Ashburton (Devon, UK) is a rural town with a distinctive charm. It might not be big by any means but it has quite the variety on offer. From outdoor activities to refined cuisine over to vintage shopping, there are a lot of things to see in Ashburton. Here are 15 as well as more travel tips for Ashburton in Dartmoor National Park.
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What to Do in Ashburton UK
1. Become a Master Chef
One of the main reasons for visiting Ashburton is its renowned cooking school. You can take half, full day, weekend or 5-day courses in various disciplines at the Ashburton Cookery school.
Maybe try your hand at patisserie or focus on fish & seafood cuisine. There are over 40 courses with 3 skill levels to choose from. The location is central with lessons either being in East Street or at Linhay Business Park.
2. Do a Country Walk
There are plenty of Ashburton walks you can do, both easy and a bit more challenging. No need to get all up on Dartmoor to get your hiking or afternoon stroll fix. Here are my personal favourites:
Ashburton Down (1.5h circular walk from Ashburton, 6.5km)
This is a great place to spot bluebells at the end of April/beginning of May. Sheltered among beautiful woods and fenced in to protect it from being trampled on, there is a small bluebell meadow right at the Northern tip of these Ashburton woods.
But really at any other time, these woods are simply enchanting. You’ll get to walk through a few meadows along a bubbling stream and then into ancient woodlands. Gnarly oaks, huge holly trees line the walk.
It’s mostly even, only the northern part leads up a hill and then down. It gets easier if you take the circular walk clockwise. You can also avoid the climb by just taking the same path back.
The view from the top is decent but not sweeping, so you wouldn’t be missing out on much. The woods are amazing though.
Terrace Walk (35min circular walk, 2.57km)
A nice little walk with beautiful views over the rolling hills behind Ashburton can be had from the Terrace Walk. You can meander through the suburbs in a sheltered little tunnel walk lined by leafy trees and then step onto a sheep meadow.
There are various trails you can take. The most straightforward one is the upper one with the sweeping views. Alternatively, you can walk down and join the trail towards Ashburton Downs if you want or just walk at the foot of the hill back to Ashburton.
You can’t miss the exit coming this way either. If you started this easy hike from the centre of Dartmoor’s Ashburton, however, you would need to keep a close look on the stone wall to your right. After The Victoria Inn and opposite the following stone bridge is the small entry up to the terrace.
The 10 Commandments (80 mins one way walk, 2.7km)
Be prepared for quite an uphill walk until you reach Buckland Beacon. The walk up is along not so busy roads, partially sheltered by trees and there is a random tower and deserted building hidden in the forest along the way as well.
Once you are on Buckland Commons, however, trees are scarce and the sun may shine down quite a bit. So definitely wear sunscreen and a hat. Also, it can get muddy here.
You can’t miss Buckland Beacon as it is a slightly elevated granite tor and marked by a few trees. Once you get here, you see two slabs of stones onto which the 10 commandments were chiseled in 1927/8.
It got its name ‘beacon’ (as opposite to ‘tor’) from the fact it served as a fire beacon. Sadly, the area below it actually did burn down some time ago and hasn’t fully recovered yet. There is a small car park at Cold East Cross in case you prefer to drive or be driven here.
Bowden Hill (40 mins circular walk, 1.7km)
This is a simple walk with pleasant views over the valleys near Ashburton underneath shady tree canopies. In spring, bluebells around here show a bit earlier than up on Dartmoor.
It’s a very quiet walk with a short stretch on the road. But other than that, you have a tranquil countrywalk. I’ve never met anyone else on this walk, so this is good if you need a minute for yourself.
Start your walk at St Andrew’s Church and walk past the rows of houses onto Bowden Hill. Take the right turn at the crossing towards Lavender House and then right again into the country lanes and back into town.null
Pennsland Lane (2h circular walk, 6.6km)
This walk is an extension of the Ashburton Downs walk. Walk up through Ashburton Woods and then take to the left after crossing the Ashburn River via the small footbridge and then turn right towards Lower Bowdley.
After about a 10 minute walk up the gentle hill, turn into the public bridleway onto Pennsland Lane. It will lead you past pastures and into woodland. There are bluebells hidden along the pathway and a beautiful old bridge across the river. It’s perfect for a longer afternoon walk.
3. Explore Antiquities
If there is one type of stores prominent in Ashburton, Devon, it’s antiquity stores. Ashburton has the highest concentration of antiquity stores in England! Get yourself an Antiques Trail map to see the various stores highlighted but you can’t possibly miss them. They are all clearly advertised and lined the main shopping street as well as a few side alleyways.
Some are just tiny rooms stacked with vintage gems to the ceiling, with paintings spilling out onto the streets. Others are more like museums with multiple rooms begging to be explored and shelves upon shelves of both small and bigger finds.
You can get anything from furniture to retro photography and high quality vintage jewellery. Really take your time to explore the many crooks and nooks of these charming stores.
4. Enjoy Tea Time
You can’t be in England and not enjoy classic afternoon tea with some traditional British desserts and pasties. A great place to have it in a cute, traditionally English café style is at Taylors. This is a small but classy little establishment with a nice view over the street (good for people watching) and tasty cakes.
The selection is freshly made and on display by the window, so you know exactly what to get. There are special tea time deals, so you can enjoy a freshly brewed cup of tea and a scone.
5. Dine in a Library
Remember when you couldn’t eat in a library? Well, not this one. This former-librarby-turned-restaurant is made for foodies. It’s right by the tourist information and since it’s just one room, come early to snatch a seat.
It’s cosy and prettily decorated here. There is a morning and afternoon/evening menu. The avocado croissant was fantastic, for instance.
6. Check out Bluebells
Of course, if you’re in town during bluebell season, you should drop everything and admire this charming little flower, if you ask me. (Disclaimer: I am positively obsessed.) Check out the country walks I put together above to see them.
But also keep your eyes open as they are popping up through hedges and in people’s front lawns. There are fine specimen all over Dartmoor with the most amazing displays being Holwell Lawn at the end of May. But you don’t have to get up on the moor to see them. Here are the top 20 walks for bluebells in Devon.
7. Buy Fresh Bread
Imagine the smell of freshly baked bread and the feel of a giant loaf in your hands. Sounds good? Head to Ella Artisan Bakery from Wednesday to Saturday.
They bake everything fresh everyday and once they sell out, they close. So get there early for the best selection! You’ll be greeted by wonderful smells directing you to the blue entrance.
8. Indulge in chocolate at Moor Chocolate
Chocoholics, rejoice! You’ve found your happy place at the small store Moor Chocolate. As the name suggests, it is entirely dedicated to the art of making chocolate.
You can taste chocolate from around the world but also, of course, traditional British confectionary as well as handmade Devon truffles. There are vegan chocolate bars as well.
9. Treat yourself to fresh seafood at The Fish Deli
Are you more of a seafood lover? Step into the small fish-themed deli. You can buy fresh, locally sourced fish, seafood dishes to go as well as decorative pieces for your kitchen.
There are mugs with octopus prints, beautiful dinnerware and other fish-related merch and books to be purchased at this store.
10. Go Horse riding
The Dartmoor ponies are iconic, but they are wild. So don’t approach and definitely never touch them. If you love horses, you can take riding lessons or take a horse for a ride.
There are local places and tours that offer this. It’s a superb way to take in nature and exercise with an added cute animal factor.
11. Take E-bike Tours
As a viable alternative to hiking, bus touring or horse riding, you can rent a bike to explore the region. To nearby towns outside of Dartmoor, the routes are mostly even and it’s easy to ride around. There are many tracks for that, so there’s no need to drive on the road.
If you should want to get up on Dartmoor, an e-bike is a sensible option. The height difference can easily be between 100 and 400m. That would be rather tough with a regular bike and no prior practice. Check prices here.
12. Join Steam Train Rides
First up: Ashburton doesn’t have an official train connection anymore. That one permanently shut down in 1962 and a road was built on top of the former tracks.
However, train fans will delight in the historic steam train rides that pass through nearby Buckfastleigh and go all the way to Totnes. You can book a regular ride or wait for a special event with the South Devon Railway.
13. Do Wine and Whiskey Tastings
Besides tasty food, Dartmoor also provides an excellent choice in fine wines, gins and whisky thanks to the cool climate, which helps mature the drinks. For instance, local gin brands include Dartmoor Beast Gin, Black Dog Gin and Papillon Gin.
Join a tasting tour at Dartmoor Whiskey distillery at 11am or 2pm in nearby Bovey Tracey. You need to prebook via phone or mail. If you don’t feel like leaving town, sample local wines, gins and ales at the Jaded Palates wine store in town.
14. Visit Edgy America
You wouldn’t expect it but there are edgy dining facilities to be has in quaint Ashburton as well. Escape the small town feel and step into Rust & The Wolf for industrical chic. It’s a super instagrammable foodie spot/store.
You can stock up on leather jackets, painted skulls and metal jewellery before sitting down and eating SoCal-Mexican-Asian fusion dishes next to pink neon lights. It’s a really cool atmosphere in here.
15. Be Pampered
There is no need to forgo a relaxation day when in Ashburton. The Haven Health Clinic offers beauty and spa treatments. Feel like a Queen! Plus, there are local services offering meditation sessions, massages and hair and nail beauty treatments.
16. Go Caving
For the more adventurous visitors, why not go down into the earth? There are caves around Ashburton and tour options for caving adventures.
You don’t have to have prior caving experience to join in on a tour. The sessions are run by experienced and qualified Local Cave/Mine Leaders at Pridhamsleigh Cave close to Buckfastleigh.
17. Go to Church
Ashburton as a few churches, such as St Andrews and St Lawrence. The former sits to the southwest of the town and you can’t miss it. There is a small graveyard at its back and a beautiful, tall pine tree growing in its front yard, inviting you for some quiet reflection time after a busy day.
The origins of the church date back to the 12th century but it was rebuilt 3 centuries later. The tower is 92 feet tall, by the way.
Pretty close to St Andrews is the pastel yellow-coloured Methodist Church. Like the other two Ashburton churches, it is still in use but this one is now an arts centre. It serves as a hangout spot for live perfomances, local theatre societies and community groups.
18. Invest in Art
Ashburton has its own small art galleries, such as White Wood, Sherewood Gallery and Ashburn Gallery. You can support local talent through your purchases. Get your fix of local scenes through paintings and photographs.
19. Have a Quick Swim
On hot days, diving into cool wet waters sounds super appealing. Good thing Ashburton has its very own public outdoor pool. It is open daily for general and lanw swims. There are even women only hours. AquaFit workouts in the water are run a few times a week.
20. Go on Coastal Day Trips
Ashburton is in Dartmoor, which should be explored extensively. But it would be a shame to miss out on a coastal breeze and the calm of the ocean as it’s so close!
Jump on a bus to Newton Abbot to catch a train along the coast. To Dawlish Warren National Park (and its beaches) it’s only 4.20 GBP, for example.
Alternatively, you can take the bus all the way to the Plymouth cliffs, Teignmouth harbour or Brixham for a day at the coast. There are many options and it takes roughly an hour to travel by public transport. With a car, it’s faster.
Ashburton Travel Tips
There are only a few Ashburton hotels and BnBs. But there are plenty more hotels near Ashburton in Devon. If you have a car that’s no problem. I found a wonderful little ensuite cottage room through airbnb, which allowed me to get a great deal for a monthly stay. (Here’s a $25 voucher if you’ve never used airbnb before.)
If you want to stay right in wonderful Dartmoor National Park with sweeping views over nature and away from town life, Torns Park is your ideal haven. This holiday home offer utmost peace and offers multiple bedrooms with either double or twin bed options.
Well lit and with a modern interpretation of country chic, your hotel room will simply charm you. There is free parking and free Wifi as well as a kitchen with dishwasher and washing machine, perfect for a longer stay. Reserve your room here.
Fancy staying in a historic townhouse right by central East Street? You can’t miss Golden Lion House thanks to the impressive entrance guarded by lion statues. It dates back to 1768 and is a well known Ashburton landmark.
There are barbecue facilities, a garden and terrace. Enjoy free parking and wifi. You also have acces to a kitchen and lounge room with pool table. The holiday home has only seven rooms, so book early here.
For a modern farmhouse experience, check into Hazeldene. Rooms are ensuite and come with pitched ceilings, exposing the original roof beams. You have access to a fully equipped kitchen with Nespresso coffee maker. There is also a flatscreen TV as well as free Wifi.
You can soak up the sun in the stone walled garden, have a barbeque on the terrace or read a book in the stylish living room. Book your stay here.
What to Pack
Dartmoor is hiking territory. This means, you gotta pack hiking shoes (waterproof them with a spray beforehand) and a proper hiking outfit. This should include breathable socks, comfy hiking pants or leggings, a wind- and waterproof jacket and potentially a hat or cap.
On sunny days, don’t be deceived by the mild temperatures. The sun will burn, so wear sunscreen. Be aware that ticks might hitch a ride, so bring tick tweezers with you. The local pharmacy didn’t stock it when I asked.
Are you a passionate travel photographer? Don’t forget your camera as well as a polarizing filter to crank the sky’s blues out as well as a microphone with wind shield in case you want to film/vlog as well. Drones aren’t allowed on Dartmoor without a special permit.
How to Travel Ashburton
Getting around Ashburton is easy to do on foot. It’s not big. But they have a few bus stops around town but you have to keep a sharp look out to spot them. The main bus stop is at bullring, near the crossing and public toilets at the rural town’s heart.
Hourly buses going through Ashburton are lines 88 and X83, which will take you to Newton Abbot, Totnes, Plymouth and Exeter. The best deal to visit multiple places in a day throughout Devon is through the Day Rider bus pass.
There are no trains available. Taxis to Dartmoor or Newton Abbot around 17-25 GBP.
Is Ashburton Worth a Visit?
I say, yes! It’s a small rural town. So if you want to escape bug city bustle and enjoy nature as well as food, this place is perfect.
It feels very quiet at times but there are quite a few things to do and there are good options of visiting nearby places. Just be sure to check timetables as buses leave only hourly. I definitely want to come back.
More from the UK Blog:
- Where to go in Totnes, Devon
- Best bluebell hotspots in Devon in April/May
- Bluebell spots around London and Greater Area