Tavistock is a Mid-Devon town close to border of Cornwall that also acts as the gateway town to Dartmoor. Divided into two parts by the rocky River Tavy, Tavistock is a lovely market town which is a delightful spot to use as a holiday base. With visitor attractions and places of historical interest in the town itself, it’s also close to the most westerly regions of Dartmoor and all that this beautiful part of the country offers.
Skip to section:
Moors and beaches
Food and drink
About the town:
The gateway town to Dartmoor, Tavistock, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich history of religious and architectural relevance. It is an exceptionally attractive town owing as much to some fine Victorian architecture as to its picturesque location on the banks of the River Tavy. A busy market town, there is no shortage of shops and cafes.
There is a very good theatre and cinema in the centre of town, close to the river called The Wharf. There’s a superb programme of theatre, music, dance and cinema on throughout the year. Being so close to Dartmoor, it’s worth dropping in at the town’s tourist information centre for the latest information on walking routes and current access. Tavistock is near to the small town of Gunnislake which is right on the border of Cornwall, demarcated by the natural boundary that is the River Tamar.
The moors and beaches:
Dartmoor is one of three large unspoilt areas of wild moorland in the south-west, along with Exmoor and Bodmin Moor. With wide swathes of open countryside to wander across and explore with little hindrance by farmland borders or busy roads. Climb the tors and explore the deep forest plantations or go geocaching or letterboxing to discover what fellow visitors have left behind for you. Don't miss the Dartmoor Prison Museum which is located at the former detention centre known as the British Alcatraz. It's a great day out if you like to learn the stories and tales of this ancient and lonely gaol out of the moors.
Tavistock isn’t particularly near to the sea, it is mainly a holiday destination due to its fine position close to Dartmoor. However, you could take day trips to both the north and south coasts of Devon. To the south Bigbury-on-Sea and Kingsand on the Rame Peninsula are both 25 miles away. Both destinations are very pleasant, with potential for family fun and relaxation.
The food and drink:
Tavistock is a great place to dine out. If you are looking for a simple lunch, you’ll find delicatessens and a horde of independent cafes in and around the Pannier Market. For an evening meal, Taylors comes recommended for a wide range of English meals ranging from roast dinners to gourmet burgers. If you fancy a dining experience in Tavistock also try out The Bedford Hotel or Bird’s Nest. Fish and chip aficionados head into TJs, and finally the best Indian restaurant in town is Tharik’s Tandoori. There’s no shortage of friendly pubs in Tavistock too, most of which are close to the pannier market.
Tavistock was first established when a Benedictine abbey was built on the banks of the River Tavy in about 960AD. It was promptly sacked by Vikings but was rebuilt going on to become one of the wealthiest abbeys in England.
The discovery of copper at nearby Mary Tavy during the late 18th century primed the town for an industrial renaissance after a period of tin mining success. Although apparently reluctant to fully exploit this new mineral wealth, the duke eventually embarked on the development of what is modern day Tavistock. Perhaps Tavistock’s best-known son is Sir Francis Drake, the master of the seas and explorer, look out for his statue. There is a replica of Tavistock's Drake statue on The Hoe in Plymouth.
Being in the heart of Dartmoor, Tavistock is the perfect place to stay if you're looking to experience a more rural Devon holiday, away from the hustle and bustle of the seaside. We have a great selection of personally managed holiday cottages in Tavistock and across the surrounding area. Whether you're looking for a romantic break in a traditional Dartmoor property like Lower Roundhouse, or perhaps you want to get away with the whole family (and the dog!) for a holiday break, in which case Heron Lake Barn is the ideal property. Whatever you're after, our range of cottages in Tavistock has something for everyone.
There are a few ruins of the abbey that remain around the town centre, most notably: the cloisters in St Eustace's churchyard; Court Gate, an archway that has become incorporated into the town hall buildings; and the oddly named Betsy Grimbal's Tower.
For a pleasant day out with fantastic views, seek out Brentor and St Michael's chapel in Dartmoor - to the east is the 1130ft conical bulk of Brent Tor. At the summit is the small church of St Michael from which you can see Gibbert Hill and the ruins of the Wheal Betsy silver and lead mine.
Dartmoor of course is a land of endless beauty, full of wildlife and vistas to remember. Visitors fall in love with the area and return for decades on end. We think you will too.
Tavistock is home to a purpose-built pannier market that is arguably the best in the region. You can pick up just about anything from the pannier market including locally sourced food products and crafts. There are also handy shops where you could hire bikes or buy hiking apparel. There are several brand name shops scattered in amongst the independents, but these branches are on the small side. You also find post offices, banks and petrol stations in the town centre. Be warned there are no petrol stations on Dartmoor and not much in the way of phone signal should your car run out of juice.
With spectacular rural retreats and barn conversions on farmland with a fine choice of beautiful walks and quality eateries, our holiday cottages offer the chance to enjoy everything Tavistock and the wider area have to offer.
Whether you’re a couple with a four-legged friend or a larger group or family, we have self-catering accommodation to suit everyone’s needs. Browse our collection today to feel inspired.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.