A LA Ronde is one of the most popular and fun attractions on the Devon tourist trail. It's a unique 16-sided house, built in the 18th Century by the Parminter spinster cousins near Exmouth and now owned by the National Trust. The house is open to the public and has an interesting history, so if you're staying in a Devon hotel or B&B in the area you should pay it a visit.
A La Ronde from Devon Hotels
A La Ronde was the brainchild of two cousins who were spinsters and took the Grand Tour of Europe, which was popular in the 1790s. The trip inspired them to leave something unique and decidedly feminine to posterity, which they certainly succeeded in doing! Their 16-sided building overlooks the estuary of the River Exe and has a truly grand aspect, commanding panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It uses every inch of space with efficiency, with the central octagon leading to rooms which connect through a strangely designed common lobby. With cupboards concealed behind wall panelling and seats that flip handily down, it seems in many respects remarkably modern and minimalist.
Napoleonic Intrigue at A La Ronde
The house has 476 keys on-site and there's currently a 'Key Project' to find all the doors that match with them. There is a small problem however because as the building went up during the Napoleonic Wars there was a threat of invasion and secret passages were introduced into the construction, with hidden doorways. Some of the doors can only be opened from inside, for example. Come here from your Devon hotel and you'll be introduced to a world of mystery and suspense worthy of Agatha Christie!
The house's survival is largely thanks to Jane Parminter, who stipulated in her will that it should be left absolutely intact and was only to be lived in by kinswomen who were unmarried. Keeping out the unruly male of the species obviously had the desired effect, because A La Ronde today is as perfect and unaltered as it was when the cousins originally lived in it!