feature of this visit was the opportunity to browse Agatha Christie’s bookshelves. Of course, you cannot touch the books, but that’s not the point. You can get close to the cabinets and read each title one by one. As you can probably imagine, there are plenty of mysteries, and also books on poisons and collections of nursery rhymes.
What surprised me most was the number of mysteries published in the sixties. Even as a world famous author, Agatha Christie kept an eye on the trends in her genre, what the competition was working at, and I felt my already huge admiration for her growing even bigger.
Maybe this was one of the secrets of her timelessness: she never felt she’d arrived!
Greenway is not a museum
I found the sight of the piano with the family portraits on top, the bedroom with the suitcase in front of the wardrobe as if she was ready to catch her next flight – I beg your pardon, her next train – most touching. She did eventually get used to aeroplanes, but never made a mystery of the fact she missed the charm of the long train rides of her youth.
I recognised the dresser she purchased in Damascus that she mentioned in her autobiography – Agatha Christie, an Autobiography – describing its whole story and the fact that the transport cost her more than the dresser itself. And I felt proud that I was intimate enough with her past to know such details about her.
The gardens around Greenway are just as beautiful as any informal gardens, the Dart creating a microclimate that allows for unusual botanical experiments. I’m particularly fond of trees, and there are plenty of majestic ones in this garden.
There’s also a glasshouse, while local students take care of a vegetable garden. They tend it for a whole year, and then celebrate with a dinner on the premises, enjoying the fruits of a year’s labours. This is one of the British traits I love the most – If you’re curious to know more things I love about the United Kingdom, you might want to read my interview with Giò Brando.
Nope, I didn’t know about the boathouse, so when our walk in the park led us there after a few winding turns…
Goodness, how do I explain the weird feeling that crept over me? I was no longer a person of flesh and blood, but rather a character in the pages of Dead Man’s Folly. The majestic view over the Dart from this little boathouse was so very romantic, and a bit… creepy!
It’s possible to look inside, which is all in brown wood except the white fireplace and the arched windows opening up on to a view of the Dart and its sailing boats.
What a true Agatha Christie fan could ask for more?
Have your lunch in Agatha Christie’s kitchen
There’s actually one thing I missed during our visit. The National Trust – did I mention how grateful I am that the British created the National Trust, and what a good job they do not only of taking care of places, but of making them come alive for the enjoyment of the public? – invites visitors to Greenway to have lunch on the premises. I can’t remember if it’s in the kitchen or the living room, but sadly we weren’t able to partake as it was “Closed for Lunch”. But lunch, Agatha Christie style, in her home! If you’re planning a visit… well, don’t overlook this treat.
More information on Greenway
There are a few parking places at Greenway, but they need to be booked in advance. My advice is to arrive by boat, as we did.
If you’re looking for update information to organise your visit have a look at the National Trust Website – Greenway
If you want help to organise your holidays in Devon – there’s so much to see and enjoy – check the Visit Devon website
Devon is a superfriendly pet location. Frodo approved!
I can’t suggest accommodation since we usually home swap when we travel. We’ve been doing this for the past 15 years, and advise all curious people to try it at least once in their lifetime.
Books related to Greenway
I’ve described those two books (and more!) in my list of favourite mysteries by Agatha Christie:
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