“Here I stand and here I rest, and this good town shall be called Totnes”.
These are the words with which Totnes is said to have been founded by Brutus the Trojan while standing on Fore Street’s easily missed granite attraction – The Brutus Stone.

Brutus in Britain

According to the legend of the Brutus Stone the origins of Totnes stretch all the way back to ancient Troy. After accidentally killing his father Brutus set off to Greece with his army of followers, where he defeated the king Pendrasu. The king gave Brutus his daughter to marry, and 324 well-stocked ships, at least one of which ended up on the River Dart.

Following the advice of the oracle Diana, who suggested the Trojans should travel to an island in the Western Seas that was possessed by Giants, Brutus set sail for Great Britain – at the time called Albion.

It was on the Brutus stone that he made his proclamation after landing on Britain’s shores, undeterred by the giants and attracted to Totnes by its location and fish-filled rivers. Not only was Totnes named by Brutus, but it’s said he named Britain after himself.

Ice Age to New Age

The Brutus legend is recorded in several ancient books, though there’s little evidence to suggest any of it is true. The stone itself probably settled in its location during the great Ice Age, and may have been called several things which sounded similar to ‘Brutus’.

More recently, when Fore Street was widened in 1810, the stone was reduced in height from 18 inches above ground to the level of the pavement. Whether or not Brutus stood on the stone it’s a town custom that royal proclamations should be read there by the mayor.

No matter how true they are, the legends surrounding Brutus and the stone persist and are enjoyed to this day. Visitors to Totnes can see the stone in the pavement on their right-hand side when walking up Fore Street next to number 51.

You may be interested in...

48 hours in Totnes

Set in the heart of South Devon, between the wilds of Dartmoor and the sparkling waters of Start Bay, lies the bohemian market town of Totnes.

Easily accessible by train in under three hours from London, and with no need for a car while you’re there, Totnes is the perfect spot for a weekend break spent exploring the town’s independent shops and restaurants, fascinating markets and vibrant culture and music scene.

What’s more, a self-catering holiday property in Totnes with Toad Hall Cottages gives you the freedom to discover the town at your own pace, and after a long day exploring, you can relax and unwind in your very own home from home.


Day one
Having arrived and settled into your holiday cottage the night before, it’s time to start exploring!

Retail Therapy
Shops and markets flourish in Totnes, which flies the flag for Fairtrade and ethical retail. You can easily lose a contented morning browsing the unique gift shops and galleries that line the steep high street, or exploring the regular Friday and Saturday markets in Civic Square for unusual gifts.

Café Scene
Having worked up an appetite you’ll be spoilt for choice for lunching spots in Totnes from its chic restaurants and bistros to its vibrant cafés and delicatessens, this really is a foodie’s heaven. Choose from authentic Italian at The Curator Café & Kitchen, inventive vegetarian dishes at Willow or Seeds 2, or a leisurely lunch overlooking the river at Waterside Bistro as well as many more fantastic independent cafés and eateries.

The High Street

Ghost Cats, Castles & Cromwell
A good place to start discovering the rich and colourful heritage of Totnes is at the Totnes Museum on Fore Street. Here you can take a tour around a medieval kitchen and climb the iconic spiral staircase carved from a ship’s mast. The museum is also said to be home to a feline ghost with visitors regularly reporting to have felt the tail of an invisible cat against their legs while viewing the exhibits here!

From the museum, head to the nearby Grade I listed 16th-century guildhall on Ramparts Walk, one of Totnes’ most historic buildings. Home of the town council for over 450 years, this Tudor building still houses the table where Oliver Cromwell sat in 1646 during the final throes of the English Civil War.
And what better way to end your afternoon of discovery than a visit to Totnes Castle.

Standing strategically at the top of town, with far-reaching views across the town and beautiful Dart Valley, Totnes Castle is an immaculately preserved example of a Norman motte-and-bailey fortress and well worth a visit.

Live Music
If you still have some energy left after your busy day exploring, Totnes has a thriving and varied live music scene. So if you’re partial to a live gig head out in the evening to The Barrel House, The Bay Horse Inn or The Dartmouth Inn which all hold regular music nights to suit all tastes.


Day two

Pygmy Goats, Eagle Owls and Steam Trains
After a lazy Sunday morning breakfast at your holiday property, head to Totnes Rare Breeds Farm; a family-owned attraction dedicated to the preservation of endangered farm animals. A very hands-on attraction, here you can cuddle a guinea pig, feed the goats or smooth the feathers of a huge eagle owl, and lots more!

Close by you’ll find the South Devon Steam Railway, where you can hop on a vintage steam train and take a trip along the beautiful River Dart valley.

Sunday Lunch – Decisions, Decisions
Back in town there are serious decisions to be made – which pub to choose for Sunday Lunch when there are so many great free houses to discover. The answer is they’re all pretty good but some favourites include The Steam Packet Inn with its riverside beer garden and the highly acclaimed gastro pub The Bull Inn, or why not break from tradition at Pie Street .

And then when you thought you’d made up your mind someone mentions the Totnes Good Food Sunday Market! Devon’s largest fine food farmers market held on the 3rd Sunday of each month. Here you can sample and buy a wide range of quality produce from local producers or grab a take away from one of the street food vendors to eat al fresco in the sunshine.

Boats at the edge of the pier

Messing about on the River
If working off lunch out on the water sounds like fun then Totnes is certainly the place.

Canoe Adventures offers adventure-filled experiences on the River Dart for all ages and abilities. But if that all sounds like too much effort, why not hop aboard the Totnes to Dartmouth river cruiser, and savour some of the region’s most enchanting waterways.

And just like that the weekend is all but over, but the beauty of Totnes is that there are always new things to discover, so on your journey home, you could spend the time planning your next visit to this unique and fascinating town.


Where to stay
Couples will love Riverside Loft, a romantic waterside apartment overlooking Vire Island and the River Dart. Wake up to views of Totnes’ Castle from 10 Castle Street tucked beneath the ancient castle walls or as a complete contrast take a look at The Sidings an ultra-modern eco-house in the centre of town. Or for dog owners, 2 North Castle Mews is a colourful and contemporary dog-friendly townhouse, just moments from Totnes’ high street

For further information on holiday properties in Totnes and beyond visit
www.toadhallcottages.co.uk or call 01548 202020

Plastic Pollution: The Problem

Plastic pollution is a global problem that is growing exponentially due to both an increase in consumerism and an increase in the number of plastics used to manufacture the things we use on a daily basis. Many of these items are single-use items, which are used once and then tossed in the trash. But what happens to this plastic once the trash can gets emptied? It doesn’t simply disappear into thin air. It usually ends up in the environment in some manner or form, with a great deal of it eventually ending up in the ocean Arguably one of the most pressing environmental challenges that we are faced with today is marine plastic debris. The two common sources marine debris originates from are:
  1. land-based, which includes litter from beach-goers, as well as debris that has either blown into the ocean or been washed in with stormwater runoff; and
  2. ocean-based, which includes garbage disposed at sea by ships and boats, as well as fishing debris, such as plastic strapping from bait boxes, discarded fishing line or nets, and derelict fishing gear. . While discarded fishing gear takes its toll on the marine environment by entangling marine life and destroying coral reefs, it only comprises an estimated 20% of all marine debris – a staggering 80% of all marine debris stems from land-based sources. This is not that surprising, considering that around 50% of all plastics are used to manufacture sing-use items which are discarded soon after they are first used.

How Can We Solve Plastic Pollution?

We need to tackle the problem of marine debris head on. It’s not just an issue for environmentally conscious, it is an issue that ultimately affects human health. Man is a top predator that feeds on a variety of ocean fish, shellfish, and other marine species. We face the same risks as the killer whale and polar bear. While any plastic or polystyrene pellets that may have been clogging the gut of the fish that is nicely presented on our dinner plate have been long removed, the toxic contaminants originating from that debris remain stored in the flesh we are about to eat. Food for thought indeed. To read more click here.

Enjoying Dartmoor without a car

Car(e) free Dartmoor

Visitors to south Devon, particularly those from Europe, are frequently taken aback at the lack of public transport into and around the beautiful Dartmoor National Park. Even if you’re staying in one of the so-called “gateway” towns like Ashburton or Bovey Tracey, it’s not possible to get up to the moor without hiring a taxi or walking for miles on roads before you get to proper moorland scenery. But there are ways for visitors to Totnes to enjoy Dartmoor without a car. Here’s a few of them:

From Totnes you can get the excellent Stagecoach Gold bus to Ivybridge or South Brent (runs every half hour and even hourly on a Sunday). From both of these towns the walks onto the moor are on footpaths -- and if you’re a confident walker able to read a map and compass you can walk from one to the other via some fabulous Dartmoor scenery.

Ivybridge lies on the lovely river Erme and you can follow the river upstream from the town centre through beautiful woodland, then cut across to the picturesque hamlet of Harford and onto the open moor at Harford Moor Gate. The energetic can walk from here all the way to Piles Copse, one of the three areas of ancient woodland on Dartmoor and an idyllic spot for a picnic. The Two Moors Way runs along the ridge above, and you can follow it back into town passing prehistoric stone rows and with magnificent moorland views.

In South Brent you can follow footpaths up the equally lovely river Avon valley, via Lutton and Didworthy, then walk up the bridlepath to Corringdon Ball and the Glazebrook valley where there are many prehistoric remains and great high moor scenery. Return on footpaths via Aishridge and Aish.

On Saturdays between May and September, you can take advantage of the Haytor Hoppa which drives across the moor taking in sights such as Hay Tor, Widecombe and Hound Tor. Take the train to Newton Abbot and pick the bus up there. You can hop off at one place and hop on again at another, thus enjoying a linear walk or two, and eventually returning to Newton Abbot train station. There are four buses and day and the timetable can be found here.

If you’re used to camping and carrying your own equipment, you can take advantage of the fact that Dartmoor is the only national park in the country that allows wild camping. Take a small tent and pitch it at least 100m from a road or house and the moor is your oyster (with the exception of a few areas – see link below). You can walk from Ivybridge to Okehampton or follow the Two Moors Way from Ivybridge on a more easterly route, finishing somewhere like Chagford. It goes without saying that you need a compass, a map and the ability to navigate before you venture out onto these high moorland routes! Information on wild camping can be found here. Buses can take you from Okehampton or Chagford back to Exeter and from there by train back to Totnes.

If you’re not comfortable with negotiating your own route or you’d like the benefit of a guide who can introduce you to the hidden delights and history of Dartmoor, contact Dartmoor Walks and Rides This Way. Based in Ashburton, which is served by the regular 88 bus from Totnes, I can meet you at the bus stop and take you for a half-day or full-day exploration of the moor either on foot or on an electric bike. But I’m afraid the 88 bus doesn’t run on Sundays…..

4 people on bicycles

Skip to content