In spite of its modest size, Totnes is one of Devon’s most vibrant, quirky and refreshingly different places to head for a day out. Whether it is the fantastic selection of unique shops, great local eateries or the thriving arts and crafts scene, you’d be hard pressed to find a friendlier or more stimulating town in Devon.
It's simply one of those one-off places you won't forget, where local culture hasn't been concreted over or replaced by a Tesco superstore. On the contrary, Totnes is alive, delightfully eccentric and brilliant for a day's exploration. At less than 15 minutes from Bickley Mill Inn, it is a particular favourite destination with both Devonians and visitors alike. In this month's blog, we look at a whole host of the best places to visit, shop, eat and investigate:
Independent Shopping in Totnes
For anyone brassed off with identical looking chain stores, Totnes is a little piece of shopping heaven. To put it mildly, the town has independent spirit in spades and the sort of shops you won’t find anywhere else.
Totnes Market is well worth a look, for starters, open every Friday and Saturday in the Civil Hall Square (TQ9 5SF), with bargains, crafts, collectibles and that wonderful unpredictable quality that characterises a good town market. Also look out for the monthly Totnes Good Food Market which is one of the best food markets in Devon, bringing fantastic produce to town on the third Sunday each month.
Clothes Shopping is also a real highlight, with brilliant boutique stores supplying cool, quirky and refreshingly different fashions not found on the average high street. Fifty-Five A is great for chic ladies wear, while Emma Vowles Flowers and Beautiful Things is another little treasure trove of elegant things to wear or add to your living space.
Ethical shopping is also a huge part of the town, with traders offering not only good value to shoppers but a great deal to the suppliers. Karma is a fine example on the High St. with handmade and ethically sourced gifts, interior design and craft objects galore. A win-win, we think.
The shops in Totnes provide brilliant variety too, with those ominous chain stores replaced by passionate and creative locals. For stationary and recycled paper gifts, for example you’ll find Paperworks, also on the High Street, has a wonderful stock of crafted papers and items from Devon to Delhi.
Similarly, if you’re looking for art galleries and creative gifts, the town is a rich seam, with shops such as Mic Chambers Gallery and Davidson Fine Art just two of many great places to feast your eyes and perhaps take home something special. We couldn’t hope to list all the stores in a single blog, but suffice to say, Totnes is a browser’s heaven.
Cafes, Bars and Restaurants in Totnes
Per head of population, there can’t be many places on the planet earth with more top notch vegetarian and fair trade places to eat than Totnes. Even if you’re usually a confirmed carnivore, we would seriously recommend taking a bite out of the town’s hip cafes and eateries. Café Thrive and the Tangerine Tree is just two of many relaxed places for a healthy but devilishly tasty lunch (see below!), with a cute alfresco dining areas.
Other places to eat include the fabulous Seeds 2 Restaurant. Not only is this a fantastic eatery a rare treat for those with food allergies (such as lactose and gluten intolerance), but even the die hard carnivores who visit love the place.
In terms of more traditional food and drink, however, Totnes also has some tasty options. Pie Street is a temple of “British soul food” and absolutely belting old school favourites. And should you fancy a drop of the good stuff to follow, there is a lovely craft beer bar and shop nearby in the form of Totnes Brewing Co. This is the place to savour both local ales and those from around the globe, and with bottles, tins and taps galore, including a fine selection of American IPAs, this is one of the best craft beer bars in Devon.
Totnes Museum, Time Traveller’s Shop and Heritage Attractions
As for cultural highlights and places to visit, what Totnes lacks in big attractions, it more than makes up for with curious, quirky and downright fascinating detours. When it comes to history, for example, there are two very different heritage attractions both on the main High Street.
Totnes Museum and Elizabethan House is the more classic, straight-laced attraction of the two, but fascinating nonetheless. Here, the visitor can get a truly authentic taste of times past that perfectly suits the market town setting of Totnes, with lots of vivid local detail.
If you prefer your history a little wilder and more eccentric, however, Narnia (aka The Time Traveller’s Museum, below) is a novel and immersive experience, spanning various eras and rooms, where each turn brings a new surprise. We’d hate to spoil it, but this mazy labour of love is not only entertaining, but a thought-provoking experience in itself. Don’t forget to stop in The Time Traveller’s Shop on the way out, for retro collectibles and a fabulous selection of classic LPs while you’re there.
Last but by no means least, you could also walk up the hill to Totnes Castle. This is a fascinating 13th Century site with plenty of history to delve into, not to mention a great picnic spot. For further information, see the English Heritage website HERE.
Also worth a look: Other places to visit in and around Totnes…
Should you seek even further retail delights and cultured detours, there are also some great visitor sites and places to shop on the outskirts and nearby. We would heartily recommend:
Sharpham Vineyard: Gourmet heaven on the banks of the River Dart! This charming estate has all manner of tasty goodies to sample and take away, whether your thing is delicious Devon cheese or fine white wine, you’ll find it here: www.sharpham.com
Dartington Hall & Cider Press Centre: Offering arts, crafts, eateries and some serious artisan retail therapy all in one place, this is another highly popular detour on the outskirts of Totnes. Along with the famous Dartington College, this spot is well known as a hive of creativity and you can catch demonstrations and workshops onsite, from potting to leather craft: www.dartington.org
Bickley Mill Inn: Ideal for Great Devon Escapes!
Offering a lovely, secluded location, excellent food and stylish yet affordable accommodation just a matter of minutes from Totnes, Torquay and many of Devon’s best places to visit, Bickley Mill Inn is one of the best places to stay in South Devon. Keep an eye on our main site and Facebook page for current news, menus and some great deals on meals out and short breaks in the area.