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The market town of Totnes is situated on the River Dart estuary upstream from Dartmouth, in southern Devon in the south-west of England. It falls within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
With an active history dating back more than 1000 years, Totnes was most active and wealthy in the middle ages - hence the number of grander houses in the town dating from the later part of that period of prosperity, around the late 16th - early 17th centuries.
The town has a rich architectural heritage to discover, including the the medieval Church of Saint Mary, built in the characteristic local red sandstone; Eastgate, an entranceway bearing a clock that spans the High Street; the Butterwalk and Poultry Walk, attractive streets of tile clad houses that date back to Tudor times and have lowere level sheltered from the elements to protect medieval traders; the Guild Hall, another fine 16th century house; and some other fine examples of Tudor architecture. The River Dart is also crossed by a stone bridge in Totnes, dating from the 19th century at which time it replaced a much more ancient medieval bridge.
Visit the Totnes Museum, in a lovely 16th century town house, to see both the house itself and the extensive collection of items relating to the history of Totnes. Of topical interest in the museum is a room dedicated to Charles Babbage, the Victorian inventor credited with inventing the first 'computer' (Babbage was educated in a school in Totnes).
Totnes is especially well known for being a regional arts and bohemian centre, with numerous shops and facilities to support the 'industry' as well as a popular and lively market held twice a week (Friday and Saturday) where various arts, antiques and books are sold, along with many other items.
One unusual local curiosity is the Leechwell, a series of natural springs that have long been attributed healing powers and now also provides a focus for the New Age community. Another is the Brutus Stone (in Fore Street) - so called because Brutus, a Trojan Prince, reputedly discovered Britain here when sailing the globe after the Trojan War. His first step on British soil was onto this stone and is said to represent the founding of Britain as a nation.
Totnes Tourist Information centre is on Coronation Road (near the river) and have a detailed guide to all the attractions and highlights of your visit) and a suggested itinerary.
Totnes Castle stands on raised ground above the town. It is a Norman Motte and Bailey castle (ie built on a large mound surrounded by a defensive wall), with a good part of the original castle still intact, although much of what we see follows a 14th century refortifcation of the castle.
Local excursions from Totnes
A couple of popular ways to explore the region include:
- a boat trip along the Dart as far as Dartmouth
- the steam train ride to Buckfastleigh
Map of Totnes and places to visit
Totnes places to visit
See more places nearby in the Devon guide