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Pocket Guide: Exmoor National Park Combe Sydenham Hall Hotels

Combe Sydenham Hall was built in 1580 and is a fine example of a Tudor mansion. It actually incorporates an earlier gatehouse and was entirely rebuilt after the Restoration, in around 1660. It is mainly of interest because of its connections with Sir Francis Drake, although the house itself has interesting architectural details and is situated in some beautiful woodland scenery in an Exmoor valley.

Somerset Hotels for Sir Francis Drake

The Sydenham family resided here from the 1400s to the middle of the 18th Century, and George Sydenham's daughter married Sir Francis Drake in 1585. Folklore has surrounded this relationship ever since, and most of the stories of course feature cannon balls! In one of them, Drake disappeared on his Pelican soon after the marriage and his young wife understandably thought he must be dead and decided to remarry. Almost at the altar, however, a cannon ball fired from the other side of the world shot from the sky and the wedding was called off.

In another story, the girl's father tried to force a remarriage and again a cannon ball showed up as proof that Drake was still alive. A meteorite on display in the house is supposed to be that very ball. Visit the Hall from your Somerset B&B or hotel for slice of Elizabethan history, laced with a healthy dose of good, old-fashioned West Country hokum!

Combe Sydenham Hall Attractions from Somerset Hotels

There's another local legend about George Sydenham himself, as he apparently haunts the B3188 nearby. The story goes that during his lifetime he committed so many crimes that he's doomed to ride a headless horse forever towards Monksilver. It seems that in this part of Somerset the dead are not allowed to rest in peace, and Drake too is supposed to make his reappearance when the nation is under threat, beating his drum as he sails up the Thames to the rescue.

Combe Sydenham Hall is set in attractive gardens and is perfect as a summer destination if you're based in a nearby Somerset hotel or B&B. There's a great choice of these right across the region, from family-run guesthouses to smart historic hotels.