Tavistock is named after the River Tavy, which runs through the town that is located on the edge of Dartmoor. The wealthy Dukes of Bedford fell in love with the city and turned it from a stannary town to a bustling market centre with mills and copper mines. They also built many fine buildings that are still in use today. To this day, the Tavistock Pannier Market is the centre of town and filled with many interesting stalls during the day. Tavistock also is a paradise for walkers who can explore the town and surrounding countryside at a leisurely pace.
Today, the flourishing town is the biggest in West Devon with a population of about 11,000, and its local stone architecture and shops, the riverside park, leisure centre and theatre are a joy to explore. However, Tavistock is a great place to base yourself in if you want to take in the beautiful countryside of Devon, Eastern Cornwall and Dartmoor.
Above the town, the old viaduct makes for a great trip, and you from there, you can continue further along the old railway line to get a real taste of the countryside.
Tavistock is famous for its distinct architecture, especially the small workers cottages which are known as Bedford Cottages, many of which today function as cozy holiday homes.
Culture & attractions in Tavistock
Whether you are religious or not, the parish church and churchyard of Tavistock are worth a visit as they feature magnificent stained glass windows and many ornate tombs. When exploring the churchyard, you will come across the remains of the 10th century Tavistock Abbey.
Buckland Abbey, just outside town, used to be the home of the explorer Sir Francis Drake. It's a must visit for all history lovers and true travellers – when you think you've seen quite a bit of the world, you'll think twice after having learned more about Drake!
Tavistocks High Street as well as Bedford Square houses a number of high-quality delicatessens and gift shops, yet it is the Pannier Market that still does the best trade and is excellent for picking up some local cheese, food or antique souvenirs.
In the second week of October as well as during the weeks leading up to Christmas, the Goosey Fair which dates back to the 12th century, is one of the highlights of Tavistock and should not be missed!
About 7 miles outside Tavistock, the historic village of Lydford is worth a visit, as is the market town Okehampton which sits on the border to Cornwall. Lydford Gorge is a 1.5 mile long gorge maintained by National Trust.
Must-do highlights in Tavistock
Most visitors to Tavistock come here for its close location to the Dartmoor National Park and the Tamar Valley. Dartmoor National Park covers an area of 368 square miles and is the largest and probably wildest open space in South England. The dramatic tors, wooded valleys, rushing rivers and wildlife of the area will leave you speechless!
A prime walking route is the road to Princetown, which provides great moorland scenery and also passed the charming Dartmoor Inn at the village of Merrivale. Another great walk leads to Brento, a picturesque village with a church on top of a hill.
One of the most interesting living history sites, just 4 miles outside Tavistock, is Morwellam Quay, which spans more than 200 acres. This World Heritage site features a historic port, a copper mine, a traditional Victorian farm, a museum as much more. The highlight of the area, however, is the narrow-gauge Mine Railway that runs along the banks of the river Tamar before it leads deep underground into the abandoned George & Charlotte copper mine, where you can learn about the life of Victorian miners practically first-hand.
Eating & drinking in Tavistock
Tavistock is famous for its pasties, which are said to be better than in Cornwall – the Cornish might see things differently, but why not try one at one of Tavistocks' many pasty shops and see for yourself?
The Peter Tavy Inn for example serves pies with generous meat fillings and provides a welcoming moorland atmosphere that is 100% authentic: the landlord and landlady still tend the bar themselves here!
For fine dining, head to Gorton's, which turns local ingredients into high-class dinners that you can enjoy with excellent service.
Accommodation in Tavistock
Tavistock provides plenty of holiday accommodation, with many of the houses offering views of Dartmoor National Park.
One of them is Manor Farm Cottage, a lovingly restored 500 year old cottage in the outskirts of Dartmoor National park. It sleeps up to three guests and is just a 4 mile drive from Tavistock Town Centre.
If you prefer to stay within the town centre, 3 Chapel Heights is a stylish 1 bedroom apartment just a few minutes' walk from the Pannier Market, shops and restaurants, and just a 20 minute drive from Plymouth.
So that's our round up of things to do on a weekend in Tavistock. Have you ever been there? What would you recommend doing if someone went there for the weekend? Please share you experience with us…