Sir Francis Drake is famous for many things – he helped defeat the Spanish Armada, brought the potato to England, and when he wasn’t messing round with spuds inadvertently started Totnes’s famous orange race.

On the third Tuesday of every August crowds gather to watch participants chase their juicy citrus fruits down the high street. And it all started when Drake didn’t dodge a delivery boy.

A juicy legend

The story goes that Sir Francis Drake bumped into a delivery boy carrying a basket of oranges at the top of town, sending the citruses tumbling down the hill. Because oranges were an exotic and expensive fruit at the time all the town’s children decided to chase after them and a legend was born.

Another version of the story, which identifies the boy as John Hayman, says that Drake offered him an orange which he dropped (perhaps in surprise as he had not seen an orange before) and let roll down the hill.

It wasn’t until the 1970s however that the first modern race was held, organised by the Totnes Elizabethan society.

Orange Tuesdays

Although the origins of the race may be legendary, the one rule is very real – competitors cannot carry their orange. They can however kick, throw, or roll it to get ahead. And if you’re wondering how judges tell the oranges apart they don’t – the rule is simply that the first person to cross the finish line with an intact orange wins.

The course runs for 450 metres from the Market Square and everyone is welcome to join. Younger participants race from the top of the high street and finish at the market square, for older ones the finish line is at the Seven Stars hotel. Winners get trophies and the satisfaction that they can run faster than a piece of fruit, and afterwards a charity auction is held.

Of course oranges aren’t quite as valuable now, and if you don’t fancy running down the hill after one you can walk into one of the town’s food shops and find a zesty treat.

You may be interested in...

Romance in Totnes

In the wise words of Ghandi, ‘Where there is love there is life’...well we believe that love is in the air all year round here in Totnes, but if you want to get particularly romantic around Valentine’s or just spend time with your family or friends during the school holidays we have lots of charming things to do. With the sentimental day itself falling into February Half Term there are many attractions open offering you the chance to spend a delightful day doing something a little bit different. I mean surely there’s nothing more romantic than taking a ride on an old steam train?! Running along the stunning valley of the River Dart between Buckfastleigh and Totnes, the South Devon Steam Railway is perfect for couples, families and friends and offers a great day out whatever the weather. If you want to get creative (and escape the rain if the weather doesn’t behave itself) you can visit China Blue and spend some time exploring the unique gift shop, treat yourself to a tempting treat in the cafe and of course paint your own ceramic souvenir or have a go at pot throwing. Alternatively on Valentine’s Day itself there is a 2 hour Evening Taster Class by Steve Robinson Glass at Coombe Park Craft Studios near Ashprington, where you can make a fused glass tealight panel to take home making the perfect experience and gift all in one. The class will run from 7 - 9.00 pm and costs £45 per person. You can’t beat the cinema for a few hours escapism and entertainment, and as one of the top dating destinations it’s a great place to take your Valentine or somewhere to meet up with friends. Totnes Cinema offers a unique and very romantic evening unlike any other. Playing films on a classic 35mm movie projector for authentic viewing and offering a fully licensed bar serving fine wine, local craft beer and themed cocktails within the cinema itself it offers a relaxed and intimate experience. The Valentine’s Day screening will be Baz Luhrmann’s passionate musical Moulin Rouge at 8.00 pm, or there is Romeo and Juliet on Sunday 11th February and Little Shop of Horrors on 16th if you prefer something more light-hearted. Alternatively, the quaint Barn Cinema sits in the stunning grounds of the Dartington Estate which will be playing A Woman’s Life at 8.00 pm on 14th February, a French tale of tormented love in 19th Century Normandy (subtitled). Why not combine this with a delicious meal at the White Hart Inn or one of the many other relaxed cafes, or take a walk around the beautiful gardens. There are many other pretty walks around Totnes if you’d like to take your loved one for a romantic stroll, with an interesting walk around the historic town or a gentle stroll along the banks of the River Dart, or if you’re feeling more adventurous there are longer routes to Sharpham or Dartington, all perfect for those hand-holding connections or view finding moments. For those who would like to be wined and dined, Totnes is full of interesting places to eat and drink. Whether you want the romance of a river view or the hustle of dining in the heart of the town there’s a wide range of dynamic cafes, intimate restaurants, cosy pubs and quirky bars to choose from for delicious meals, friendly drinks and family dining. Many places are offering special Valentine’s menus or have meals aimed at the little ones for the school holidays. Why not combine your trip with an overnight stay? There are plenty of places with rooms still available for the holidays or Valentine’s. And if you’re still looking for the perfect Valentine’s gift, Totnes is full of independent shops with unique, handmade items for that special someone. For more information please contact Samantha Branch on info@visittotnes.co.uk

Be an eco-tourist

Be an eco-tourist - by Blueriver Cottages

At Blueriver Cottages, we strive to make the right choices for environmental sustainability. In this blog, we offer a few suggestions so that our guests and other visitors to this beautiful area can help us to protect the local environment, wildlife and economy for all to enjoy!

How to go green

CONSERVE ENERGY
At your cottage, reduce energy by switching off lights and closing windows if heating is on. Please visit energysavingtrust.org.uk for more information on what you can do to save energy at home and when on holiday.

SUPPORT THE REAL LOCAL ECONOMY
Locally made crafts and souvenirs are not always cheaper, but purchasing them ensures your contribution to the economy will have a more direct and positive impact.

CLEANER JOURNEYS
Some destinations are just harder to reach, so consider renting a hybrid or hybrid vehicle. Walk, bike, or use public transportation to get around whenever possible.

SAY NO TO PLASTIC
Take a BPA-free water bottle you can refill over and over again at many eateries. Refuse plastic straws.

BEACH CLEANS
There are monthly beach cleans to take part in but you don’t have to wait for those - spend 10 minutes before you leave the beach to do your bit.

EAT LOCALLY SOURCED FOOD
Support the region’s farmers, get a more authentic taste of the cuisine and cut your carbon footprint even more.

TAKE AN EDUCATIONAL WALK
Totnes is the world’s first Transition Town. Take part in one of their walks to find more out about the pioneering projects.

RESPECT NATURE
Help us to look after the beautiful landscape and wildlife of our county by not littering, guarding against fire and using footpaths and cycle-ways responsibly. Ensure you follow the Countryside Code.


You can take a look at Blueriver Cottages’ collection of holiday homes in South Devon and Torbay by clicking here.


Totnes: Great British Breaks

The Devon market town has an eco outlook and vegan vibes

Why? This colourful Devonian market town is famed for its bohemian vibe, fierce independence and social innovation. But the pioneering Totnes Pound, which can only be spent in the town, is being taken out of circulation next Sunday, and the Lexus set are moving in. Locals say that times are a-changin’ — so visit now. You can read the article in full here.
Skip to content