See and Do Category: History and heritage

South Devon Railway

The South Devon Railway is one of Devon’s and the West Country’s best loved tourist attractions and is the longest established steam railway in the south west. There’s plenty of space to enjoy our large 12-acre grounds in the sunshine, a large free car park, plus drinks, snacks and ice creams are on sale in a nearby kiosk. It’s the perfect way to spend a few hours on a nice day whilst avoiding the traffic jams and crowds at the beach and the Moors!

The South Devon Railway, or SDR, is a seven mile former Great Western Railway branch line, built in 1872, which runs along the stunning valley of the River Dart between Buckfastleigh and Totnes. We run steam trains with heritage rolling stock and offer a wonderful all day, all weather attraction for families and people of all ages.

Totnes (Riverside) station is c. 500 yards from the main line station. Footpaths link the station with the town. Or there is plenty of free car parking at Buckfastleigh station - TQ11 0DZ.

Look out for special events happening throughout the year or make your dream come true when you book a drive-a-train experience.

Totnes Castle

Hidden away in Totnes town, visit this classic Norman motte and bailey castle, managed by English Heritage.

Climb to the top of the keep to enjoy stunning views over the town of Totnes and across to the River Dart. Or enjoy a picnic in the peaceful grounds under the shelter of age old trees – there is plenty of space for families to relax on a summers day. Within easy walking distance of the town, the castle is an ideal addition to any day out in South Devon and you can combine the visit with one to nearby Dartmouth and Berry Pomeroy Castles which are just a short drive away.

For full opening times and prices, search ‘Totnes Castle’ or follow the website link above.

Totnes Elizabethan House Museum

Totnes Museum is set in a beautifully restored Elizabethan merchant's house built in the 16th century. The Grade I listed Elizabethan building has many stories to tell.  The museum houses a wide range of treasures and includes a room a room dedicated to Charles Babbage 'father of the computer' who was a resident of Totnes. Hidden away behind the Museum is a lovely garden. Reminiscent for herb gardens of the Elizabethan period, this is a wonderful space to take a step away from the bustle of the busy town and smell the roses. Opening Hours:    Monday thru Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm (last entry at 3:30pm) Free entry (Suggested donation £2 per person) Our Archives are continuing to answer local and family history enquiries in addition to offering family history research for £7.50 an hour. If you have any enquiries for them please contact [email protected] or via the website.          

The Sharpham Trust

An internationally-renowned centre for mindfulness sits on the edge of Totnes, on the beautiful Sharpham Estate. There are several retreat venues on the Estate, where participants stay and learn mindful meditation techniques amid breathtaking natural scenery. Grade I-listed Sharpham House is a Palladian villa high on the banks of the River Dart, at the centre of the Estate, and it hosts retreats all-year-round. Visitors can also stay in Sharpham’s Woodland Campsite, meditating close to nature, or within our Coach House nature-retreat venue, or at the acclaimed Barn Retreat Centre, or even on solo retreat in our off-grid Kuti.  Sharpham’s retreats have featured in national and international media. The whole Estate is certified organic, run using sustainable and organic practices and is within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is home to rich flora and fauna – including the endangered Cirl Bunting - and parts of the land are being rewilded. The Estate is also home to the award-winning Sharpham Cheese and the beautiful hideaway holiday let, The Bathing House. Sharpham House is only open to the public on certain days (see our events listing here). You can walk or ride to Sharpham from Totnes, taking the National Cycle Route 28 towards Ashprington. The Sharpham Trust, a registered charity administering the Estate, also operates Sharpham Meadow Natural Burial Ground. You can get married in Sharpham House too, as various rooms and spaces are licensed for weddings. The Sharpham Trust is LGBTQ+ friendly. The Trust also runs a riverside campsite at Point Field which is best accessed via canoe. If you’re interested in volunteering weekly on the Sharpham Estate, read more here or email [email protected] We have been awarded the Visit England Good to Go Industry Standard Certificate.   Google map for The Sharpham Trust:     Google map for Sharpham Meadow Natural Burial Ground:

Guided Walks

Spend a morning exploring historic Totnes on an informal, friendly stroll around town.  Thursdays from April through October.*  Starts 10.30 outside Visit Totnes Office, Market Square.  £8 per person, £4 under 16’s.  Call or text for further information.  Private group tours are available any time of year by arrangement.   *Please note, there are no tours on the following dates:
4th May
25th May (tbc)
29th June
13th July through to 17th August
31st August
21st September

English Heritage Castles of Devon

Castles of Devon - Experience a day out with a difference at the Castles of Devon. Totnes Castle Is a focal point of Totnes and stands as a mighty legacy to the power of the Normans. It is one of the best surviving examples of an early Norman motte and bailey castle. Berry Pomeroy Castle Tucked away in a deep wooded valley, and reputed to be one of the most haunted castles in England. Dartmouth Castle Discover the castle's colourful history including how it was besieged during the Civil War. Totnes Castle and Berry Pomeroy Castle will open daily from 1st April - 30th October, then weekends only. Advance booking is not required, but it is recommended to guarantee entry.

Totnes Rare Breeds Farm

Totnes Rare Breeds Farm is a small, family run attraction where you can meet our amazing owls, cuddle a guinea pig, feed the greedy goats and discover fantastic poultry, plus so much more! We are extremely wheelchair friendly and our onsite cafe offers a range of tasty, freshly prepared food.

Totnes Guildhall

Totnes Guildhall was built in 1553 on the ruins of the medieval priory, founded in 1088. It has been the heart of the town’s administrative, legal and ceremonial life for centuries, serving as court, prison and meeting place.

The Guildhall has been the home of the Town Council for over 450 years. Take a look at the boards in the Lower Hall on which over 600 mayors are listed in gold leaf. Come and see the beautiful premises, which were rebuilt as the meeting place of the Merchant Guild, and feel the history at the former local Magistrates’ Court which was used from 1624 to 1974. See the original cells where, until 1887, prisoners awaited trial and punishment. Climb the 17th century stairs to the elegant Council Chamber, with its plaster frieze and the table where Oliver Cromwell sat in 1646. Opening hours are 11am - 3pm, Monday - Friday. Closed on Thursday 12 October and Thursday 26 October 2023.      

Totnes Fashion & Textiles Museum

Situated on Totnes High Street in a Grade 1 listed building with fine original Tudor plaster ceilings, the Totnes Fashion & Textile Museum is home to the Devonshire Collection of Period Costume, one of the largest private collection of its type in the UK. The collection holds tens of thousands of objects and items of clothing, the earliest dating from about 1650, although most come from the 18th century to the present day. With more than 100 storage boxes each holding multiple hats, and eight boxes simply storing shawls, there are legions of accessories, handbags and shoes, and clothes ranging from the sumptuous to the everyday. Because of building work at Bogan House admission is currently by donation. The Totnes Fashion & Textile Museum closed for the 2022 season on Friday 30th September. See you in 2023!    

Timeless Totnes

From Saxon beginnings to today’s vibrant market town, Totnes has a national reputation for its diverse and lively community.

Totnes is a captivating town set on one of Britain’s most picturesque and historically significant waterways, the River Dart. Its cosmopolitan population generates an exciting range of cultural activities and fosters passionate exploration of new ideas. The locals pride themselves on being a little different.

High quality cafes and bistros, traditional inns, special places to stay, award-winning food markets and great attractions combine to make Totnes a wonderful place to visit anytime of the year.

Totnes retains a strong hold on its heritage. Framed by a beautiful rural Devon landscape, the town is full of character with many notable buildings and monuments. Explore the town’s rich history and charming architecture; lose yourself in its ancient passageways.

There’s no shortage of things to experience and do. Totnes is packed with interesting features, a fascinating past and a thriving selection of independent shops and businesses to seek out during your visit.

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