I thought we’d take a little break from our Christmas preparations and have a day out. Therefore I’m inviting you to put the tinsel away, unstick your fingers from the Sellotape, leave the queue in the post office, and take a drive across Dartmoor to the west Devon town of Tavistock.
Tavistock, according to historian, the late W G Hoskins, “is the most delightful town in West Devon, and perhaps the most attractive of all the inland towns of the county … [it] stands mostly on the north side of the river Tavy, itself a decorative feature of the town-scene. ” Hoskins goes on to explain that the town is essentially the product of two owners: Tavistock Abbey from the 10th century to the 16th, and the earls and dukes of Bedford from the 16th to the 20th. The abbey created the town; the Russells [family name of the dukes of Bedford] gave it its present appearance and character. Between them they owned the town from 974 to 1911.
Tavistock was interested in tin-mining from the 12th century onwards and in 1305 it was established as one of the three stannary towns (Ashburton and Chagford being the others) in Devon where tin raised in Devon was to be weighed, stamped, and put on sale. Hoskins says that “it is curious to reflect that it is substantially a 19th-century mining gtown; such words conjure up visions of Barnsley or Wigan [in the north of England]. But copper and tin did not blacken the landscape as coal would have done, and the dukes of Bedford, with their almost complete ownership of the town and district, ensured the neat and orderly expansion of housing … The Duke remodelled the centre of the town during the 1840s, largely over the abbey site. He erected the guildhall (1848) [photo above] in the Gothic style.”
So we begin our journey from where we live in Torbay to Totnes, then on to Ashburton before crossing Dartmouth in a westerly direction. Time to stop, perhaps have a drink from a flask of coffee, and enjoy the view.
Dartmoor is lovely at any time of the year, and I have mixed spring, summer and autumn photos for this virtual journey. (I took the above two photos as husband was driving.)
The Guildhall houses antiques markets and also, behind the Guildhall is the Pannier Market. Both are lovely places to visit, and sometimes bargains are to be had.
Inside the Guildhall
Inside the Pannier Market
I could spend hours looking at all the stalls, but always husband says, “C’mon, let’s go and find lunch.”
Between the main street and the Pannier Market there are many shops and eateries, and we sometimes stop here, at Duke’s, for a bite to eat, especially in summer.
This is one of my favourite places to eat, and this is an unusual occurrence: no people at the tables, they are usually packed and it’s often difficult to find a seat!
Or, if we want a little more comfort (and warmth in early spring or late autumn) we go into the Bedford Hotel, and have a bar meal.
Not a good photo but I was risking life and limb, standing in the middle of the road to take it, as it’s virtually impossible to get a good photo from any other angle.
According to a book I have on Tavistock, “In 1725, a rich Presbyterian merchant, Jacob Saunders, had built Abbey House on the site of what is believed to have been the refectory of Tavistock Abbey. He used materials from the Abbey ruins. Around 1829 it was decided to convert the house into an hotel and the Duke of Bedford called in the famous architect Jeffry Wyatt – later Sir Jeffry Wyatville – to give it a battlemented Gothic façade to match the buildings not far away in Bedford Square. It was Sir Jeffry who gave Windsor Castle the appearance it has today.”
I would also add that this hotel is sometimes mentioned in the novels of Marcia Willett, as a convenient meeting place for some of her characters.
The bar in the Bedford Hotel
We’ve now had a look inside the Guildhall, the Pannier Market, had lunch either at Duke’s at one of the pavement tables, or in the cosy bar of the Bedford Hotel, so let’s stroll up the main street and have a look at the shops.
N H Creber is perhaps the most famous shop in Tavistock, its shop front dating back over 120 years. In recent years the shop has changed to include a discount outlet, but I remember it when the whole store was filled with the most wonderful foods of all kinds, for it is a grocer/delicatessen/wine shop. Indeed, people used to go to Tavistock ‘just’ to visit Creber’s.
I took these photos above about ten years ago – no doubt the shop has changed since then, but as you can see it’s a wonderful place for speciality food and drink
There are other good shops in the main street, but I love to see the small shops which can be visited up little side streets …
Before we make our return journey across Dartmoor, why not have a stroll in the nearby park? This, as with Dartmoor, is lovely at almost any time of the year …
And now it is time to make our way home across Dartmoor …
The moors are lovely in spring, summer or autumn.
Cattle, sheep and Dartmoor ponies roam freely across the moors, so one needs to take care when driving. Indeed, there is a 40 mph speed limit across the whole of the moor.
In summer, the gorse makes a lovely sight, and the scent of honey fills the air
And now, it’s time to return to our Christmas preparations. I hope you’ve enjoyed our virtual day out.
Until next time.