As soon you enter Totnes, you get the sense that there is a lot of history attached to the place. Dating back to 907 AD, Totnes is a market town with oodles of character and plenty to appreciate. In fact, it is often said there are more listed buildings per head in Totnes than in any other part of the UK. We wanted to highlight this town because we feel it is often overlooked. We'll be recommending some places to go and things to see, all updated for 2023 - let's get into the guide:
Where is Totnes?
What is there to do during your time in Totnes?
Totnes might be small, but if you're a history buff then there is plenty for you to see and do. Even if you're not a history nerd, you'll still have some options. We'll be recommending a mix of options for you to see and do. Let's get into it:
Totnes Castle is an impressive Norman castle providing excellent views across the town of Totnes and the River Dart. The design is 'Motte-and-bailey', the motte being the raised area of ground that the castle sits on and the bailey being the walled courtyard it sits within. Even if you don't fancy climbing to the top of the keep for the views, you can still enjoy a nice walk or picnic within the grounds. We love that Totnes Castle is only a short walk from the town and that it's less than £7 per person to see it. Find out more here - english-heritage.org.uk
St Mary’s Church
This impressive church is a 15th century Grade I listed building with a distinctive reddish colouring. It's great to visit and looks extra beautiful on a sunny day. The tower is especially impressive and contains a peal of 8 bells. If you're interested in music then the 19th century Willis organ is worth a look, plus the restored oak wagon roof. The church attracts thousands of visitors every year and is open every day from 8.45am to 5pm.
Dart Valley Trail
If cycling or walking is your thing, then Totnes is a great place to head. The whole area is great those who want to get outdoors and there are a number of walks leading from the town which allow you to explore the river banks and countryside, however if we had to choose one we'd go for the Dart Valley Trail. This 17 mile route takes you along the banks of the River Dart and crosses over with parts of the South Devon Coast Path route so really does take you along some of the best parts of South Devon.
Rare Breeds Farm
If you're looking for something keep the kids happy, then Rare Breeds Farm is a great place to visit. This family-run attraction next to the South Devon Steam Railway gives you the chance to interact with a range of animals including donkeys, pigs, and owls. If you'd rather spend time with some smaller animals then the farm has a 'Pets’ Corner' where you can meet newly-hatched chicks and ducklings as well as a few other smaller animals. And after all the fun, a coffee and slice of cake at the The Garden Café is the ideal way to end the day.
Berry Pomeroy Castle
This is an interesting building to visit because it's actually a Tudor mansion sitting within the walls of a castle which was built earlier. It's technically in Berry Pomeroy, but we've included it because it's very close to Totnes (it's only a few miles northeast). Standing on a high point of land above the Gatcombe valley, the setting of the castle is really lovely and there is something very romantic about it. If you're looking to visit the castle you should expect to pay around £8 for an adult ticket. learn more and book your visit here - english-heritage.org.uk
Once again, this historic building is based just outside of Totnes in in Dartington, but it is really nearby and so worth visiting that we had to include it. The building is based on an impressive 880 acre estate which includes a mix of farmland and woodland, much of which can be explored during your visit. There are a number of walking trails which can be followed too, including the popular Totnes-Dartington Access For All trail, a route which is about 2 miles long and is accessible to everyone, even wheelchair users. If you'd prefer to visit Dartington in style, you can travel via the ferry from Steamer Quay. Dartington Hall is a great day out, learn more here - dartington.org
Buckfast Butterfly Farm and Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary
If you've already read the title of this entry into our list then we don't need to say much more, do we? There is a Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary in Buckfastleigh, which is only a 15 minute drive away from Totnes, however we'd highly recommend you travel via the steam train on the South Devon Railway which takes you through the valley of the river Dart and is really special. The farm of course has butterflies and otters, but it also has a few other interesting critters including iguanas! Learn more about the farm here - ottersandbutterflies.co.uk
Things to be aware of before visiting Totnes
Totnes is a lovely little place and there are some great things to see and do, but if you're staying for more than a few days then we definitely think it's a good idea to head further afield, so having a car is a good idea. As we've mentioned, Dartington and Berry Pomeroy are good places to head, plus the vineyard at Stoke Gabriel is well worth a visit if you're a fan of good wine and cheese. You can take the steam train to locations such as Buckfastleigh and Littlehempston which is a really fun journey to take.
One last thing - Totnes is packed with lovely independent shops selling all sorts of things, so definitely make sure you leave some space in your bag for the items you will inevitably end up buying during your trip!