One of the best days of our early Devon holiday was to the House of Marbles. When I was flicking through all the leaflets in the hotel, I’d spotted the House of Marbles. I’d checked out where it was on the map, and decided we’d be going to visit one day. And then realised that in Devon, although places aren’t far away, the roads can often take a while to get anywhere, even with my driving. So with a bit of a stop off on the way home, I decided that would be our final holiday activity.
When I was a child, I loved marbles. In fact I still have my little bag of marbles from my childhood, including the massive chipped queenie that I won off a boy in my class. It’s so bashed up, it can’t roll properly. I’ve shown N my marbles and passed them on to him, but he didn’t really get them, so I though House of Marbles might pique his interest. N was more interested in buying fudge to take back to family members, so I told him we’d find some at the marble place.
I’d hyped up House of Marbles in my mind a bit, thinking it was going to be a massive museum, and when we turned up to find a shop set on an old pottery site, with a few rooms off it, I was a little disappointed. At first. Until we were pointed towards the various areas to explore.
Firstly up the stairs and on the wall of the building’s upstairs shop there’s a massive metal marble run. And we’re talking nothing like the plastic marble run game that N has. Along 3 walls, silver marbles were being drawn up to the top and sent back down again in a complex piece of metal work. We stood and watched for ages along with another couple of people obviously as transfixed as I was. Needless to say, N got bored after a short time, so we headed back downstairs to look in the marble museum.
N liked the huge marbles by the room entrance, and then was more interested in the smaller marble runs – some of which at House of Marbles are the largest ever made. Amazing pieces of engineering given they’re all handmade. Each cabinet had varieties of marbles, with cards to tell you about them and the metal marble runs that you could set going at the press of a button. Great fun for N, and he enjoyed setting them all off in tandem…or was that me?!
I just loved looking at the beautiful colours of the different marbles. They’re so stunning, they really capture the imagination. No wonder they’ve lasted hundreds of years as an item and game.
As well as the marble museum there was a pottery room, with a model of Bovey Tracey Pottery, showing the works as it used to be. N enjoyed pointing out everything he could see – tractors, big chimneys, train, cart etc. In another room there was a games museum, housing old games of many different sorts, including a huge marble press which N was intrigued about. What’s great is that you can wander round at leisure. There’s no rush, no guides trying to tell you stuff, so it’s perfect for children to have a quick look round.
Added to the museum, there’s a glass museum and glassworks where you can watch glass blowing. Unfortunately it was closed when we were there, presumably because it was pre-season. Outside though you could explore and amaze at the old pottery buildings…but really once we spotted the outdoor marble games were were in heaven. When the lady at the till had pointed out where everything was and told me there was an outdoor play area I thought it was just going to be a climbing frame or the like. But no, lots of different games to place, and lovely seating and tables round the edge for visitors to relax while the children get down to playing.
We were the only ones there, so got stuck in straight away. N headed first for the climbing frame and enjoyed taking his teddy up there while I had a nosy round the different activities.
There were marble races, putting marbles down the tracks which we spent a lot of time doing.
The marble bowl – just throw the marbles to make them go round the bowl before they drop down the hole. It took N a while to get this, and we sent a lot of marbles flying out, but eventually he was getting it right.
There was also a huge marble fountain and a giant jenga. N’s never seen one before so I tried to teach him how to build the tower and then to take it in turns to remove a block. He wasn’t keen. N just wanted to build his own tower so we aborted that game quickly.
We probably spent about an hour outside in the sun trap play area. I’d promised N we should have a cream tea before we went home, so we stopped in at the restaurant. The cream tea was huge – massive scones. I’d chosen the 2 because I thought N would want to have some, but he turned his nose up (would never happen at home!), so I tried to finish them and failed.
The choice of food wasn’t particularly child friendly at that time of day – they seem quite prescriptive in that lunch is hot meals, afternoon tea is sandwiches and there’s a hot children’s menu. We weren’t there at lunch so I don’t know what in the way there was for crossover of those meals. We ate in the conservatory type area – it was full of older people out for the day with family and friends, who seemed to have just turned up for a tea stop. It smelt a bit of pee, so wasn’t the most pleasant at the time, although the main restaurant was lovely and airy and more modern in decor.
Before we headed for the shop we did the essential toilet stop. I don’t know about the mens loos, but the ladies certainly had eclectic and bright decor. You couldn’t fail to cheer up after seeing the psychedelic flower wall.
But I’d promised N could buy some fudge from the shop (I was hoping they had some), and tried to persuade him to take his best friend/cousin home some marbles rather than fudge. The pick and mix marbles displays were gorgeous. N bought his own bag of themed colour marbles, and a bag for his cousin. Then added one giant marble to his new pouch.
House of Marbles don’t just sell marbles, there’s toys and jigsaws galore. Mostly they’re traditional games, and I could have spent a fortune given half the chance, as would N. He found some fudge to buy for the family as well although he wasn’t going to give me the chance to head back up to the sales floor upstairs to look at the clothes. Probably better for my purse.
It was a really lovely morning, something a bit different, and just lovely spending relaxing time playing outside. I leave you with some of our fun.
Were you a marble fan as a child? Do your children like them?