Totnes is a fun and quirky town located in the very heart of Devon. From shopping for handmade clothes to a market filled with vendors dressed in Elizabethan costume to devouring sweets in unique eateries, there are plenty of things to see and do in this historic town. Here’s a guide to the best things to do in Totnes!
Introducing Totnes, the quirky town of South Devon
Situated on a ley line, the entire town is centred around the ruins of a once great castle and most activity takes place along one main high street. At a first glance, Totnes looks like any other Devonian market town; a handful of independent boutiques mixed in with a smattering of the usual chain stores. However, the vibe completely changes the higher up the high street you go (literally and figuratively- the entire town is built on a large hill).
The higher up the high street you walk, the further you step back in time. The end of the high street culminates in the well-preserved ruins of a Norman Castle. So here’s a quick guide to Totnes (attractions are listed in the order in which you see them; starting from the bottom of the high street and working up to the castle at the very top of town):
Visit Roly’s Fudge Shop
No guide to Totnes would be complete without at least a little nod to the best fudge shop for miles around. Started in a farmhouse in the very heart of Devon in the late 80s’, Roly’s fudge now trades internationally and from typical flavours such as ‘vanilla’ and ‘chocolate’ to ‘salted’, you’re sure to find a flavour that you like!
Explore Totnes Museum
The Totnes museum sits in pride of place at the very centre of the high street. The Elizabethan house (rumoured to be haunted) contains plenty of artefacts and history about Totnes and its surrounding area. There’s even the chance to dress up in period costumes…
Totnes was once the hometown of prolific inventor Charles Babbage. He even came up with the concept of the very first postage stamps. Inside the museum, on the very top floor, you’ll find an entire room dedicated to Babbage. If you want to visit Totnes Museum for yourself, then it’s worth noting that it’s open from Monday – Friday 10 AM to 4 PM.
Visit the Totnes Market
There’s a weekly market on Fridays and Saturdays in market square selling fresh produce and locally produced goods. Between May and September, there are also vendors selling their ways on various days of the week dressed in complete Elizabethan outfits; a rather unusual sight for a Tuesday Morning!
A personal favourite market stall of mine can be found on the weekends in the form of Continental Crumbs. If you happen to spot this stall, be sure to buy their sourdough olive bread, it’s particularly delicious and contains full olives!
Enjoy the architecture of St Mary & St George’s Church
The Church of England Church dedicate to St Mary and St George sits a little way up the high street from the museum, just below the castle. Although Christians have flocked to the site for thousands of years to worship, the sandstone church building itself has only stood since the mid-1400s.
Shop in Revival (Vintage Clothes Store)
As soon as you step into Revival, it’s like you’re stepping into a time capsule- or simply a shop that time forgot. The clothes are authentic and the atmosphere is really quite friendly. Expect to find everything in here from quirky shoes to beautiful lace ball gowns. Each time you visit, you’ll be treated to new and interesting finds, lovingly discovered by Sue Nurse.
Visit the Motte & Bailey Totnes Castle
Today, Totnes castle (or rather, what remains of it) is owned and carefully managed by English Heritage. Sitting at the very top of town, the Norman castle is the jewel of Totnes. One of the best surviving examples of a Motte and Bailey Castle in the U.K., it was founded soon after the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066.
Sitting in pride of place at the very top of Totnes, it has to be said that views from the keep of the castle are unrivalled, meaning that Totnes Castle is easily one of the best castles in Devon!
Dine at Wild Fig Café Deli
If you’re vegan or vegetarian and planning a trip to Totnes, then you’re in luck. After all, the town is filled with veggie eats. From hearty soups to dairy-free desserts, there’s no shortage of great vegan eats in Totnes. However, truth be told, my favourite café in the town is the Wild Fig Café Deli. Serving all kinds of vegan salads, soups, and tarts, the coffee shop even sells raw desserts!
Take a day trip to Sharpham Vineyard
For those who wish to sample some English wine, one of the best vineyards in Devon, that of Sharpham Vineyard, can be found on the fringes of Totnes. Home to vines you can walk around and the chance to sample some of the vineyard’s award-winning wines, the sunny spot is best-visited in the summer months when strolling along the River Dart makes for the perfect afternoon activity.
Take a day trip to Berry Pomeroy Castle
Often said to be one of the most haunted castles in England, Berry Pomeroy Castle can be found on the road between Totnes and Paignton. Free to visit for English Heritage members, once you’ve paid the entrance fee you can expect to be able to wander around the castle ruins at your own pace. You’re also provided with an entertaining audio guide that details the history of the castle and former manor house.
Unusual Things to do in Totnes
See the orange races: Each year, in the month of August, an orange rolling race is held on the particularly steep high street that meanders its way through town. Run by the Totnes Elizabethan Society, the race is followed up by a charity auction.
Spot the Brutus Stone: In a place where many people pass by on a daily basis but few actually stop at, the Brutus stone can be found in the pavement and has its own handpainted sign above, pointing it out. Meant to be associated with Brutus, the Totnes stone is meant to be the first thing Brutus stepped on when he exited his ship onto British soil for the first time.
Wander under Totnes clock tower: Situated in the very heart of the town, halfway up the high street, the Clock Tower is hard to miss. Dating back decades, if not centuries, this quirky piece of architecture is well worth snapping a photo of when wandering through the town.
Where to stay in Totnes
Thanks to its location in the heart of Devon and wealth of things to do, Totnes is a great place to base yourself for exploring the wider area. Here are the best places to stay in Totnes based on web reviews and location:
The Old Forge at Totnes: This four-star B&B can be found in a delightful 15th-century house on the fringes of town. Well-reviewed and with free parking, The Old Forge makes for the perfect country escape. Check prices and availability here.
Steam Packet Inn: Located on the shores of the River Dart, this Totnes accommodation is a ten-minute walk from Totnes Castle. Check prices and availability here.
King William IV: Situated along the high street, in the very middle of Totnes, King William IV offers five en-suite rooms at reasonable prices. Check prices and availability here.
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