Resident of Devon, Katie White lists her Totnes top ten – a fabulous destination for a mini break
I moved out of ‘The Big Smoke’ and down to rural life five years ago when I was 26. At the time I seemed to be, geographically speaking, at least moving in the exact opposite direction to everyone else I knew. I moved around Devon and North Cornwall a fair bit in the first year exploring the area but finally settled on Totnes in South West Devon I first came here on a freezing cold day in February and instantly knew that I absolutely loved it and wanted to settle in this place. It has not disappointed.
These are my top ten tips for Totnes:
Every Friday and Saturday (weather permitting) there is a bustling flea market in the town’s central square. I love nothing more than riffling through all the “treasures” on offer; most of my house was furnished from projects bartered for at this market. There is a little bit of food on offer on the both day; I highly recommend The Curry Man – £4 for a tasty, authentic and filling lunch.
2. Totnes Farmers’ Market:
On the third Sunday on every month there is a lush farmers’ market, also in the Town square, in which local producers come to sell their fare. There is a range to suit all imaginable interests. It is good quality, ethically sourced and decently priced: what better way to munch through a Sunday?
3. Coffee coffee coffee:
One reason that Totnes is (quasi) famous is for its fairly pubic ousting of Costa coffee from its highly original high street. Apparently there are 44 locations where you can drink a coffee within this tiny town so there is bound to be somewhere you like. However, my long time favourite is The Curator on New Walk; Italian coffee, hipster design and amazing cake – need I say more?
4. Pootling around the many vintage shops:
Aside from the weekly flea markets Totnes has a wealth of very cool vintage shops housed in authentic, original Elizabethan buildings covering everything from record players to furniture, curious and clothes. There is something to entice all ages and interests. My favourite shop is the wondering Drift Records right at the top of town. This incredible, independent record shop also occasionally hosts musicians in the back room such as: Ethan Johns.
Oh and by the way, they too have coffee facilities in case your caffeine needs have resurged from walking up the hills. Check out their latest recommendations here: www.thedriftrecordshop.net
5. Live music:
Amazingly, for such a little place, there is a fairly robust live music scene. The best places to check out bands are The Barrel House with its amazing gold ceilinged ball room www.barrelhousetotnes.co.uk. Or the slightly grittier but still cool South Devon Arts Centre in the Industrial Estate www.southdevonarts.co.uk
6. A walk along the River Dart:
Living in the country-side would not be complete without a good stomp through the mud. Totnes is built on and above the beautiful River Dart: views from Bridgetown Bridge are incredible. For further adventures follow the river East toward Sharpham Vineyard and West toward Dartington estate. Expect mud, cows and stiles – and incredible views.
For the braver among you it is also possible to hire a kayak and paddle the dart (make sure you check tide times before leaving so you don’t get stranded). Information here: totneskayaks.co.uk
7. Dartington Estate:
About two miles from Totnes itself is the truly wonderful Dartington Estate. Originally famous for its Arts’ college (now disbanded) and crystal glass production, it is now a hotbed of creativity hosting a range of festivals including Ways With Words. Aside from being a beautiful building just to see itself, the gardens are also magnificent filled with incredible Moore sculptures and The Art House Barn cinema makes for a lovely night out too.
Up to date information here: www.dartington.org/about
8. Sharpham Vineyard:
Two miles in the other direction is the equally magnificent and wonderful Sharpham Vineyard. Wine and cheese tasting start at only £7 and the outdoor café overlooking the river and vineyards (open April to September – booking essential) is delicious and well worth a lazy, boozy lunch in:
9. Getting out and about:
While Totnes itself is inland it is very close to many beaches and of course mighty mighty Dartmoor, full of spectacular scenery, torrs and legends. My favourite place to walk around Dartmoor is the circumnavigate Burrator reservoir (about 8miles) and then have a drink in nearby Princetown. My favourite beach depends on what I am after: for surfing it has to be Bantham, for sunbathing I would probably go somewhere like Beesands. All of the aforementioned places are within 35 minutes of Totnes by car. There is very limited public transport here.
10. Eat, drink and be merry:
Aside from everything else I have mentioned, one of the best things to do in Totnes is eat and drink. The range of food available is diverse and always updating, the pubs are exactly as you would want: full of cosy fires and local ales. My favourites change all of the time but, at the time of writing this article, my top brewery would be The Bay Horse (especially lovely in Summer when you can get some sun in the garden) and my favourite eatery The Wild Fig, a kind of deli by day, low key eatery by night. The décor isn’t amazing and it only seats 8 (again booking essential) but the tapas is to die for.
Writing this article I find that these top ten are only the beginning of all the things I love here. I hope you love it too – I look forward to hearing about your highlights.