Set halfway between moor and sea on the beautiful River Dart, the thriving town of Totnes is a South Devon gem. From spotting wildlife and having fun on the water to discovering hidden histories and enjoying the best local food, if you're looking for things to do and see in Devon, you'll find something for everyone with our insider guide to Totnes.
Meander along the streets to admire the town’s historic buildings in the shadow of the town’s majestic Norman motte and baileycastle. The medieval Dartington Hall and Gardens is a pleasant walk from the town centre. Totnes Museum is a treasure trove that's not to be missed.
Experience nature close up on holiday in Devon
Feeling adventurous? Hire a kayak or stand-up paddle board or join a guided canoe tour to spot local wildlife along the river. If you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, enjoy the choice of riverside walks to Dartingtonand Sharpham. Walks start and finish in the town.
If you like to shop, you’ll love the treasures on offer in the independent stores lining Totnes’ thriving high street. There’s a strong emphasis on local and handmade goods, with everything from fashion to fudge ready to tempt you. On Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year, the market square buzzes with over 50 stalls. These sell an eclectic mix of vintage collectibles, food, and crafts.
Totnes is a 25-minute drive from Torquay and a 40-minute drive from Plymouth. You’ll find a number of public EV charging points, including one at Morrisons supermarket, Coronation Road. The Gold Bus runs every 30 minutes and takes 50 minutes from The Strand, Torquay and 1 hour from Plymouth. Totnes is a 30-minute train journey from both Plymouth and Torquay.
If you’d like to arrive in style, The Dartmouth Steam and River Company operate boat trips to Totnes departing from Dartmouth and or hop aboard a vintage train from Buckfastleigh with the South Devon Railway.
Charity invests £1.6million in a new retreat venue at Sharpham
The Sharpham Trust is investing £1.6 million to convert a stable yard behind Sharpham House to a new centre for mindfulness courses and retreats.
The charity, which works to connect people to nature and themselves, has begun the creation of The Coach House - which will feature a new meditation space and 18 en-suite rooms.
The current, disused stableyard is a Grade II-listed building, dating back to 1760 when Sharpham House was built for the naval sea captain Philemon Pownoll.
Now work has begun to develop the single-storey quadrangle directly behind Sharpham House into a new retreat centre where participants can stay, amid historic grounds thought to have been landscaped by Capability Brown.
The Trust runs an annual programme of courses and retreats featuring mindfulness meditation and nature connection on the wider Sharpham Estate and on the adjacent River Dart.
“Prior to the pandemic we were finding that our programme was fully booked with long waiting lists,” said Trust Director Julian Carnell.
“As a charity we want to help as many people as possible and so creating more accommodation became a priority. The stable yard had become rundown and so there was a fantastic opportunity to give the building a new lease of life and restore it as part of the Sharpham Estate’s important heritage,” he said.
Retreats in The Coach House
The Coach House will join the Trust’s other retreat venues Sharpham House, The Barn Retreat and Woodland Campsite and it will offer a weekly programme for those in need of developing and deepening their mindfulness practice, compassion and their connection to nature.
Participants staying there will be able to spend a week living in community surrounded by the amazing natural environment of the Sharpham Estate.
They will spend time volunteering in the 18th century Walled Garden – helping to grow food for the retreats at Sharpham – and conserving the heritage and wildlife of the wider estate.
Helping 1,000 more people a year
Chairman of Sharpham’s Trustees Daniel Stokes said: “Our mission is to connect people to nature and foster mindfulness and wellbeing. There is now a plethora of research showing the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature.
“This project will enable us to help another 1,000 people a year, giving them a chance to spend time slowing down and reflecting in a beautiful natural setting,” he said.
Using local construction companies
The Trust is using South Devon firm Carpenter Oak to build the frame for an eye-catching glass structure linked to The Coach House which will be the new centre’s meditation and dining space.
Classic Builders, a local South West-based construction company, has been awarded the contract to convert the Coach House and hopes to complete the works by January 2022.
“We are delighted to be working with The Sharpham Trust on this significant local project. The Coach House is an important listed building, not only in a sensitive location but also next to Sharpham House. We’re looking forward to drawing on our years of experience delivering comparable works in similar settings to make this project a success,” said Adam Brimacombe, Director at Classic Builders.
The Trust has been busy over the last ten years developing its charitable programmes and refurbishing the heritage of its listed landscape and properties. Every year, some 2,000 people attend retreats, courses and events on the Sharpham Estate.
Our fish fingers are made using line caught pollack from Devon and are battered in panko breadcrumbs, dill and spices. Our katsu fillets are inspired by Aarik’s (owner and chef) time working in South-East Asia and are made with plaice landed in Brixham.
The takeaway is available every day from noon Tuesday to Saturday. We are located on Ticklemore Street in Totnes.
Totnes has always attracted forward-thinking businesses with social responsibility at the core.
Earth.Food.Love is the UK’s only, family-run, organic, bulk-buy, zero waste shop! Focusing on creating a better future, they decided to look back to the past, where eating real food with minimal packaging was normal practice. They believe returning to these simple ways will benefit not only our own health, but the planets too.
The shop stocks a wide range of products such as grains, cereals, beans, legumes, flours, sugars, herbs, spices, loose leaf teas, nut butters, syrups, oils, vinegars, cleaning products and personal care products. Everything is self served and priced by weight, eliminating the toxic and wasteful packaging. Just take along any bottle, jar, tub or container; if it can be weighed, it can be used.
Earth.Food.Love is located at 101 High St, to find out further information check out their website thezerowasteshop.
You can keep up to date by by liking their The Zero Waste Shop Facebook page.
The street performers of Totnes are as much a part of the town's character as its castle, shops, and quay, and while musical tastes may differ there's no denying that a few Totnesian troubadors have gone on to greater things. Below are two popular musicians you may have heard of but may not have known hail from Totnes, and one to watch out for.
Joe from Metronomy
Electronic music group Metronomy was formed by Joseph Mount in Totnes in 1999. In addition to being the lead singer, and playing keyboard and guitar, Joe releases remixes of songs by the likes of Gorillaz and Lady Gaga under the Metronomy name. In 2016 Metronomy released their latest album Summer 08 though it was 2014's Love Letters that delivered their highest chart position at number 7.
If the name of Metronomy's first album Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe) seems familiar it was inspired by the message painted onto old cars parked around town.
Although not born in Totnes, Ben's musical career did start here - one of his first musical gigs was in the Seven Stars Hotel. Since then Ben has released two critically acclaimed albums, Every Kingdom and I Forgot Where We Were. In addition to his musical achievements which include two BRIT awards and a number one album, Ben also has the honour of appearing on the Totnes £10 note.
Ben's clearly never forgotten his roots and Ben Howard Keep Your Head Up Video for 2011's 'Keep Your Head Up' was filmed at Dartington.
Busy working on his second album and one to watch out for Ryan Keen was a guitarist and songwriter for other musicians before starting his own career in 2009. You can find Ryan on Ryan Keen Twitter or listen to Ryan Keen's latest song 'Guidance' here.
With a thriving local music scene in Totnes and the South Hams the next big thing could be attending an open mic night near you, or even busking on the streets. So keep your eyes out and your ears open when you're walking down the high street.