Totnes is a former Saxon settlement on the River Dart, known for its alternative New Age community. This delightful historic town and wealthy river port once exported Devon wool and tin. It has a bustling main street, 15th century church, historic buildings and even an Elizabethan market along its narrow streets. Set on a steep hill, Totnes Castle is an interesting local landmark; one of many historic attractions to enjoy during your visit to this unique community.
Here are our suggestions for 5 top reasons to visit Totnes:
- Located on the tidal River Dart estuary, Totnes is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Take a walk upriver along the Dart Valley to reach the 17th century weir, then follow the riverside footpath to reach the craft centre and tearooms at the old Dartington Cider Press.
- The Norman motte and bailey castle is one of the best preserved in Devon. Managed by English Heritage, this landmark castle with its crenellated curtain wall is just a short walk from the town centre. Dating back to 1068, and rebuilt in stone in the 14th century, this Grade 1 listed building offers stunning views across the town and river valley.
- Totnes has more listed buildings per head than any other town in Britain. A stroll up the steep and narrow Fore Street takes in the Eastgate arch and many of the town’s 66 characterful properties that were built pre-1700. Look for the Tudor Butterwalk and the Poultry Walk, two covered arcades once used for local markets. Stroll along Leechwell Lane to where springs continue to flow into three granite troughs.
- Visit the Elizabethan Market, held each Tuesday from May to September. Stallholders dressed in Elizabethan costume sell plants, clothing and local produce. The adjoining market hall hosts an all-day craft market. The regular outdoor market is held on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Take a cruise to historic Dartmouth from the Totnes Old Steamer Quay. The boat drops passengers at the quay at Greenway House and Gardens, the former home of author Agatha Christie now owned by the National Trust.
5 Fun Facts About Totnes
- Totnes is the second oldest borough in England, dating back to 1200BC when Brutus of Troy came ashore on the spot now marked by the Brutus Stone.
- The annual Totnes Orange Races are said to be inspired by Sir Francis Drake bumping into a delivery boy who dropped his load of oranges and they rolled down the steep hill.
- Totnes is known for its sizeable New Age community which embraces an alternative bohemian lifestyle. In 2007 it was mentioned in Time magazine as “the capital of New Age chic”.
- Totnes was the first town in the UK to introduce its own local currency in 2007, known as the Totnes Pound, to support local businesses.
- The 16th century black-and-white timbered Guildhall on Ramparts Walk was built as part of a Benedictine Priory, became the Guildhall in 1624 and is currently used as a council chamber. It even has prison cells!
What attracts you to make the journey to Totnes, the southwest’s New Age hotbed? Do you know of any other fun facts or things to do that make Totnes such a unique place to visit? We’d love you to contribute your local knowledge.