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15 reasons to make Tavistock the base for your Devon adventure

Family on Dartmoor

Devon is the county that has it all – a getaway for adventurers and explorers, a place for healing the soul and a place to tantalise those taste buds. Boasting two coastlines, vast open moorland, fantastic food and oodles of history, it makes the perfect place for a staycation.

On the doorstep of the Dartmoor National Park and a stone’s throw from the Tamar Valley National Landscape, Tavistock is a vibrant World Heritage town – the only one in Devon. Here are 15 reasons why Tavistock is the perfect base for your Devon adventure this year:

1.       Stand on top of the world!

With dramatic tors for climbing, wild rivers for swimming and ancient settlements to explore, Dartmoor is one big adventure playground with something for everyone. Tavistock is situated right on the Western Edge and enjoys direct access to the Moor from the centre of town. Climb to the top of Pew Tor and take in the view of Tavistock, with Bodmin Moor in the distance. Then breathe!

Staple Tor

2.       Freewheel

Whether you ride a road or gravel bike, MTB or EMTB, the options for routes riding out from Tavistock are many, varied and breathtakingly glorious. Dartmoor offers an extensive network of cycling opportunities – from quiet lanes, traffic-free and designated routes to some great off-road bridlepaths taking you out onto open moorland. You can expect more tranquility and room to move than other National Parks in the UK.

Off-road bike on Dartmoor

For downhill action, Gawton Gravity Hub is the place to be – offering green, red, black and orange graded trails, with uplift available. Day membership is available.

When hunger calls, drop into Church Lane with your bike for a discount on food and a Tour De France inspired pizza menu.  

3.       Trek

Tavistock on its surrounding areas are a true paradise for walking enthusiasts, offering a host of captivating trails that cater to all level of hikers. The town is a great launchpad for exploring the stunning landscapes of the West Country on foot.

Explore the many number of picturesque villages nearby:

Brentor - featuring the Church of St. Michael de Rupe, one of the iconic landmarks of West Devon. Sitting atop an impressive rocky outcrop, is the fourth smallest Parish Church in the UK and, at 1,110 feet above sea level, is also thought to be the highest working Church in Southern England. 

Brentor near Tavistock

Lydford – boasting three defensive features including a 13th century tower on a mound, built as a prison; a Norman earthwork castle and Saxon town defences. Work up an appetite for walking Lydford Gorge with lunch at The Castle Inn.

Lewtrenchard – the home of folk collector and hymn-writer legend Sabine Baring-Gould, a peaceful stroll around the Forgotten Gardens to enjoy the delightful area of mixed woodland is a must.

Peter Tavy – boasting an award-winning campsite and hugely popular village pub, this village also has a fine medieval church, footpaths up the Coombe to the high Moor and a beautiful river walk across the clam to neighbouring Mary Tavy.

Meavy – a small and pretty village with an historic Oak Tree, said to have given sanctuary to King Charles when he fled from Cromwell’s men. The woodland footpaths to Burrator Reservoir and Sheepstor are particularly pretty in spring.

4.       Go mining

Just outside of Tavistock is the last standing engine house on Dartmoor, complete with slightly wonky chimney. Wheal Betsy is one of the best places in Devon to see a former tin mine. In 1967 the ruined engine house and stack were acquired and made safe by the National Trust as a memorial to the mining heritage of Dartmoor. Find out more about Tavistock’s place in the Cornwall & West Devon Mining Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Guildhall Gateway Centre in town.

Down at Morwellham Quay, take a trip on the unique narrow-gauge Mine Railway deep underground into the George & Charlotte copper mine to experience the harsh working conditions of Victorian miners.

5.       Find peace in the water

Swimming in the wonder of nature can be a powerful and exhilarating experience that can change you forever. Whether you are a seasoned wild swimmer or are yet to give it a go, Dartmoor is simply the best place for the swim of your life! There are so many awe-inspiring places that provide respite from the heat of summer and invigorate your senses out of season. So, find inner peace as you enter a new world under the surface!

Wild swimming on Dartmoor

6.       Have fun in the forest

The Tamar Valley National Landscape (formerly AONB) is 75 square miles of unspoiled countryside with magical walks under canopies of green, fun bike rides, river adventures and a trainline with a picturesque viaduct over the River Tamar.

Tavistock is the perfect base to take on the epic adventure of the newly launched Tamara Coast-to-Coast way, a walking route that connects the south and north coasts of the South West following the River Tamar from sea to source and takes in the stunning river-valley landscapes of the Tamar Valley National Landscape and West Devon Mining World Heritage Site.

Tamara Coast to Coast

Adults and kids will be thrilled by the Tamar Trails activity centre which boasts a 25km network of trails to explore on bike or foot and outdoor activities like tree surfing or canoeing.

7.       Walk with wildlife

Dartmoor pony

Dartmoor ponies roam free on most of the Moor and are an iconic sight in the National Park. You can easily enjoy interaction with them up on Whitchurch Down, a short walk up from the town centre. Wild horses have formed part of the landscape here for a very long time and these ponies are very hardy, thriving out on Dartmoor all year round. Please do take care around them and do not feed them as most have not been handled. They are truly wild!

8.       Hunt for Hounds

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskerville from the Duchy Hotel in Princetown. Now the National Park Visitor Centre, it’s a great place to start your journey in the hunt for locations that inspired this most famous Sherlock Holmes adventure. Foxtor Mire is said to have been the inspiration for the fictional Grimpen Mire and this wide expanse of peat bog continues to be dangerous to walkers. Why not take an organised tour – a unique opportunity to experience the best possible Hound of the Baskervilles day out?

9.       Take Tea

Cream Tea at The Bedford Hotel Tavistock

One of the best places in England to enjoy a delicious cream tea is right here in Tavistock, where the very first ‘cream teas’ were served over 1,000 years ago by the monks of Tavistock Abbey. Monks created a meal of bread, clotted cream and whortleberry preserve for workers restoring the Abbey in the 10th Century. These teas proved so popular that the monks continued to serve them to passing travellers. Where better than to take tea than in the true Home of the Cream Tea?

Visit during the town’s annual Cream Tea Week and you can sample some of the new and inspired scone flavours and Cream Tea combinations on offer throughout town.

10.   Step back in time

The stone row at Merrivale is one of the finest in the Dartmoor National Park. This bronze age settlement features a complex of ritual sites, including three stone rows, a stone circle, standing stones and a number of burial cairns. These monuments were likely built over a long period of time between 2500 and 1000 BC. It’s a fascinating insight into how the Moor has been lived on and worked over thousands of years. Make a walk out of it

Merrivale Bronze Age Settlement

11.   Feed your soul

With Tavistock's long history as a thriving market hub, it’s only natural that we boast a wealth of restaurants, cafes and delis all selling excellent, locally produced food. Renowned as a foodie destination, there is a popular farmers’ market held twice a month, a specialist cheese shop, three quality butchers, award-winning flapjack and gin, themed foodie evenings at The Bedford Hotel… the list goes on. Don’t miss a meal at The Cornish Arms, voted No. 2 in the 2024 Top 50 Gastro Pub Awards!

Be sure to experience a taste sensation and get those taste buds tingling at one of the monthly street food festivals if you happen to be in town! See our What's On page.

12.   See a sunset and gaze at the stars

Catching a sunset from the very edge of the world, is an unforgettable experience and the Western Moor is the perfect place for it. You are in for a treat as magical views over Tavistock and the Tavy Valley, to the sea at Plymouth and Bodmin Moor to Cornwall are accessible just a stone’s throw from the town. Cox Tor, Staple Tor and Brat Tor are some of our favourites.

As the sun goes down, the dark skies of the Moor are perfect for stargazing. In summer you can see the Milky Way and the Perseids Meteor Shower, which can be seen every few minutes in August.  Being out on Dartmoor at night is a thrilling experience, with the call of the Tawny Owl and sounds of the nightjar. You don’t need to go far from your car – just sitting in Pork Hill Car Park can be experience enough!

Dartmoor sunset and starry sky

13.   Have a gander

Tavistock is one of three towns in the UK to hold an annual Goose Fair. It dates back to the early 12th Century, when a Michaelmas Fair provided the opportunity for business and animal trading and was a social event for wives and daughters. The name Goose Fair probably came about as farmers brought their geese ready for fattening for Christmas, and the only other Goose Fair (in Nottingham) has a similar connection. Now celebrated on the 2nd Wednesday in October, you can expect a traditional livestock market, thrilling funfair, traders selling everything and anything. Tavistock Goose Fair is a celebration of tradition and thrills that is sure to provide an unforgettable experience for everyone.

Tavistock Goose Fair

14.   Get cultural

Tavistock is the only town in the whole of Devon to hold UNESCO World Heritage Status, something we are understandably proud of. Start your journey of discovery at the Guildhall Gateway Centre, formerly a courtroom and police station, and immerse yourselves in the interactive displays and get spooked in the former police cells.

A walking tour is a fantastic and fun way of learning more about our beautiful, World Heritage town. Run by the Tavistock Heritage Trust, from April to October, they cover a variety of topics so there is something for everyone. Meet at Tavistock Guildhall Gateway Centre for 2pm.


15.   Cosy on down!

After all this excitement, it’s important to feel well rested and to have somewhere cosy to sleep. From luxury hotels, delightful b&bs, self-catering apartments, pub stays or well-resourced campsites, there is something to suit all tastes and budgets.

The best Devon has to offer is right here. Why wait?

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