Once chosen as one of the world’s top 10 funkiest towns by no less than the British Airways magazine, High Life, there are numerous reasons to choose cottages in Totnes as your South Devon holiday accommodation. Whether you’re a history lover hell bent on visiting the town’s authentic medieval castle or the not so authentic Elizabethan market, a new ager making a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Transition Town or just an easy going holidaymaker looking to spend an afternoon drifting round the cafés and shops, there are plenty of reasons to visit this beautifully formed little town during your South Devon holiday.
Where to rent cottages in Totnes
Your primary decision has to be whether you want to be in Totnes itself, where you could be in easy walking distance of the High Street or whether you want to book a cottage in one of the pretty villages that skirt the town including Dartington, Ashprington, Staverton or Stoke Gabriel.
Places to see
Totnes Castle is the obvious choice for many. A Norman motte and bailey built during the reign of William the Conqueror, it’s now operated by English Heritage so expect an entrance fee. The grounds are beautiful and a great place for kids to let loose on a summer’s day.
Toward the bottom of the High St, located close to the magnificent Cranch’s Sweet Shop, there’s the Brutus Stone, allegedly put there by Brutus of Troy the mythical founder of Great Britain and nearby Totnes Museum makes for an interesting and diverse history of the town and its inhabitants. There’s a frustrating lack of large open spaces in town but the recently opened Leechwell Gardens is a little oasis of green in the town centre while Vere Island by the river is a good place to sit and watch the world go by.
Things to do
Totnes has a reputation as a centre for new age thinking and ecology and many people rent cottages in Totnes specifically to take part in courses run by the Transition Network and at Schumacher, a world renowned centre for education on sustainable living, or to join the numerous courses on alternative therapies, yoga, meditation and others that take place here.
Totnes is also well-known for its markets with a regular Friday and Saturday market as well as the Totnes Food Market on the third Sunday of every month which has been rapidly increasing in popularity. The town is pretty good for shopping in general with some great food shops (Riverford, Green Life, Seeds Bakery and others) and myriad gift shops as well as a rather good independent record shop (www.thedriftrecordshop.co.uk).
Kids will enjoy the Rare Breeds Farm that’s just outside town near the railway station where you can take a trip on the South Devon Railway to Buckfastleigh, There are regular ferries along the River to Dartmouth and back and the walk from Totnes to Ashprington is a fantastic way to see the river (and an excuse to visit Sharpham Vineyard)
There’s also China Blue, which is one of those places where kids can paint ceramics. It’s expensive and it always sets my nerves on edge with all those breakable items but if it’s raining and you’re at the end of your tether…
Restaurants in Totnes
Locals know Rumour as something of an enigma in that it’s full virtually all the time at any time of year – I’ve seen them turn tables three times on a Wednesday night in February. They also do take away pizza if you forget to book a table in advance. Tangerine Tree Café is another hotspot for coffee and lunch while the Barrel House across the road is something of a Totnes institution – the burgers and full English breakfasts are my choices – they also have gigs on in the evening. Willow is a pretty outstanding vegetarian restaurant and again it pays to be there early at lunchtime, particularly in South Devon holiday season (those renting cottages in Totnes for a week or longer should note there’s a very popular curry night there every Wednesday.)
Pubs in Totnes
There are some good pubs in town – the Kingsbridge is starting to earn back its lost reputation while the Bay Horse is popular with ale drinkers and music fans alike. Rumour has a good selection of wine as well as Belgian beers and the Albert in Bridgetown is proper old-fashioned pub with a typically non-conformist Totnes style.
If you do one thing in Totnes…
If you’re only here for a day and the weather’s fine the castle is a must. The views over the town and the Dart are incredible.