Library frieze at Greenway House

Greenway House: Agatha Christie’s Devon Retreat

Greenway House occupies a stunning position above the River Dart. Set in luscious gardens complete with Torbay palms and a boathouse on the estuary, it’s a beautiful spot. However, for many, the draw of Greenway House is the property’s very famous former owner: Agatha Christie. We took a trip to explore Greenway and follow in the footsteps of one of Britain’s most famous writers.

View of the River Dart from Greenway House
View of the River Dart from Greenway House

Agatha Christie’s Greenway

Agatha Christie and husband Max Mallowan bought Greenway House in 1938, having previously had a property in nearby Torbay. They used Greenway as a holiday home for nearly 40 years and the house and grounds are inspirations for a number of scenes from Christie’s novels.

Greenway House near Dartmouth
Greenway House, the holiday home of Agatha Christie

Following in the footsteps of Agatha Christie

The moment we stepped inside Greenway House felt really special. Possibly more than any other National Trust property we’ve visited it felt truly lived in. The house is set up as it was when Agatha Christie and her family used to stay in the 1950s. Every shelf and sideboard had something on it. Even the dining table was set up for a family dinner (complete with a jug for the cream Agatha Christie used to like to drink with her dinner!). This attention to detail really helps to bring the house alive. As you explore it’s easy to imagine yourself as a guest at a party in the property’s heyday.

Greenway House dining table
The dining room at Greenway House

The Christie family collections

The scale and scope of the Christie family collections displayed at Greenway are striking. Every cabinet and surface is full to bursting with china, silverware, books and archaeological artefacts. There are some fabulous pieces, including some that today look very kitsch. We were also pretty wowed by the 1980s ‘mobile phone’. It had one hour of battery life and weighed 3.5kg!

A writer’s dream house

I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie’s writing and for anyone who enjoys her work; Greenway is a pleasure to wander around. There are some great displays of memorabilia including rare editions of books and scripts from television adaptations.

The library frieze at Greenway

The library was probably my favourite room at Greenway. Being a lover of books the library at any old house is often the biggest appeal. But the library frieze at Greenway really adds to the wonder of the room. The U.S. Coast Guard used Greenway House during the Second World War. It was in this time that one of the men stationed there painted the vivid mural. The National Trust Greenway House webpage has more information on the library frieze.

Library frieze at Greenway House
Mural in the library at Greenway House

The gardens at Greenway House

We’re not particularly big garden people, but the grounds around Greenway make for a nice wander. A wooded path joins the boathouse and main house and we spotted a few signature Torbay Palms. We didn’t visit the Camellia Garden but enjoyed the formal lawns and walled gardens by the house.

Croquet lawn at Greenway House
The croquet lawn at Greenway House

The Boathouse: scene of a murder!

A little walk from the house is the Boathouse (access included in main Greenway entry price). It has some lovely views of the River Dart, but is perhaps better known for its murderous connection! The Boathouse is the scene of the crime from the Hercule Poirot novel Dead Man’s Folly and a worthwhile stop on your visit.

Greenway House Boathouse
The boathouse: scene of the murder from Dead Man’s Folly

Greenway House’s other famous resident…

On visiting Greenway we were surprised to find out that Agatha Christie wasn’t the only famous former occupant. The Greenway estate had been home to a residence long before the current Georgian property was constructed in the late 1700s. A Tudor mansion used to occupy the site and one of the former residents was none other than Sir Walter Raleigh!

How to get to Greenway House

There are a few options for getting to Greenway House. We decided to drive, but it’s worth noting that parking is limited and needs to be pre-booked via the National Trust. Some visitors arrive by ferry or river cruise. A steam train also travels from Kingswear and Paignton to Greenway Halt. For those thinking of walking, The Dart Valley trail passes near Greenway – but depending on your start point can be a bit of a trek! Dartmouth and Kingswear are the main bases for trips to Greenway.

About Greenway House

Further information on visiting Greenway is available from the National Trust.

Greenway is usually included in the Heritage Open Days festival, which means that you may be able to visit for free as part of the scheme. Heritage Open Days takes place in September.