Totnes Castle stands on a 17.5 meter high manmade motte, which looms over the historic medieval town of Totnes. From its battlements, it commands a splendid and picturesque view across the town below as well as offering scenic views of wild and rugged Dartmoor. Totnes Castle is steeped in a rich and varied history and is the one of the best surviving examples of a Norman motte and bailey castle. Both ‘motte’ and ‘bailey’ are old-French words, ‘motte’ meaning ‘hill’ or ‘mound’ while ‘bailey’ meaning ‘low yard’. Due to Totnes’s strategic position and close proximity to the River Dart, Totnes was a logical place to build a motte and bailey castle.
Totnes was a well-known port town and had a reputation of being one the best places to harbour a boat; this was due to how far a ship could navigate inland. Evidence of this can be found in a book called “Historia Regum Britanniae” which was written in 1136 by Geoffrey of Monmouth. With a port, Totnes became a fairly wealthy town, as a result of this influx of prosperity, King Edward the Elder in 907 had the town fortified, this resulted in Totnes becoming one of the only fortified towns in the South West, which is evidence that Totnes started to become distinctly affluent. However later on in the town’s history, the mint in Totnes at the time of 1036 (thirty years before the Norman Conquest) had ceased minting, which was an indication that the importance of the town had started to dwindle. Totnes was accorded with a royal charter by King John in 1206, which transformed Totnes into a free town. This meant that Totnes was allowed to formulate its own laws. However Totnes grew to be once again a very prosperous town and in 1523 it was the second richest town in Devon and sixteenth richest town in the whole of England.
Christmas is the season to be jolly – and you’ll find no shortage of festive fun in Totnes, Devon. From fabulous light shows and festive markets to a magical Santa’s Grotto, see our top pick of things to do to help you and your family make some magical Christmas memories.
The Best Christmas Markets in Devon
One of Devon’s most loved festive markets, the Totnes Christmas Market and Late Night Shopping evenings take place on Tuesday 5, 12 and 19 December 3pm-9pm. Spread throughout the town, this family-friendly night out will get you in the festive mood, promising over 80+ gift stalls, two dedicated food courts with your favourite street food, and brilliant free street performances from a pick of local singers, dancers and entertainers. Totnes Museum will also be open from 2pm-8pm with free family activities 3pm-6pm.
On 19 December, don’t miss the magical lantern parade organised by Totnes Carnival, which will set off on a route from the top of town to the bottom at 4pm. Join in or watch - click here to find out more.
If you’re on the hunt for unique handcrafted presents, don’t miss The Dartington Great Hall Craft Fair 1-3 December. Find stands showcasing high quality contemporary craft and design including ceramics, printmaking, jewellery, textiles and more alongside music, workshops, food and merriment throughout the weekend.
A little bird has told us that Santa himself is set to pay Dartington Estate a visit each weekend and during the school holidays this December!
Father Christmas will be parking his sleigh and settling into a magical Grotto in Dartington’s historic Courtyard. He cannot wait to meet little ones and tell them all about life in the North Pole and how Rudolph and friends are. He'll also have news about all the hard work his helper elves are doing to get ready for the “big night”. Santa will of course be giving out little gifts too! Plan your visit.
All Aboard For Some Festive Fun
The mesmerising Train of Lights from Dartmouth Steam Railway will be getting your magical Christmas on track from 24 November to 30 December. This multi award-winning Christmas experience was the UK’s first ever steam train of lights and it is now the must-see event in the South West festive calendar. The 2023 show will capture the magic of our previous shows and will also have new displays and surprises.
Another way to steam into Christmas is with tickets to ride South Devon Railway’s Polar Express. Running on selected dates from 24 November – 23 December, throughout your train ride you’ll be entertained, meeting the Conductor and his crew. All the while the train steams towards the ‘North Pole!’ Here you’ll meet Santa and one of his friendly elves. He will climb on board the train to meet you all. The Conductor will even clip your Polar Express tickets just like in the film.
The South Devon Railway also have just the ticket for keeping all ages entertained between Christmas and New Year. Their Heritage Steam Railway service will be running every day between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day – the ideal way to get everyone out and about during the holidays.
Get set to GloWild at Paignton Zoo until 2 January. Head into the zoo after dark for an immersive light experience featuring a variety of beautiful, interactive light installations, entertainers, and a silent disco. Get your tickets now
Prepare yourself for an innovative and exhilarating winter journey! Ignite your inner adventurer with neon bows and arrows, and ascend neon-splashed walls for an unparalleled rock-climbing experience on the quarry wall. Then, soar through the forest on a Zip Line illuminated by UV light with Dynamic Adventures. 7, 14, 21 December 2023. Find out more
Set halfway between moor and sea on the beautiful River Dart, the thriving town of Totnes is a South Devon gem. From spotting wildlife and having fun on the water to discovering hidden histories and enjoying the best local food, if you're looking for things to do and see in Devon, you'll find something for everyone with our insider guide to Totnes.
Meander along the streets to admire the town’s historic buildings in the shadow of the town’s majestic Norman motte and baileycastle. The medieval Dartington Hall and Gardens is a pleasant walk from the town centre. Totnes Museum is a treasure trove that's not to be missed.
Experience nature close up on holiday in Devon
Feeling adventurous? Hire a kayak or stand-up paddle board or join a guided canoe tour to spot local wildlife along the river. If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, enjoy the choice of riverside walks to Dartingtonand Sharpham. Walks start and finish in the town.
If you like to shop, you’ll love the treasures on offer in the independent stores lining Totnes’ thriving high street. There’s a strong emphasis on local and handmade goods, with everything from fashion to fudge ready to tempt you. On Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year, the market square buzzes with over 50 stalls. These sell an eclectic mix of vintage collectibles, food, and crafts.
Totnes is a 25-minute drive from Torquay and a 40-minute drive from Plymouth. You’ll find a number of public EV charging points, including one at Morrisons supermarket, Coronation Road. The Gold Bus runs every 30 minutes and takes 50 minutes from The Strand, Torquay and 1 hour from Plymouth. Totnes is a 30-minute train journey from both Plymouth and Torquay.
If you’d like to arrive in style, The Dartmouth Steam and River Company operate boat trips to Totnes departing from Dartmouth and or hop aboard a vintage train from Buckfastleigh with the South Devon Railway.
There’s a wealth of history and heritage to discover as you wander through the streets of Totnes. Here’s our top pick of what to see.
The classic Norman motte and bailey Totnes Castle is managed by English Heritage. Climb to the top of the keep for stunning views over the town of Totnes and across to the River Dart. You can 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 summer day.
Thought to have been built by Juhel, a commander in William the Conqueror’s army, originally the castle was an earthwork and timber construction. In the early 13th century, the shell keep was built to crown the mound and was later rebuilt and this is what you can see today. Circular in shape, it is one of the best preserved of the three such keeps in Devon. You can still see the defensive arrow slits and battlements if you look closely.
Just a 1-minute walk from the high street, the castle is an ideal addition to any day out in Totnes. If castles are your thing, don't miss Dartmouth and Berry Pomeroy Castles. These are both also managed by English Heritage and are just a short drive away.
The Guildhall offers another fascinating insight into the history of the town. It was built in 1553 on the ruins of the medieval priory, founded in 1088. The Guildhall has been the heart of the town’s administrative, legal and ceremonial life for centuries, serving as court, prison and meeting place. You can still see the original cells where, until 1887, prisoners awaited trial and punishment. Step inside to climb the 17th century stairs to the elegant Council Chamber, with its plaster frieze. The Chamber is also home to a table where Oliver Cromwell is said to have sat in 1646.
Free (donations welcome). Open Monday to Friday 11am-3pm May-September (excluding Bank Holidays). The Guildhall is still used for Town Council meetings and other events so check first before visiting.
Totnes Museum in Upper Fore Street is housed in a beautifully restored Elizabethan merchant’s house and is free to visit (donations welcome). The museum houses a wide range of treasures and includes a room a room dedicated to Charles Babbage ‘father of the computer’ who once lived in the town. Hidden away behind the museum is a lovely garden. Reminiscent of 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. For more information, go to www.totnesmuseum.org/
Kathy Alexander Tour Guide – Totnes Town Tour
Spend a morning exploring historic Totnes on an informal, friendly stroll around town with experienced tour guide, Kathy Alexander. Join Kathy on a walk to discover more about the key historic sites in Totnes, including the Castle, The Eastgate Arch, The Guildhall and the Market Square. Tours run on Thursdays from April through October starting at 10.30am outside Visit Totnes Office, Market Square. £8 per person, £4 under 16’s. Private group tours are available any time of year by arrangement. For more information, email [email protected] or call 07733197740
Steam along the track with South Devon Railway
Step back in time with a journey on popular heritage line South Devon Railway (SDR). The beautiful 7-mile journey to Totnes runs alongside the River Dart and takes half an hour. The station is a 15-minute walk from the centre of Totnes or it is possible to catch a Bob the Bus (low floor accessible bus) from various stops in the town to the mainline station (a 450m walk away from the SDR Totnes Riverside station).
The Brutus Stone features in legend as the place where Brutus the Trojan, founder of the British people, first stepped ashore. Brutus is said to have declared “Here I stand and here I rest, and this good town shall be called Totnes” (although there is no proof this ever happened.) When Fore Street was widened in 1810, the stone was reduced in height from 18 inches above ground to the level of the pavement. Whether or not Brutus stood on the stone, it’s a town custom that royal proclamations should be read there by the mayor. You can see the stone in the pavement on their right-hand side when walking up Fore Street next to number 51.
St Mary's Church
This historic building, open daily from 8.45 am to 5.00 pm, is well worth the visit. Built in the 15th century by townspeople on a site where Christians have worshipped for over a thousand years. Of particular interest to visitors are: the magnificent 15th-century sandstone rood screen; the Kempe stained glass window; the Willis organ built in 1861; the restored oak waggon roof; the fine brass candelabrum in the nave; the Blackhall monument and the memorial plaque to Walter Venning (1781-1821), Russian prison reformer.
In 2019, Totnes Heritage Trust commissioned an enormous map of Totnes which is now on the floor of St Mary’s Church. Drawn by local artist Anna Ventura, it is more than just a representation of the physical town. The map is also a snapshot of Totnes, with stories and characters that local residents will recognise.
The church is also used for music events throughout the year.
Find out more about Totnes and the surrounding area:
From fresh local produce and the best street food to vintage collectables and handcrafted goodies, there’s lots to discover when you visit a market in Totnes. Here’s our guide to the best Totnes markets, which are popular with visitors and locals alike.
Friday and Saturday Totnes Market
Where: Totnes Civic Square (also known as Market Square)
When: 9am to 3pm on Fridays and Saturdays all through the year
What to expect: Discover an eclectic mix of stalls including street food, plants, locally grown fruit and veg, clothing, bread and baked goods, local farm fresh meat, jewellery, vintage goods, curios and collectibles and homemade soaps.
Totnes Indoor Artisan Market
Where: Totnes Civic Hall (above the Civic Square)
When: Second Tuesday of the every month April-November (2023: 11 April, 9 May, 13 June, 11 July, 8 August, 12 September, 10 October, 14 November)
What to expect: Over 20 local makers, including jewellery, knitted toys, handmade chocolate, clothes and textiles, cards and prints, mosaic art, and dried flowers.
Totnes Elizabethan Market
Where: Totnes Civic Square (also known as Market Square)
When: Every Tuesday from May to September
What to expect: Charity market with stallholders dressed up in Elizabethan costume. Find knitted goods, jewellery, local crafts and more. Don’t miss ‘Lady Katherine’ (Rosemary Griggs) in her Tudor finery as she opens the first market of the season on 2 May 2023.
Totnes Sunday Food and Craft Market
Where: Totnes Civic Square (also known as Market Square)
When: Third Sunday of every month from 10am – 3pm
What to expect: delicious takeaways and food from local producers as well as handmade crafts.
Sea Change Weekender Food and Drink Market
Where: Totnes Civic Square (also known as Market Square)
When: Sunday 28 May from 12noon until late
What to expect: After a heady Friday and Saturday, Sunday is chill out day in Totnes with tunes from the team at Sea Change served up in the Civic Square alongside the Sea Change Weekender bar with Verdant Brewing Co and a choice of street food and stalls from some of South Devon’s best foodie producers. Come and wind-down with friends at this relaxed community day in the middle of the town and take in all the niceness that Totnes has to offer.
Totnes Summer Fair
Where: Totnes Civic Square (also known as Market Square)
When: 10am-6pm Wednesday 23 August
What to expect: Roll-up, roll-up for a classic summer fair in the heart of Totnes. Kids can get their thrills on vintage rides, including a hand-turned carousel and traditional swing boats or have a go at hook-a-duck. Fill up on fabulous street food, sit back and enjoy live music and entertainment, and browse over 50 stalls from local makers.
EAT: Riverford Food Festival
Where: Longmarsh and Steamer Quay, Bridgetown, Totnes
When: Sunday 10 September 10am-4pm
What to expect: Over 70 local food and drink producers with entertainment and demos. Find out more at www.eatfestivals.org/
Totnes Christmas Market and Late-Night Shopping
Where: Totnes Civic Square (also known as Market Square) and throughout the town
When: 3pm-9pm on the first three Tuesdays of December: 5, 12 and 19 December 2023
What to expect: Make magical memories and get into the festive spirit with live music and street entertainment, good food and drink, fairy lights, artisan shopping and much more at Totnes Christmas Market and Late-Night Shopping.
Meet family and friends to enjoy free music and entertainment as you sip on a mulled cider and savour the special Christmas atmosphere. Feast on food from a choice of curated street food stalls and Totnes’ fabulous choice of cafes and restaurants. From waffles and world food to fish tacos, there’s something for every taste. Find unique gifts for loved ones from local makers in over 70+ local artisan stalls in the Christmas Markets as well as in Totnes’ independent stores. And browse the indoor covered gift market in the Civic Hall where you’ll find a selection of crafts and special goodies.
Totnes is a 30-minute train journey from Exeter, Plymouth and Torquay. When you arrive, it’s just a short walk into town.
Start a day exploring Totnes right with our top pick of the best breakfasts in town. Treat yourself to a breakfast cocktail, enjoy speciality wood roasted coffee with pastries, grab a full English or opt for a vegan granola: there’s something for every taste.
When: Breakfast served from 10am-11.45am every day
Where: Beside the river at The Plains at the bottom end of town
Riverside views. Dogs allowed on terrace
Satisfy your morning hunger pangs with a traditional bacon or sausage bap (vegan options available) or go continental with a croissant or pastry at Waterside Bistro. Pair with a choice of regular and herbal teas, coffees (including syrups if you have a sweet tooth) or luscious hot chocolate.
The Bull Inn
When: Breakfast from 8am to 10.30am every day
Where: The Rotherfold Square at the top of town
Organic – Radical - Ethical
Walk through the historic Narrows to The Rotherfold to find the award-winning, organic The Bull Inn. Here you can enjoy a fresh organic breakfast, ranging from porridge, pancakes and frittata to the ‘Full Bull’ Wash it down with a Seriously Early Mary (Organic vodka, house-made chilli sherry, organic tomato juice, lemon juice, spices & seasoning).
Green Table, Dartington
When: Homemade breakfasts from 9am-11:30pm daily
Where: Dartington Hall
Outside seating available (dogs permitted)
Stop to enjoy a homemade breakfast at The Green Table before a walk around the Dartington Hall gardens or estate. American-style pancakes ooze with maple syrup, try the house Granola served with yoghurt and compote or with soya or oat milk, or go traditional with the free-range Green Table Breakfast featuring local-butcher’s sausages and bacon.
When: From 9am – 2pm (breakfast baps from 8am weekdays)
Where: The Plains at the bottom of town
Sunny on-pavement tables where you can watch the world go by
Perfect for early birds, The Curator’s handy breakfast baps are available from 8am on weekdays to have in or takeaway. The rest of the breakfast and brunch menu is served from 9am-2pm and is made in-house using all locally sourced ingredients. Choose from sweet and savoury delights, light bites and large plates ranging from poached eggs on toast, toasties, sweet baked brioche as well a full breakfast in both meat and veggie forms. Enjoy with a cup or two of their wood-smoked artisan coffee – made here in Devon! If you’re at the top of the town, pop into The Curator’s second outpost at The Butterwalk (opposite the Market Square) for signature coffee and baked goods.
Wild Thyme Deli and Kitchen
When: From 9am Mon – Sat (from 10am on Sundays)
Where: China Blue, Station Road
Free customer parking and secret garden style patio for alfresco dining
Sit back and enjoy a choice of delicious home-baked breakfast, including granola, classic full English and avocado and pear on toast. Partial to a pastry? You’ll love indulgent treats waiting for you courtesy of Wild Thyme’s in-house pastry chef. All served with freshly ground artisan coffee.
When: From 9am Fridays and Saturdays and on the third Sunday of every month
Where: Civic / Market Square just off the high street
Fridays and Saturdays all through the year are market days in Totnes. You’ll find stalls from local producers selling morning treats including freshly baked croissants and farm-fresh bacon baps in the Civic Square. On the third Sunday of every month head to the Square for the monthly Totnes Food and Craft Market where you can indulge in more delicious local goodies. Click here to find out more.
Post-breakfast walks in Totnes
After your breakfast, you’ll be ready to tackle one of the many brilliant walks in and around Totnes. Keep things on the level with a walk on the accessible for all path at Longmarsh, which follows the river side. Take in views of the river Dart with Totnes behind on the walk to Sharpham and Ashprington or look for wildlife walking alongside the Deer Park at Dartington. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, stride out on the Franklin Totnes Trail or Dart Valley Trail. Find these walks and more, with details of distances, directions and maps here.
Fuelled up to explore Totnes’ history and heritage
Use up your energy with a walk up the steps to the top of Totnes Castle. A classic Norman motte and bailey castle now managed by English Heritage, the climb will reward you with views of the town and towards the River Dart and Dartmoor. Open daily during the summer season, you’ll find the entrance at Castle Street. Click for more information.
Enjoying delicious local produce all day long
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it’s not the only one. You’ll find wonderful local lunches and supper in all our cafes and restaurants. Find more details on where to eat in Totnes here.
Discover the postcard-pretty, bustling town of Totnes. With a thriving market and a lively independent shop and café scene unfolding in the shadow of the impressive Totnes Castle, there’s lots to see and do throughout the year. Read on to discover our top 6 things to see and do as well as the best places to eat and shop in Totnes.
A word of warning: you'll need more than a day to enjoy it all!
Top 6 Totnes see and do
Get a birds-eye view of the town from the ramparts of Totnes’ classic Norman motte and bailey castle. The castle is managed by English Heritage.
Relax with lunch, wine tasting and vineyard walk at the award-winning Sandridge Barton winery.
Get out on the water when you hire a kayak or let the river boat gently ease you down the Dart. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife including herons and seals.
Enjoy a wander around the Dartington Estate, where you can spot the herd of deer and amble along the riverside. The formal gardens are home to a Henry Moore sculpture and a kids trail. Enjoy a post walk coffee in the choice of cafes.
Let off steam on The South Devon Railway. Look out for special events happening throughout the year or make your dream come true when you book a drive-a-train experience.
For a not too strenuous stroll, follow the town trail which takes you past some of Totnes’ most important sights. Download the route, complete with information on what to look out for along the way at: www.visittotnes.co.uk/town-trail
Stroll along the mostly flat path from Totnes to Dartington Cider Press Centre (approx. 2 miles or 40-minutes walk). Here you’ll find a vibrant and eclectic range of shops offering perfect gifts with a focus on arts and crafts. There's also a carefully curated selection of locally sourced food and drink for picnics by the river.
Don’t miss: Totnes has a vibrant weekly market 9am until 4pm on Fridays and Saturdays all year round in the Market Square in the centre of town. From fresh local produce, street food and jewellery to vintage clothing and antiques, there are lots of treasures waiting to be found.
On the third Sunday of every month head to the Food and Craft Market in the Market Square. From April to October there's an indoor artisan market on the second Tuesday of the month in the Civic Hall. On Tuesdays from May to September, you'll find the Elizabethan Charity market taking place in Totnes Market Square. The popular Totnes Christmas Market and late night shopping evenings take place on the first three Tuesdays of December.
Where to eat in Totnes
Savour South Devon’s finest food in Totnes. As you’d expect, the town’s cafes and restaurants make full use of the bountiful harvest of fresh, local, seasonally available food.
Sunny day? Enjoy lunch beside the river at Waterside Bistro, with tasty titbits including mussels, classic burgers, and moreish pizza. For supper, try the award-winning, organic The Bull Inn – described by The Sunday Telegraph as “9/10. Charmingly eclectic and lovingly restored – exceptional food and drink.”
Don't miss: Experience TripAdvisor's top choice for the best ice cream in Devon - Delphini's Gelato. From pistachio to vegan double chocolate, there's a changing menu of creative flavours, handmade on the premises.
Messing about in boats
The River Dart is at the heart of Totnes and has helped to make it the very special place it is today. For a relaxing day on the water above the weir in Totnes, away from the tidal pulls, hire a kayak, canoe, or SUP from Dynamic Adventures on Dartington Estate. From the resident wildlife to the steam trains puffing along, there’s lots to spot as you paddle along this part of the gently meandering river.
Exceptional engineers and explorers
Anyone with an interest in computers or technology should not miss the room at Totnes Museum dedicated to one of Totnes’ brightest former residents – Charles Babbage. Babbage is considered by many as the “father of the computer”. His Difference Engine and Analytical Engine rank as two of the startling intellectual achievements of the 19th century.
William Froude, the world’s first naval architect, carried out his pioneering vessel resistance and stability testing in Totnes. After a spell working for Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Froude began to develop his theories about the movement of ships in water using his own models on the River Dart. The ruined church on Dartington Estate houses a cross bearing his name as his father was rector there.
Totnes is also well-known down-under as the birthplace of William Wills, who was the second-in-command of the ill-fated 1860-1 Burke and Wills expedition - the first expedition to cross Australia from south to north. Visit The Guildhall to discover more.
Making lasting memories
The beautiful South Devon countryside and historic town of Totnes have long provided inspiration for artists and makers. But Totnes is not just the best place to buy beautiful, handcrafted gifts in Devon. It’s also the place to come to experience the joy of making and create something yourself under the watchful guidance of a local artist like Steve Robinson. This award-winning glass artist specialises in kiln-forming to create his unique tactile and colourful work. Join one of his regular workshops throughout the year, which are suitable for all abilities.
There's also a great choice of short courses, walks and retreats on offer. From foraging and family nature walks to learning to paint or ferment your own food, check out what's on at Sharpham Trust and Dartington Hall.
Boat: 90 mins cruise with the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company (return by boat or enjoy the Round Robin option including travel on the steam train and bus.)
Drive: 30 mins. Parking information, including EV charger locations: www.visittotnes.co.uk/see-and-do/plan-your-visit/parking-in-totnes/
Bus: 45 mins (Stagecoach 92 from The Pontoon in Dartmouth)
From Plymouth / Exeter
Train: 30 mins (Totnes train station is just a few minutes walk from the high street)
Drive: 45 mins via A38 Devon Expressway
Plan your day in Totnes
Discover what’s on, book experiences, and plan your day: www.visittotnes.co.uk. If you need longer to explore, check out our top pick of where to stay.
Do you want to paddleboard or kayak on the River Dart in Totnes? With fabulous wildlife to spot and stunning views, getting out on the water is a truly memorable experience. Read on to discover where to go and what to look out for.
Totnes to Stoke Gabriel Paddle Trail
The River Dart in Totnes is a beautiful spot to paddleboard or kayak. However, because of the tidal pull, exploring the River Dart below the weir in Totnes does require a little pre-planning.
One of the best places to launch is at Longmarsh, Totnes. There's a car park here and an easy to access slipway. Find Longmarsh car park at the bottom left corner of the town map.
Bring your own SUP or kayak or hire one from Totnes Kayaks or Paddle Devon. Canoe Adventures also runs adventure canoe trips (often incorporating a paddle to a pub) suitable for everyone, including family groups.
If you're looking for a coastal kayak adventure, get out on the water with Sea Kayak Devon. Join them to explore rocky coves and hidden spots along South Devon's stunning shoreline where the River Dart meets the sea.
Paddleboard and kayak on the River Dart in Totnes above the weir
For a relaxing day on the water above the weir in Totnes, away from the tidal pulls, launch from the small launch pontoon on the access for all path just above the weir. There's also a natural beach at the end of the concrete path on Dartington Estate where you can launch or stop and enjoy a picnic.
From the resident wildlife to the steam trains puffing along, there’s lots to spot as you paddle along this part of the gently meandering river.
If you plan to paddleboard or kayak on the River Dart, always be aware that the river can rise very quickly after heavy rain.
Let the river boat gently ease you down the Dart
Finally, if that all sounds like too much effort, you can let someone else do the hard work. Enjoy a 90-minute cruise to Dartmouth with the Dartmouth River Boat Company. Sailings are tide dependent so check the timetable and book ahead.
Make magical memories for Christmas 2023 at the Totnes Christmas Market and Late Night Shopping events on Tuesdays 5, 12 and 19 December 3pm-9pm. The whole town will be getting into the festive spirit with entertainment, good food and drink, artisan shopping and much more.
Festive Fun in Totnes
Meet family and friends to enjoy free music and entertainment as you sip on a mulled cider and savour the special Christmas atmosphere.
From juggling and local performers from Jamming Station and Totnes Dance to Morris Dancing, take a look at the schedule of what's on, where and when:
Find unique gifts for loved ones from local makers in over 70+ local artisan stalls in the Christmas Markets as well as in Totnes’ independent stores.
Feast on food from a choice of curated street food stalls and Totnes’ fabulous choice of cafes and restaurants. This year we have two special food court areas. One in the Civic Hall carpark behind the Market Square and one at The Mansion, Fore Street - from churros to world food, there's something for every taste.
Discover something special throughout the town
The Mansion will be a family-friendly venue for food and drink, entertainment and much more. Don't miss their mulled wine!
Totnes Elizabethan Museum will be joining in the festivities. The museum will be open and there will be special seasonal family activities from 3pm-6pm.
Listen to your favourite carols with performances from local schools and community choirs outside St Mary's Church.
5 December: St John's Primary School at 4.30pm, The Grove Primary School at 5.15pm, St Christopher's at 6pm, St Mary's Church Choir and Totnes and Bridgetown Church Choir 6.30pm-7.30pm
12 December: St Mary's Church Choir and Totnes and Bridgetown Church Choir from 6pm-7.30pm
19 December: St Mary's Church Choir and Totnes and Bridgetown Church Choir sing for the Lantern Procession 4pm-4.30pm and again from 5.30pm-7.30pm
You can browse the indoor covered gift market in the Civic Hall where you'll find a selection of crafts and special goodies. Please click here for a list of stalls.
70+ artisan market stalls and street food vendors will be located throughout the town. Please click here for a list of stalls.
Enjoy free music and street entertainment throughout the town. On 19 December at 4pm watch or join in with a magical illuminated lantern parade organised by Totnes Carnival.
Getting to Totnes Christmas Market
For information on getting to the Totnes Christmas Market by train or bus, please click here.
For parking information, including EV parking in Totnes, please click here. Totnes town centre car parks are run by South Hams District Council and there is no charge to park after 6pm. Find out more here.
There will be a Park and Ride operating from Follaton House, Plymouth Road on the Christmas Market evenings. 5pm until 10pm (Plymouth Rd, Totnes, TQ9 5RS)
Follaton - Rotherfold - Station - opp Seven Stars (Seven Stars stop/pick up after 6.30pm only) running every 10/15 mins*
*This shuttle service is kindly funded by a Customer and Community Improvement Grant from Great Western Railway (GWR)
From sweeping Dartmoor views to riverside meadows buzzing with wildlife, there’s lots to discover when you walk in and around Totnes. Whether you’re looking for the best dog walk in Devon or a family-friendly stroll for pushchairs and scooters, here’s our top pick of walks in Totnes Devon.
Totnes to Dartington Walk
4 miles / 6km round trip (6 miles if you continue to Dartington Estate)
This accessible for all walk leads from Borough Park in Totnes to the Cider Press Centre at Dartington. Here you can pause to look around the shops and cafes, where you’ll find a strong focus on local makers and ingredients before retracing your steps back to Totnes. For a longer walk, carry on from The Cider Press Centre to Dartington Hall. Here you can visit their formal gardens, Deer Park and discover more places to eat.
Travelling along the River Dart, the path is mainly flat. There's a choice benches along the way to stop, relax and look out for birds and other wildlife. The path is ideal for pushchairs, scooters and bikes too. The extended walk from the Cider Press to Dartington Hall does involve a hill so may not be suitable for all. Click here for more information.
A popular walk from Totnes to Sharpham House and Ashprington (where you'll find a pub for a quick pit stop). The main path is firm and suitable for bikes and walking. There are some hills and this walk is considered moderate. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk as lots of wildlife make a home in the fields and reed beds beside the river. At Sharpham, turn around to enjoy the spectacular view of the river with Totnes in the distance. You'll also find a couple of benches along the way for a mid-walk rest or picnic.
Dogs are welcome on the path to Sharpham, however some parts cross a conservation area. As a result, owners are requested to keep dogs on leads in some places to avoid disturbing wildlife.
There is an option to turn this into a circular walk using the footpath which follows along the edge of the river.
The Franklin Totnes Trail is a 6 ¾ mile circular walk through the countryside which starts and ends in Totnes town centre. There are lots of interesting points and fine views along the way. The path is steep in places and it should take the average walker three to four hours to complete. If time is limited, there are options to shorten the walk by ¾ mile, 2 ¾ miles or 4 miles. This walk is suitable for dogs but be aware some paths are near roads.
If you're looking for a gentle walk in Devon, the Longmarsh Measured Mile is right for you. This mile long, easy walking route alongside the River Dart is flat and suitable for people using wheelchairs and buggies as well as scooters and bikes. It starts on the Plains in Totnes just by the roundabout and is ideal if you’re looking for a gentle stroll away from the hustle and bustle of town.
The Measured Mile is marked with purple stickers and there are waymarks at quarter mile intervals. From the Plains, turn right, cross the bridge, turn right at Seymour Rd, turn right at Steamer Quay Rd and follow the riverside path to its end at Longmarsh.
There is plenty to see along the way. You may spot Cormorants on the river bank and Seals often swim up river on the incoming tide from Dartmouth. Kingfishers are resident in the marshy area at Longmarsh behind the Measured Mile. The river can be busy with paddle boarders, rowing boats and ferries from Dartmouth and Torbay.
There are benches along the way as well as a cafe, car parking and public toilets. Dogs are welcome, especially in the wide green space at Longmarsh. However, please note parts of this walk are on pavements beside a road in the town.
As promoted on TV by Julia Bradbury, the Dart Valley Trail follows the course of the River Dart and links Dartington with Dartmouth, travelling through Totnes at the midway point. With many quaint villages and the magnificent Sharpham Estate along the way, there are plenty of picnic spots or refreshment stops on route. This walk can be also shortened into more manageable sections or cycled.
Dogs are welcome on the path to Sharpham, however some parts cross a conservation area. As a result, owners are requested to keep dogs on leads in some places to avoid disturbing wildlife.
Walks in Totnes Devon are not just about the countryside. Discover local legends and appreciate the fine architecture and pretty streets on a 60-minute self-guided walk through town. Be warned, there’s a steep up-hill gradient as you climb up Fore Street and High Street. Luckily, there are also plenty of cafes to stop and rest and enjoy a cake and coffee!
Totnes is dog-friendly. You'll find water bowls located outside several shops when your four-legged pal needs a drink.
35 miles in its entirety or 18.5 miles from Cockington to Dittisham
For the more adventurous walker, the entire John Musgrave Trail is a 35 mile walk from Maidencombe (outside Torquay) to Brixham. The walk can be split into more manageable sections including from Cockington to Totnes (9 ½ miles) and Totnes to Dittisham (9 miles).
The walk from Cockington takes in Occombe Farm where you can stop at the cafe, the village of Marldon and the romantic ruins at Berry Pomeroy. The Dittisham section follows a similar path to the Dart Valley Trail and takes in many villages including Tuckenhay and Cornworthy.
Treat yourself to coffee and cake after your Totnes walk
Don’t forget to treat yourself to delicious coffee, cake, or smoothie after you've enjoyed our choice of walks in Totnes Devon. Check out our pick of cafes and restaurants in Totnes catering for every taste. For more inspiration on things to see and do, go to www.visittotnes.co.uk
Looking for the perfect spot to enjoy a refreshing dip in the River Dart or off the South Devon coast? Dive on in to discover our top 4 picks of the best places to go wild swimming in and around Totnes.
1) Just above the weir in Totnes
Location: On the Access for All path between Totnes and Dartington
Getting there: It’s a short 5-minute walk from Totnes Station or 10-15-minutes walk from the centre of town.
What to expect: Popular with local swimmers, the River Dart pools reasonably deeply at this spot just above the weir. You may be joined on your swim by Mandarin ducks, which live all along this stretch of the river. Also keep your eyes peeled for kingfishers because these are regularly spotted here. You’ll find a handy platform on the bank at this wild swimming spot in Totnes to make it easier to get in or out. This also makes it a popular location for launching kayaks and SUPs. Because it’s above the weir, you don’t need to worry about tidal currents. However, the river can flow quickly at times so check local conditions before you get in.
Location: Dartington Estate. Head down the concrete path (at the point where the road splits towards Aller Park and the Deer Park.)
Getting there: Dartington is a 2 mile walk or 7 minute drive from Totnes and there’s plenty of parking at Dartington Hall.
What to expect: There are lots of spots along the riverbank on the Dartington Estate where you can take a dip. The largest entry point is locally known as Dartington ‘Beach’ because of the gently shelving bank of shingle/sand. Dynamic Adventures launch their kayak trips from here and it’s a favourite spot to play and swim for families. With a beautiful meadow behind you and the South Devon Railway steam train track on the opposite river bank, it’s a great spot for a picnic too.
Getting there: Around a 20 minute drive from Totnes + 10 minutes walk from either Churston village or Broadsands Beach car park.
What to expect: With the sun shining you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in Greece. Swim in the crystal clear waters from this gently shelving pebble beach.
4) South Milton Sands, Thurlestone
Getting there: Approx 40-minute drive from Totnes with a small National Trust Car Park at the beach. Please be aware the beach is accessed via a narrow lane.
What to expect: Swim out to the iconic arch – the Thurlestone - which gives the neighbouring village its name. Back on the beach, relax and soak up the view towards Burgh Island. This dog-friendly beach is also perfect for the bucket and spade brigade thanks to the sand and fine shingle. Rockpools are exposed at low tide and it’s a popular beach for paddle boarders and kayakers too.
Stay on to watch the sunset: Grab a post swim pizza at Rockbox (during August) or get a drink and a bite at the South Milton Sands Café.
Check the water quality at beaches near Totnes using South West Water's WaterFit Live Map
Getting to Totnes
Train or bus: Totnes is a 30-minute train journey from Exeter, Plymouth and Torquay. The Gold Bus runs every 30 minutes and takes 50 minutes from The Strand, Torquay and 1 hour from Plymouth.
Driving: Totnes is a 40-minute drive from Plymouth and 50-minutes from Exeter. You’ll find a number of public EV charging points in the town.
If you’d like to arrive in style, The Dartmouth Steam and River Company operates boat trips to Totnes departing from Dartmouth and or hop aboard a steam train from Buckfastleigh with the South Devon Railway.
This August, enjoy the festival feeling every day in Totnes with lots of things to do and see. From music and puppet theatre to traditional fairground rides and a rather odd spotting competition, there’s something for all ages. Read on to discover our top pick of what’s on this summer in Totnes.
Totnes Summer Fair
What: Come to Totnes to enjoy a day of family fun and games at the Totnes Summer Fair:
– free traditional summer games (including hook-a-duck)
– vintage rides (including a children’s traditional carousel and swing boats)
What: Summer Sounds is a music-filled, action-packed series of events and concerts at St Mary’s and St John’s Churches. Running from Tuesday 15 August to Saturday 26 August, there are lunchtime concerts and daytime and evening events to suit all ages. Don’t miss “Come and Sing Musicals and More” for 10-14 year olds, Peter’s Puppets aimed at 4-9 year olds, or the St Mary’s Matronal Procession through the town.
Where: St Mary’s Church, High Street Totnes and St John’s Church, Bridgetown
When: 15-26 August 2023
For more information: www.stmarysandstjohnstotnes.org/summer-sounds-23
Totnes Odd Object Competition
What: Join the fun and see how many odd objects you can spot in the windows of shops and businesses in Totnes this summer. ‘Odd objects’ range from things like a paperclip in the sweet shop to a Lego mini-figure in the jewellers. There are even cash prizes for the most objects spotted!
Pick up your entry form from Arcturus Books 46 Fore Street – entry forms cost £1 with proceeds going to support the Totnes Carnival Christmas Lantern Procession.
Where: Throughout Totnes (check the list on the entry form and look in windows for signs).
When: 21 August to 2 September. You can complete the competition in your own time but be warned, some are fiendishly hard to spot!
For more information: Go to www.facebook.com/totnescarnival
Theatre Royal Plymouth Barn Dances
What: Theatre Royal Plymouth proudly presents ‘Barn Dances’, a family-friendly, toe-tapping experience with the talented Freedom Fields Ceilidh Band! Join them in Totnes this summer for an unforgettable evening of live music, dancing and delicious beer, cider and pasties. Suitable for all ages.
Where: Civic Hall, Totnes
When: Saturday and Sunday 5 and 6 August 2023. Choice of 12noon and 6pm performances on both days.
Flowing from two sources on Dartmoor, down to the sea at Dartmouth, Totnes is an important stop along the River Dart situated between the moors and the river's mouth. The town offers an excellent jumping off point for exploration of the river whether by foot, boat or canoe, and is the point where it becomes tidal.
Even for those who just want to admire the river without getting their feet wet there are many ways to enjoy the Dart, and many things Totnes has to thank the river for – and the two bridges crossing it.
Bridges and Bridgetown
Totnes Bridge has the honour of being the last bridge to cross the Dart before it reaches open sea, as plans to build a railway bridge across the river mouth from Kingswear to Dartmouth in the late 1900s never came to fruition.
There have been multiple bridges across the river in Totnes beginning with a river ford and evolving to the familiar stone bridge today. It was once a toll bridge that separated Bridgetown from Totnes until it was opened up on October 31st 1881 for everyone to cross.
A second bridge was built in 1982 and although less picturesque than the older bridge was necessary for the increasing amounts of traffic passing through Totnes and across the Dart. It is named the Brutus Bridge after the legendary founder of the town.
Whichever side of the bridge you're on there are many places to enjoy the river from. Vire Island is worth a visit for anyone looking for a nice spot to enjoy a picnic. Although not a proper island the 400m peninsula is named after the French town Totnes is twinned with (not Narnia) and is the perfect spot for contemplating the river from in the summer. And there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to eat or enjoy a drink in, high tide or low, rain or shine.
In addition to inspiring a few modern musicians Totnes has had its fair share of historic success stories. Whether it's the early exploration of Australia, or a connection to the inventor of the computer, the town has been home to important pioneers in their field. Below are four famous local heroes who have either lived in or were born in Totnes.
William John Wills
Visitors to the town may notice the Monolith that stands at the bottom of Fore Street. This is a monument to the explorer William John Wills, born in Totnes, the son of a local doctor. In 1861 he was part of an expedition that became the first to reach the Gulf of Carpentaria and cross Australia from North to South.
Although she wasn't born in Totnes the famous novelist Mary Wesley did call it her home, and while living in Totnes wrote ten bestsellers. During her lifetime she sold over three million copies of her books in total.
Although it's debatable whether Babbage was born in Totnes the farther of modern computing is definitely linked to the town. Not only was his Grandfather Benjamin Babbage the mayor of Totnes in 1754 but Babbage attended the King Edward VI Grammar school as well.
Last but not least Dorothy Elmhirst will be remembered for co-founding the Dartington Hall project with her husband Leonard. After buying the hall in 1925 the Elmhirsts set about restoring the place and turned it into a project that promoted progressive education and rural reconstruction.
As Totnes continues to be an inspiring place for artists, musicians, and innovators who knows what the future might hold for those born or living in the town today. Visitors can find out more about these local heroes by visiting Totnes museum, taking a stroll out to Dartington Hall or just walking around town.