CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Insider's guide to... Tavistock

PUBLISHED: 17:59 03 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:17 20 February 2013

Insider's guide to... Tavistock

Insider's guide to... Tavistock

This thriving market town has an unexpected grandeur and rich history, with a hint of old-world charm, as Caroline Doughty discovers. Photos by Neville Stanikk

Best known for

Tavistock has many claims to fame "its abbey, the annual Goose Fair, its ancient pannier market and the cream tea. Wild brown trout and salmon swim in the nearby River Tamar so the local fly fishing takes some beating, and with Dartmoor literally on the towns doorstep, its perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.

Hidden treasures

The rows of Bedford cottages are one of Tavistocks architectural treasures. When copper was discovered here in 1844, a flood of workers into the town led to near-slum conditions and the 7th Duke of Bedford decided to improve their lot. Today the rows of cottages are recognisable by their gabled roofs and porches.

Much older still are the remains of the ancient abbey that can still be seen around the town. Once one of the richest abbeys in the west of England, it owned land from Dorset to the Scillies. A number of buildings can still be seen where parts of the abbey once stood. Dont miss the most picturesque, Court Gate (left), an archway leading from Bedford Square to Guildhall Square that is now part of the Town Hall and houses the towns museum.

Simple pleasures

For a perfect day in Tavistock, you need do no more than stroll through the town. Look up and you can see Dartmoor rolling into the distance; look around and admire architecture that dates back to the thriving mining town of the mid-19th century. Wander through the covered pannier market (open Tues-Sat every week), which has continued to operate from the site for over 900 years. And pause by the glorious River Tavy, which runs right through the heart of town.

You wont see a typical high street here with chain shops and brand names. While there are a few staples, Tavistocks local shops are thriving thanks to their quality and variety, whether it be designer dresses, home-made chutney or a good book.

Arts and crafts

For live music the Wharf near the river is the main destination. The line-up is mainly tribute bands, but keep an eye out for occasional folk and classical performances too. The Acoustic Caf once a month at the Parish Church Centre features local acts, musicians and singers and offers homecooked veggie food. Bring your own wine or beer and all proceeds are donated to a different local charity or group each month.

If art is your thing, there is quite a wide range to see and buy. Elford Fine Art on Drake Road, opposite the church, is the place to stop for paintings and drawings by distinguished artists from the 18th century to the present day. Art at The Works is a new space where artists showcase and market their own work and manage their own exhibitions. If youre looking for craft pieces, then South West Crafts is a lovely gallery located beside the parish church.

Food for thought

Tavistock saw off McDonalds in 2006! After seven years here, the burger chain finally decided it couldnt compete with the local traders offering quality, locally produced food, and closed its doors. Local eateries are thriving, giving the town a real foodie reputation.

The town is said by some to be the home of the cream tea. The monks at the abbey gave a scone-type biscuit out as alms to the poor, topped with their own honey and cream. The old alms window can still be seen low down in the wall of the Tourist Infomation Centre under the arch. This may be pure myth, but there are certainly plenty of places to stop and try out the local version.

Taylors restaurant is popular for something slightly more formal, and is a big hit with locals and tourists alike, as is Blue Mango.

Hot tips

If you want to walk from the town, one route loved by locals is through the Walkham valley to Double Waters where the rivers Walkham and Tavy meet. You can choose a circular route, or take a bus towards Yelverton and walk back into town through the valley.

As far as foodie delights go, Robertsons organic caf gets a big thumbs up. Located in Pepper Street, it serves vegetables and salad from owners Seth and Sally Robertsons own garden. They also offer vegan options and bake their own gluten-free items.

For a great view, the Pimple folly (right) is a favourite destination. This rather unusual landmark was designed by Edward Lutyens in 1914 and is about 15 minutes walk from the centre of town, high above on Whitchurch Down. Designed to take in the views, with benches that invite you to rest and ponder, the views are breathtaking from Kit Hill in Cornwall to the rugged western tors of Dartmoor.

Family fun

The Meadows Park (above) with its childrens playground is the focal point for youngsters all year round, and Meadowlands is also popular for its indoor and outdoor swimming pools and rapids.

But the moor has to be the biggest attraction, with plenty of scope for free entertainment. Drakes Trail is part of the national cycle route N27 from North to South Devon, and once the final section between Horrabridge and Tavistock is completed, you will be able to cycle from Tavistock to Plymouth off-road.

There are also eight wide trails through the Tamar Valley offering 25km of off-road cycling (suitable for families) and available to cyclists, walkers, mountain bikers and horse-riders. The trails start at Bedford Sawmills carpark, located just off the A390 between Gunnislake and Tavistock.

For a real adrenalin rush, try Tree Surfers at Gulworthy, which offers high-ropes courses and zip-wire tours in local woodlands.

Explore on horseback with Cholwell Riding Stables, from where you can ride straight onto Dartmoor with no need for any on-road riding.

For a more relaxed day, follow the Tavistock murder mystery treasure trail. Solve the murder mystery of local farmer Tom Giles who met an unfortunate end at the livestock market whilst discovering the towns delights.


Meadowlands Leisure Centre:

01822 617774

Cycle trails:"

Tree Surfers: 01822 833409

Cholwell stables (Mary Tavy):

01822 810526

Getting here

By road: A386 from Okehampton or Plymouth, or drive over the moor from the east via Two Bridges.

By Bus: Service X85 from Barnstaple (Sat only), Service 83/84/86 from Plymouth



More from Out & About

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devon is particularly stunning at this time of year and so we’ve picked out 18 stunning pictures that encapsulate the county during the festive period

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

From cosy pubs galore to winter beach walks, there’s plenty to enjoy in Devon at Christmas. We list 19 reasons you should come visit us this December.

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Devon is a joy to explore with its beautiful beaches, pretty woodland and charming towns and villages. Made even more magical under a blanket of glistening frost, we pick 12 walks to blow away the cobwebs in the county this winter

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A South Devon walk along a wreck-rich coastline with SIMONE STANBROOK-BYRNE

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

In the latest of our 24-hour tours of Devon’s best locations, we head to Britain’s Ocean City

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

With breathtaking beaches, rolling countryside, stately homes and unique villages, it’s no wonder high-profile film productions flock to Devon - how well do you know the movies that have set up camp here however?

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether it’s on our beautiful beaches, in our magnificent moors or within our stunning stately homes, film productions are constantly setting up in Devon. Here are 16 that you might not know used the county as a filming location

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

From angry spirits to headless horses and ghoulish monks, Devon has more than a few supernatural stories to get your skin crawling. We have picked 11 haunted places in the county

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October is the perfect time to discover the joys of Exmoor. Jennette Baxter of Visit Exmoor suggests five great ways to enjoy autumn on the moor

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wild camping can be one of the best ways to escape the crowds for a night or two and lose yourself in the landscape - SOPHIE PAVELLE chooses her five favourite places to ‘wild-life’ camp in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Take our quiz to find out how well you really know Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As the weather starts to warm up and the Devon countryside beckons, LIZZIE JANE of the National Trust in the South West offers plenty of walk ideas for you to try. Whether you want a relaxed Sunday stroll or a more strenuous hike, here are 10 walks across Devon (and beyond) to help you escape the crowds and head off the beaten track

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The South West Coast Path is celebrating 40 years by calling on people to help raise £40,000. To show their support, teams from Devon’s top tourist attractions are preparing to take to the trail. CHRISSY HARRIS finds out more

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search