7 Great Reasons to Live in Okehampton, Devon
PUBLISHED: 13:36 24 January 2011 | UPDATED: 21:41 20 February 2013
Claire Hallett explores the magic of this old Devon market town on the edge of Dartmoor
Known as the Gateway to Dartmoor, Okehampton was originally a Saxon settlement, but was established as a town by the Normans and is home to the remains of one of Devons largest castles. The town can be found 23 miles from the city of Exeter, sited below the northern edge of Dartmoor. With a population of around 7,000, this former market town is best known for its community feel, offering a whole host of activities to both passing visitors and its residents.
1 King of the castle
Okehampton Castle is situated in woodland above the West Okement, a great place for scenic walks and riverside picnic spots. The castle was once owned by Henry Courtenay, first Marquis of Exeter before his execution in 1539, and is now in the care of English Heritage. For a small fee visitors can enjoy the ancient grounds, including the castle shop during opening hours from April to September. The castle is open free of charge until 31 March during daylight hours. So why not pack a picnic and some sensible shoes and explore this beautiful site?
2 Shop till you drop
With a variety of creative and collective shops, Okehampton really does offer something for everyone. The Red Lion Yard off Fore Street is home to a choice of shops and cafs, from The Dovecote Restaurant and Panache Coffee Shop, ideal for watching the world go by, to Kudos Clothing and Abstract, as well as Krafty Cards and the Art Gallery. Just across the road, off Fore Street, is the Victorian Shopping Arcade, home to around 20 shops, from fresh fruit and veg to books, gifts and charity shops. With a traditional feel and welcoming atmosphere, both the Red Lion Yard and The Arcade are great places to spend an afternoon browsing.
3 History in the making
Why not take a step back in time and head to The Museum of Dartmoor Life on West Street? Housed in an early-19th-century mill, its a great place for all ages to find out how people have shaped and made a living on Dartmoor. Open all year round, its of great educational value, with an array of exhibits, models and photos on show, as well as a museum shop. Theres also a quaint little tearoom across the yard.
4 A breath of fresh air
Okehampton is a great place to blow away the cobwebs and, with Dartmoor right on your doorstep, what better reason to don a pair of walking boots and make the most of the beautiful surroundings. The Tarka Trail runs in a 180-mile figure-of-eight pedestrian and cycle route through delightful landscapes; it passes through Okehampton and climbs to the nearby moor. For a shorter trip, explore the Granite Way, an 11-mile cycle and walkway that runs between Okehampton and Lydford. Theres plenty to take in, including Meldon Viaduct, not far from Okehampton, and further south youll find the impressive silhouette of Sourton Tors.
Every year, 400 teams of six young people aged 14 to 20 take on The Ten Tors Challenge. Starting at Okehampton Army Camp, the teenagers cover 35, 45 or 55 miles across Dartmoor over two days. Youngsters with disabilities can take part in the Jubilee Challenge, covering up to 15 miles across the moor.
5 All aboard!
The Dartmoor Railway offers a fantastic trip for those looking to explore the area close to home. The train service runs between Okehampton and Meldon, where keen walkers can gain easy access onto Dartmoor or take a leisurely stroll to Meldon Viaduct.
6 Time out
Located in the heart of the community is Harpers at Parklands Leisure Centre, great for focusing on a weight-loss goal or for interacting socially while keeping fit. It provides a full range of sports activities including badminton, tennis and five-a-side football, including Harpers SwimSchool for adults. Harpers Activity Camps offer sports and activity holiday provision for children aged three to 12 years. Just outside the centre, Simmons Park provides a perfect setting for a stroll along the river or for kids to enjoy the designated play area and open field.
7 A touch of class
Sip award-winning wines at Eastcott Vineyard, which can be found in a delightful sheltered vale, a few miles north-west of Okehampton near the village of Northlew. The vineyard offers holiday accommodation, as well as guided vineyard and winery tours, so whether its a weekend break or a day out, the vineyard will captivate your taste buds, while you enjoy the spectacular countryside views. ã€€