Taking time in Tavistock this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 16:07 21 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:23 20 February 2013

Taking time in Tavistock this Christmas

Taking time in Tavistock this Christmas

With Christmas around the corner, Trudy Turrell suggests the perfect place to explore, relax and try a stress-free shopping experience

Taking time in Tavistock

With Christmas around the corner, Trudy Turrell suggests the perfect place to explore, relax and try a stress-free shopping experience

Photos by Graham Skedgell - Natural Photos, Tavistock

As you wind your way down from Dartmoor, through wooded valleys to meet the Tavy, arriving in this historic stannary town is always a delight. At its centre, an imposing castellated Gothic edifice houses the town hall and covered market, a legacy of the wealthy Dukes of Bedford who owned and shaped the town. Granted a market in 1105, Tavistock has attracted travellers and traders for centuries, and was built on the proceeds of moorland wool, tin and trade. The best way to start your visit is to stroll in, following the Tavy. My top tip is to park in the Riverside car park off Pixon Lane (where you can stay all day for 2.20), and take a five-minute riverside walk to the market or through The Meadows riverside park to reach the main streets. Once in town, explore the far ends of West Street and Brook Street to discover more of Tavistocks unique and quirky small shops.

Retail therapy
From crafts to cooking, food to footwear, Tavistock has everything you need and more. Its a foodies heaven, a window for so many small and specialist local producers. I visited Roots and Vines, established by Jason Byron earlier this year with the aim of selling food as local and fresh as possible. Jason is in touch with each producer he laughs that Emma, a grower from Lifton, calls him from the field to ask how many cabbages she should cut for him. Increasingly popular is the drinks section, which features Plymouth Gin, local liqueurs and beer from 18 small breweries.

Under the colonnade, beside the Market Hall, theres another newcomer: The Market Plaice stocks fish fresh from Plymouth fish market. Next door, family butcher J and S Downing has been trading for more than 20 years, offering meat from moorland farms and their own homemade pies; a few steps away, The Market Garden has a tempting display of the freshest local veg. Thats supper sorted in just a few steps, with time for a coffee and cake at Dukes caf next door.

Refreshed, its time for some serious gift-buying. The small but colourful Kaleidoscope Toys is tardis-like, with tribes of Moshi Monsters, parades of Barbies, generations of Sylvanians and squadrons of model aircraft kits filling the shelves ceiling to floor. Its a similar story in Bookstop on Market Street. Listed as one of Britains top 50 bookshops by The Independent, two floors of this Tudor building offer quiet rooms for browsing, with The Music Room full of CDs at the top. With 10,000 books in stock, its a place to happily lose an hour or two.

Towls of Tavistock, on Brook Street, is the place to head to for electrical goods. Stocking Panasonic, Sony, Hitachi and Roberts radios, staff can offer knowledgeable advice on all the products and can often beat online prices.

For those inspired to cook, Todds on West Street has everything kitchen-related. The hit of the season might be this stiletto spoon rest, says co-owner Barry Gallant. But for stepping out on Dartmoor, theres more functional footwear to be found at the top of West Street in Kountry Kit, which has been providing boots, socks and performance outdoor wear for 27 years. The range is huge including a whole wall of socks! Partner Alex Rouse, who served me, is a trainer for the Ten Tors, so he really walks his talk.

Independent spirit

Whilst so many town high streets are lined with chain stores, its refreshing that over 70% of Tavistocks retailers are independent. Thats something worth supporting and celebrating, explains Adam Fleet, Tavistocks Business Improvement District (BID) Manager. Part of a national initiative, the Tavistock BID brings together all of the towns businesses, which contribute financially and with their time to promote Tavistock and enhance the experience of visiting and shopping in the town.

From installing hanging baskets to hosting this years Tour of Britain cycling race celebrations, organising the Christmas Dickensian Evening, or working on a Tavistock app, its a real team effort, resulting in yet more reasons to enjoy a visit here, says Adam. Its the unique independent retailers that make the experience of shopping in Tavistock such a pleasure.

Retailers are friendly, attentive and happy to recommend products in nearby stores to ensure that customers get the goods and services the really need. As Adam says: Some call it old-fashioned service, but Id say its a willingness to go the extra mile.

Things to do...

Dickensian Evening Friday 30 November
Step back in time for a unique shopping experience where all the shops are open until 9pm. It all starts at 5.45pm in Bedford Square when the Christmas Lights will be turned on and will be followed by attractions and entertainment. These will include carol singers, morris dancers, a brass band, a hog roast and hot chestnuts, plus rides for the kids. Along with market stalls, a spectacular Christmas tree festival in St Eustachius Church, Bank Square artists, Robey Trust steam engine and Father Christmas, its Christmas shopping as it should be!

Tavistock late-night shopping
On the three fridays in December 7, 14 and 21 you can return to enjoy your unique shopping experience with late night shopping until 8pm. There will be Father Christmas, street entertainment, and competitions with the chance to win 250 in shopping vouchers in our Spot the Odd Object competition.

Market days
Tuesdays to Saturdays Each market has a particular theme. Youll find the huge Market Hall packed with stalls, with a fabulous mix of the homemade, vintage and hard-to-find items, all in a colourful, buzzy atmosphere. For details visit tavistockpanniermarket.co.uk

Make a weekend of it
Stay more than a day to experience all that Tavistock has to offer. As youd expect from a town that prides itself on local food, you can enjoy fabulous and fresh local cuisine, all reasonably priced. Under 17th-century oak beams, you can enjoy Yealm mussels, local steaks and fresh market vegetables at Taylors Restaurant or try an acclaimed pizza at Robertsons Organic Caf.

Spend the night in the historic and sumptuous Bedford Hotel, boutique-style Browns Hotel or one of Tavistocks many friendly and comfortable B&Bs, then wake to enjoy a day stepping out onto Dartmoor, visiting the stunning waterfalls at Lydford Gorge, or just strolling the network of riverside and town trails from your door.

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