Town locals joke is twinned with Narnia that really feels like a mythical land (2024)

A small historic town located in the south west of the UK is compared to Narnia by locals for its mythical and ethereal feel.

Totnes, in Devon, is a historic market town with a wealth of things to explore.

One of the reasons Totnes remains so close to my heart is that it has so many independent and local businesses. Whilst there is the occasional chain store on the high street like WHSmith and Coffee #1, the rest is made up of charity, gift and coffee shops.

Locals have joked for many years that the town feels like Narnia, and as someone who grew up nearby, I agree. The towns associations with the outdoors, slow-living, wellbeing and health all make it feel like a whimsical and mythical paradise nestled amongst the more fast-paced towns of Devon.

For many years I have visited and enjoyed the town and learnt the best places to go — here's my favourites to visit in Totnes.

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Things to do

Each Friday and Saturday, the town hosts one of the best markets I have ever been to. From a phrenology head to some great maps, I have managed to find some bargains. There is a great range of items for sale as well including perfumes, antiques, jewellery and furniture.

The market also offers lots of food stalls to explore, and for many years a favourite of mine was a stall that did wraps in giant flatbread and included all the salad items under the sun, hummus and your choice of meat or falafel.

Totnes is also home to some great bookshops. East Gate Bookshop often hosts events with local authors and has several rooms full of books to explore. Another option is The Dartington Trust shop, which is a well curated bookstore with a great array of non-fiction books. Alternatively if you are looking for a cheap read there is an Oxfam book charity shop toward the top of town, where many of my books have come from over the years.

The town centre is also littered with charity shops and offer the great place for a bargain or some unusual finds. In the past I have picked up old editions of books, designer clothing and even records.

Stag + Seer is a really beautiful shop to visit if you like things that smell nice and wellbeing. The shop hopes "to connect people to the wisdom of the Earth," according to its website. With different kinds of incense and skin care products, Stag + Seer unifies elements of the countryside with its products to "inspire healing and wellbeing in this fast paced modern world and encourage the ‘Ceremony of Healing' in our day to day lives."

Neal's Yard Remedies heritage partner, Leftfield, offers health and wellbeing products also inspired by the countryside and coast.

Whether you are looking for some unique jewellery or some cute homeware, Penelopetom is my go-to shop on the high street. This lifestyle shop offers an array of gifts, homeware, jewellery, books and even outdoor adventure guides and kits.

Key to Totnes' history is the castle which watches over the River Dart. The motte-and-bailey castle was built 900 years ago during the Norman Conquest, almost certainly by one of William the Conqueror's commanders. It is a great location to understand the history of the market town, and gain spectacular panoramas across the valley.

If you fancy a short drive, then head to Dartington Estate, a stunning centre of heritage, culture, entertainment, hospitality and innovative sustainability. Centred around the medieval Great Hall, Courtyard and Grade II* Listed Gardens, Dartington offers an array of food and drink opportunities, Deer Park trails and family activities.

Specific events are hosted throughout the year with many authors speaking in the Great Hall. Also, make sure to check out the barn cinema for a unique and cosy film experience.

Places to eat

Nestled behind The Happy Apple — a greengrocer great for freshly grown veg — is The Lighthouse Café. Whilst not the most glamourous inside, this cosy little café offers some really comforting dishes. Also, make sure to check out the collection of teapots they have — they are all sorts of weird and wonderful! A meal here will cost you less than a tenner.

For lovers of a sweet treat, checking out Roly's Fudge is a must. What started Peter and Lindsey Riley making handmade fudge in their farmhouse kitchen in a thatched cottage in Devon, has developed into 47 independently-run family fudge pantries across the UK.

Using a family recipe, which was passed down through the generations, Peter and Lindsey decided to restore the artisan method of making fudge. Roly's Fudge therefore uses no oils or additives and is home to traditionally made handmade fudge. A must-try!

At the bottom of the high street, located on the river is the Waterside Bistro. Offering the one of the best pizzas I have ever had, this little restaurant has a garden looking over the river, perfect for in the summer but also a cosy inside perfect for rainy days. Prices are affordable with each 12 inch pizza costing £16.95.

For your coffee fix, The Hairy Barista is a must. This cosy little coffee shop is one of the prettiest and calmest places to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, I have ever been too. Since living in London, I often think of this place and how much I miss it. What makes it particularly special for me is that they choose a different speciality roastery every month to provide between three and six coffees to allow returning customers different choices each time they visit.

Also, perfect for vegan — which is a big thing in Totnes — all the food at The Hairy Barista is plant-based, and uses mostly organic, seasonal, local, fresh and unprocessed ingredients.

Another place that is close to my heart and has been visited by my own family for decades is Anne of Cleves. This little tea room offers freshly baked cakes and of course, scones, as well as hearty sandwiches and tea served in teacups and saucers.

Places to stay

Located at the bottom end of the high street is The Royal Seven Stars Hotel. The hotel originates from the 17th century and offers rooms from £95 a night. Alternatively, located in the centre of the town is The King William pub, which offers one-night stays or short breaks. It's convenient location is perfect for exploring the town centre and rooms start from £45 per person per night.

If you feel like being a bit more outdoorsy, then the Hemsford yurt camp may be the best option. Offering self-catering glamping holidays, the sites Authentic Mongolian yurts and vintage shepherd’s hut are set in the natural landscape and only 3 miles from Totnes town centre.

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Town locals joke is twinned with Narnia that really feels like a mythical land (2024)
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