Sitting in the heart of South Devon on the banks of the River Dart, Totnes is a historic Saxon market town renowned for its bohemian, alternative lifestyle. Centred around its magnificent castle, this cultural destination combines beautiful countryside and a relaxed atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of the English Riviera.
Read on to find out why we think this unique Devonshire town is so special and discover a few local secrets to help you make the most of your stay.
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Food and drink
About the town:
Totnes is the second oldest borough in England. There are fascinating museums to explore, a picturesque riverside with steamer quay and a multitude of ancient buildings, with examples of properties dating back to Norman, Medieval and Tudor times. This bustling town even has its own currency, the Totnes Pound. (Don’t worry, local currency is also accepted!).
You can easily spend the day wandering up and down the long high street lined with an assortment of organic food shops, arts and crafts emporiums, independent boutiques and wholefood cafes and eateries. There are regular outdoor markets on Fridays and Saturdays where you can pick up delicious local produce as well as an Elizabethan market each Tuesday morning (May-September), with cheery traders dressed in costume. And when the sun is shining, enjoy a peaceful stroll beside the river, watch the yachts and ferries come and go, and delight in a waterside afternoon tea.
The English Heritage-owned Totnes Castle is one of the best surviving examples of an early Norman motte-and-bailey structure. Built during the reign of William I, its imposing ramparts dominate the skyline and from the top of the keep, you can enjoy sweeping views over Totnes and across to the River Dart.
To see the sights from a different perspective, catch one of South Devon Railway’s traditional steam trains from Totnes station and chug along to Buckfastleigh. This 7-mile journey takes you on a trip back in time as you travel alongside the River Dart, admiring tranquil views of one of Devon’s most scenic valleys. Adjacent to Totnes station is the award-winning Totnes Rare Breeds Farm and you can purchase a joint ticket to enjoy all-day unlimited travel on the railway plus a visit to the farm, as well as entrance to the Dartmoor Otters and Buckfast Butterflies (opposite Buckfastleigh Station).
If you prefer to be on the water, why not indulge in a leisurely cruise down the river courtesy of Dartmouth River Boat's passenger ferry? Sailing for around 9 miles to Dartmouth, you will see the magnificent buildings of the Britannia Royal Naval College and Agatha Christie’s Greenway Estate, along with unparalleled views of the steeply wooded hillsides plunging down to the water’s edge. You can either return by boat or bus (bus fare not included) back to your starting point.
Soak up some local history in one of the town’s museums including the Totnes Elizabethan House Museum where youngsters can delight in dressing up while exploring this charming merchant’s house (don’t miss the resident ghost). There is also the Totnes Fashion and Textiles Museum which is home to the Devonshire Collection of Period Costume, the largest private collection of its type in the UK.
For lovers of a tipple, a visit to Sharpham Vineyard and Cheese Dairy is the perfect day out in Totnes. Set on a 1,000-year-old farm of 500 acres, you can enjoy tours and tastings and sample award-winning produce including their delicious homemade cheese in the shop and café.
An alternative to your traditional seaside holiday, our holiday cottages in Totnes provide you with an opportunity to relax and unwind during your stay. After immersing yourself in the towns rich history and enjoying adventures in the surrounding countryside, our collection of luxury cottages and cottages with hot tubs ensure your holiday will be a memorable one.
The food and drink:
With a tantalising array of cafes, restaurants, pubs, wine bars and takeaways, there is an eatery in Totnes to suit every taste and pocket, many of which pride themselves on the use of locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Ben’s Wine & Tapas offers flavoursome Spanish themed ‘light bites’, while the award-winning Waterside Bistro offers a fine selection of fresh local seafood, pizza and homemade burgers and Delphini’s Gelato specialises in organic Italian ice cream and hot chocolates.
The town is also home to over 40 independent coffee outlets serving everything from an authentic Italian espresso to an organic soya latte. Be sure to try the archetypal cream tea - cream before the jam is the Devon way! And if you’re searching for some tasty souvenirs to take home with you, visit the Totnes Sunday Good Food Market which is held on the third Sunday of the month and presents the very best in local South Devon produce.
From Saxon beginnings to today’s vibrant market town, Totnes is home to many historic buildings and notable monuments. As well as its 11th century castle, there is the atmospheric Guildhall which has been the home of the town council for over 450 years, the Tudor Butterwalk where you will find the 16th century Bogan House (now the Totnes Fashion and Textiles Museum) and The Mansion which dates back to 1795, now encompassing the library.
Be sure to visit the Brutus Stone which is set into the pavement on Fore Street. Legend has it that this is the place where Brutus the Trojan, founder of the British people, disembarked from his ship. As he stepped ashore onto the stone he said “Here I stand, and here I rest. The town shall be called Totnes”. All of these historical sites can be visited via the Totnes Trail.
Idyllically situated near to the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Totnes is a magnet for those who love walking, wildlife and spectacular views. There are a number of trails leading directly from the town which explore the river banks and surrounding countryside such as the Totnes to Ashprington walk (6 miles) and the Totnes to Dartington walk (4.5 miles).
The town is also close to the glorious English Riviera, with Paignton’s sandy beaches only 6 miles away. Torquay, Brixham and Dartmouth are also all within 12 miles when you fancy a traditional day at the seaside.
Inspired to take a holiday to this wonderful South Devon town? Browse our fantastic range of accommodation in Totnes to discover your perfect getaway.