Totnes in Devon is by far the cutest town I got to visit in Devon. (And there are many pretty little places in the county.) You wouldn’t think it judging by its size but it packs a punch with its alleys full of quirky décor shops, delicious cafes, wonderful fashion and beautiful museums and heritage houses. So here’s what to plan your day trip to Totnes in Devon England.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Top 15 Places to Visit in
- 1.1 1. Historic Places
- 1.2 2. Totnes Market
- 1.3 3. Totnes Castle
- 1.4 4. Totnes Glass
- 1.5 5. Totnes Museums
- 1.6 6. Fudge
- 1.7 7. Vintage Hunting
- 1.8 8. Décor Shopping
- 1.9 9. Fine Dining
- 1.10 10. Art Sampling
- 1.11 11. Country Hiking
- 1.12 12. Train Riding
- 1.13 13. Tea Time
- 1.14 14. Shopping Village
- 1.15 15. Grocery Shopping
- 2 Totnes Essential Tips
Top 15 Places to Visit in Totnes
1. Historic Places
One of the key buildings in Totnes town is the Old Guildhall, built in 1553. It has been through quite the changes, having been a priory (from 1088 onwards), a goal and now a wedding venue. It’s open for visits from spring to autumn.
Walk up to Totnes Gate and then into the Ramparts Walk of the old town wall. You will find yourself in the garden and former cemetery of St Mary’s Church. Especially in spring, this place is excessively pretty with the low hanging flowering trees, some daffodils and bluebells.
Don’t shy away from stepping into the beautiful old Parish church and admire its 15th century architecture. The tower is 120 feet high and is made from local Devon sandstone.
2. Totnes Market
Visit Totnes on Friday and Saturday to get to see the market in Totnes. At the outdoor markets, you can buy all kinds of trinkets, fresh produce as well as antiquities and vintage clothes. From June to September, the markets are open on select Tuesdays as well. They are located in the Civic Square at the top of town just near the High Street.
3. Totnes Castle
Funnily enough, you can easily overlook Totnes Castle even though it sits right in the middle of town. I walked by it unknowingly (and I was actually searching for it. Or is that just my scatterbrain at work?)
Anyway, there are two ways to get close. One is through a side street branching off from the main shopping road. But it’s residential and there is no path up. So you can just admire the castle’s backside from below, basically.
Instead, get onto Castle Street from Station Road. The official entrance will lead you up to the old structure and for a £5.00 entrance fee, you can get inside.
Budget Tip: Get the English Heritage Pass for non-UK residents, which gives you unlimited access within 6 or 19 days on over 100 English Heritage sites across the country.
4. Totnes Glass
The South West’s largest ceramic studio sits right in Totnes and is called China Blue. Here, you can buy beautiful samples but also get crafty yourself.
Why not paint your own pottery or fuse glass? You can sign up for a workshop with glass artist Steve Robinson and get unique insider tips.
5. Totnes Museums
Totnes in Devon England has a few intriguing museums to choose from. First and foremost is the Totnes Elizabethan House and Museum, where you can dive into the local history. It’s located in a restored my pinterest historical merchant’s house from 1575.
It hosts various collections, some dating back to 5000 BC. There is a Tudor kitchen and in the Elizabethan Forehall you can get a glimpse into life during Elizabethan and Jacobean times.
Then, there is the Totnes Fashion & Textiles Museum. If you are a connoisseur of period attire, this is your place to be. It houses the Devonshire Collection of Period Costume featuring outfits from the 18th-20th century, including formal and informal dresses and uniforms.
Besides the permanent collection, there is a temporary, annual exhibition at Tudor Merchant’s House in Totnes. This year, there is a Pop up Summer Exhibition Women through the War displayed in the museum.
Do you love fudge, too? Get yourself straight to Roly’s Fudge. I tried like 6 different flavours and loved them all. Needless to say, the bag of various pieces I bought to sample over the next few days magically emptied within an hour. I have zero self discipline when it comes to sweets… Did I mention they have vegan fudge?
7. Vintage Hunting
Vintage shopping is easy in Totnes. There are a few charity shops with newer pieces as well as proper vintage and thrift stores with retro pieces, such as Revival, Not Made in China and Antique Co.
I am no expert and wouldn’t be able to date anything or properly assess quality but there were really interesting pieces. Tophats, 20s flapper dresses, army uniforms and more. Totally worth checking out even for the feeling of admiring fashion from different times.
8. Décor Shopping
Let’s be honest here. If I could, I would’ve moved into a few of the local stores. They were just so pretty and looked like come to life from my pinterest dream boards. Super cute and modern designs, quirky and colourful or just tongue-in-cheek decorative pieces, you’ll find it.
Plus, there are plenty of funny greeting cards, novelty gifts and even furniture. Definitely calculate in time to step into these wonderful stores. Some of my favourites were: Love Frankie, Things I Like and Gazebo. The main areas for independent shops are The Harrows, High Street and Fore Street.
9. Fine Dining
Food is a big part of the town centre. But where to start choosing from Totnes restaurants? Well, first what do you feel like eating? For locally sourced food, take a seat by the river at Waterside Bistro.
Are you environmentally conscious and all about sustainability? Totnes is too and has created a campaign enlisting many local stores to abdicate from using plastic straws and offering refill stations.
Feel like sampling local red wines? Head down to Sharpam House. Get tour and tasting vouchers and wine tasting sessions online to book your spot on a preferred date.
10. Art Sampling
There are art galleries as well, exhibiting local talent, predominantly with water colours but also sketches and figurines. They are really quite stunning and make for beautiful pieces to display on your wall.
For unique designs printed on dinnerware, lampshades and pillows, try the store Little Blue Budgie. I seriously fell in love with so many designs and prints. It’s good if you set yourself a budget so you don’t get choice paralysis.
11. Country Hiking
Walk for 30 minutes and you are petty much out in nature. There are quite a few country walks and public footpaths to choose from. If you want to know more, scroll down to the special hiking in Totnes section below.
12. Train Riding
Do you get easily excited over trains? Then you gotta try the steam train ride with South Devon Railway. It’s the longest established steam railway and in 2019, it’s actually its 50th anniversary. The rail line was built in 1872 and stretches seven miles through the river valley.
Along the way, you can see Buckfastleigh and Buckfast Abbey as well. A ticket includes access to Totnes Rare Breeds Farm and Dartmoor Otters & Buckfast Butterflies, too. There are dining train experiences and special train events as well. Check the calendar.
13. Tea Time
There are lots of restaurants but likewise smaller cafes with amazing cakes. Gelato can be enjoyed at Roly’s Fudge, Hill House Coffee Shop or Delphini’s Gelato. For a classic afternoon tea, visit Greys Dining Room, which is rather eclectic in style and therefore excessively charming.
14. Shopping Village
You see, Totnes is perfect for shopping – whatever you are searching for. If the local stores and the market aren’t enough, try the Dartington Shops. They are close to Dartington Hall and you can take the bus or walk over here (which takes about an hour).
The shops are located in beautiful old buildings and offer Dartington Crystal, handmade crafts and accessories, for instance. You can also sample local cider and Elmhirst Gin at the Food Hall. There is a café as well as plenty of events and activities to attend throughout the year.
15. Grocery Shopping
This one seems a bit silly but if you are staying in smaller nearby villages or even smaller towns, such as Ashburton (I did), you will love this. Totnes has a few smaller and bigger supermarkets and grocery stores.
This way, you can stock up your fridge, sample all kinds of British sweets and get a good selection of whatever products you require. There are many drugstores and pharmacies as well if you need hygiene products as well as beauty products.
Totnes Essential Tips
If you get here with the earliest bus, you can start your Totnes trip at 8:25am with a hike to the Longmarsh Nature Area as most shops won’t be open just yet. After your return, explore the many shops around The Plains and Ticklemore and walk up through Fore and High Street towards Totnes Castle.
Enjoy some lunch in the area and then you can continue your walk towards Dartington Hall and the nearby shops. If you are keen, you can take the local bus 165 to town and switch into bus 149. (Neither are included in the Stagecoach Explorer day ticket.) The closest bus stop is Berry Pomeroy school. From there, it’s a 20 minute country and forest walk.
It will be quite a packed day with this and it’s a good idea to check bus schedules to not have to wait another hour. Be aware of the lat bus leaving town, which is usually at 6pm. Check the downloadable timetable for bus line 88 here.
Berry Pomeroy is an English Heritage site and therefore included in the English Heritage Pass.
There are multiple beautiful Totnes hikes to choose from, depending on your preferred length and difficulty. For an easy stroll, walk down the eastern banks of River Dart past Vire Island towards the Longmarsh Nature Area and its river walk. It takes about 23 minutes from the Totnes rail station.
Near the Totnes Rowing Club, you can find the former rifle range, which is now conserved for local wildlife. Be aware that the path might be muddy albeit mostly level. If you’re lucky and quiet, you might even spot a kingfisher.
Alternatively, walk up to Dartington Hall only is an 8 km round trip. That’s roughly an hour one way and perfect for spotting wild birds. If that’s your thing, then check out the sandbank below the weir during low tide. You could potentially see an otter, too.
There are Deer Park trails around the Dartington Estate as well as beautiful gardens. Both are free. For the shorter walk around the Deer Park, schedule in 30 minutes. For the longer, it’s roughly 90 minutes. Download the map here.
It takes a little over an hour (and there is somewhat of a climb) to reach Sharpham House in the southern bends of the river. This estate is made for wine lovers. You can sample a deep red and pair it with a platter of cheese while overlooking the vinyards. French Riviera feelings guaranteed.
For a local castle besides Totnes Castle, strut towards Berry Pomeroy Castle. The hike takes about 46 minutes and there is a small incline. You can take the bus if you feel like doing only a one way hike as you do have to walk next to the busy main road.
The bus 149 towards The Willows takes around 30 minutes Get on o Royal Seven Stars Hotel (Stop E) and get off at “school”. If you decide to walk, it would take an hour. From Totnes to Berry Pomeroy Castle it’s 9 minutes by taxi.
For a scenic hike through the town of Totnes and its neighbouring villages, get on the Franklin Totnes Trail. Download the official map here. The 11km round trip, which takes between 3-4 hours. It includes the historic Fishcheater’s Lane and tranquil country walks along Jackman’s Lane.
To fully explore the city and make the most out of its offerings, why not find places to stay in Totnes for at least a night or two? Right opposite the main bus stops in Totnes is Royal Seven Stars Hotel. It’s on the fancy side of Totnes accommodation and has reasonable prices.
It has been a guest house ever since the 17th century and is beautifully kept with tasteful rooms and comfortable beds. There is free Wifi throughout the hotel, parking and rooms are ensuite. The hotel features its own restaurant, called TQ9, and traditional saloon-style bar, Bar 7. Reserve your room here.
On a similar budget for hotels in Totnes Devon, you can stay in a cottage, too. At 2 Mill Cottages, you can chill in the gardens and on the terrace in a beautiful location 6km outside of Totnes. It’s great if you have a car as there is free parking.
Rooms come equipped with a TV, a lounge area and free toiletries and a hair dryer. The lovely couple running the cottages are very helpful and knowledgeable of the area. Don’t be afraid of asking them for local tips! Book your stay soon as spots are limited.
Fancy staying at Dartington Hall? It’s actually half the price than staying in town, so why not? You’ll feel a little bit like in Downtown Abbey. It’s so beautiful and quiet here. With a taxi/car, it’s only 8 minutes to the train station if you don’t want to walk for an hour.
Rooms are super elegant, there are pretty gardens and you have access to the onsite restaurant, which offers an a la carte menu made with regional produce. Secure your spot here.
Totnes Packing Essentials
Since you will be doing a lot of walking – and a lot of it will be on cobblestones – pack comfortable walking shoes. No need for fancy heels or flats. You’ll regret it. City sneakers will do.
However, if you venture into nature, wear real hiking shoes or hiking boots on colder days. (On every trip I do, I always pack these wonderful shoes. I basically live in them.) Be prepared for very muddy terrain and spray your shoes with waterproof spray beforehand.
On that note, it’s a smart idea to have a water- and windproof jacket ready or at least a poncho. The weather is still very much influenced by the nearby sea, so you can expect fickle weather at times. And rain usually comes with wind, which means umbrellas won’t last long anyway.
Another important item to pack if you do decide to hike and don’t shy away from walking through or close to the grass and woods, be aware of the potential of ticks. The nasty little buggers just love to suck up to you and I’ve encountered some difficulty in procuring a tick tweezer (unless it’s for pets).
So definitely pack one before you leave for your trip. You can get the long tweezers, which are great to reach even harder-to-reach places on your body. (Getting them out is so tricky if you do it yourself!) For getting even super small tick nymphs out, the tick cards are the way to go. Or get a set of two different tweezers.
I had this kind of tweezer with me but it proved to be a pain to use, so I don’t recommend it.
Also: avoid using regular tweezers or – heaven forbid – your finger nails. You’ll just kill the tick and make it so much worse. Here’s a quick and handy guide on how to deal with ticks if you need more info.
How to Get to Totnes by Public Transport
From Newton Abbot or Ashburton to Totnes Devon, you can take the bus 88. You can download the stagecouch app and pay through there. Or get your ticket from the bus driver. You can pay cash or with a credit card or apple pay.
For a day trip, get a return ticket, which is cheaper than two singles. Should you want to explore more of the region that day, get the daily rider ticket. It costs £9.30 for adults. More infos on local tickets here.
Even cheaper is the Explorer ticket, which allows unlimited travel all day on Stagecoach South West services on the day of issue. It costs £8.30 for adults and you can get it online or on the bus.
More Devon Exploration
If you are basing yourself in Totnes or want to explore more of the region, here are some more travel guides I created:
Is Totnes in Devon UK Worth a Visit?
Totnes in the United Kingdom is definitely well worth a day trip at least. I really enjoyed my day trip and love coming back for more. Plus, there are a few bluebell spots around. So if you come in spring, there is plenty to fall in love with.