A Long Weekend In The Picturesque Market Town Of Totnes
Imagine Glastonbury meets Shoreditch with a bit of Camden Market thrown in and you’re more than halfway there when it comes to Totnes.
Funky, politically conscious, and easily the edgiest destination in South Devon, Totnes comes wrapped in its own brand of grooviness.
It’s the place that chased Costa out of town when the coffee chain announced plans to set up there.
As a matter of fact, you won’t find any fast-food brands in Totnes – the locals pride themselves in supporting the handmade, the homemade, and the enterprising.
Starting from the top of the town near the castle, or from the bottom near the River Dart, there are plenty of reasons why this market town is hard to resist.
And, yes, as you’ll find out when you visit, Totnes really is twinned with Narnia...
The Drift Record Shop
An actual, proper independent record shop sitting at the top of the town’s high street and run by people who know their stuff, Drift has even been cited in the list of the world’s notable record shops.
The store stocks new releases on CD and vinyl that lean towards leftfield genres and groundbreaking artists, as well as a decent amount of nearly new formats.
All this sits alongside Drift merchandise, art prints, and homeware.
Look out for their live in-store performances and their Dinked editions, limited runs of collectible releases from artists working on the edge.
The Barrel House
More grassroots music love from this small but beautifully formed upstairs venue.
The Barrel House champions local acts like old skool hip-hop team The Scribes, folk, and roots heroes The Blackbird Collective, jazzniks, spoken word artists, and more.
More broadly, the likes of Billy Bragg, Henge, and Metronomy have all graced the Barrel House stage.
Understandably - given the line-ups and the capacity of 150 standing revellers - it’s often best to book tickets in advance.
Downstairs is home to the Totnes Brewing Company so there are loads of tasty beverages at hand.
St Mary’s Church
A fully functioning, 15th-century church slap bang in the Totnes town centre, the acoustics at St Mary’s are so good that it has the honour of working as a live music venue, as well as a place of worship.
St Mary’s is so well thought of, in fact, that Blur’s Damon Albarn chose to launch his last solo album there with an acoustic set for lucky fans, while Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Pip Blom, and more have performed here.
Stroll past on a Sunday morning to hear the St Mary’s bellringers in full flow.
The Bull Inn
It was only renovated a couple of years and already The Bull Inn has been featured in The Times’ list of the 100 best hotels in the UK.
Not bad for what was once an ordinary pub. Ethical pioneer Geetie Singh-Watson bought The Bull in 2018 and transformed it into a must-visit watering hole.
Geetie does have form though. In the late nineties she opened Britain’s first all-organic pub, The Duke of Cambridge in London, and in 2003 she was awarded an MBE for services to the pub trade.
The Bull is also a hotel and is known for its sustainability, and organic food and drink menus.
The Edgy Veggie
Vegetarianism and veganism have been strong themes in Totnes for decades, and the relatively new Edgy Veggie Kitchen and Cafe is a laidback space that continues the crusade with a menu bursting with healthy flavours and ideas.
All their food is handmade in small batches and the specials change on a daily basis, with the team behind the family-run kitchen working with local farmers and food producers who are committed to protecting the environment.
Eat inside the cafe or take your time with family and friends over a lazy lunch in their outdoor seating area. An award-winner in the making.
Slightly more upmarket (but still pretty relaxed) and almost definitely somewhere you’ll need to book in advance, the Gather restaurant is a treat.
Fine dining without the stuffiness, Gather’s head chef is award-winning Harrison Brockington, and he helms a crew who show an incredible attention to detail and a love for the food they serve.
Much of their ingredients are foraged locally and their wine list boasts some wondrous suggestions.
There are a wealth of independent shops and boutiques in Totnes, offering all manner of hand-pick
ed objets d‘art, clothing, stationery and interior design ideas.
Honestly, you could arrive in Totnes with an empty home and have it filled within an afternoon, budget allowing.
Special mentions go to Love Frankie and Famous Rebel, two stores that pride themselves in presenting cool, desirable bits and bobs.
Love Frankie sells their own collection of crazy, maximalist wallpaper designed by owner Johanna Franks as part of their selection, while Famous Rebel major in contemporary culture and music-inspired art prints, jewellery and lighting.
No self-respecting arts-driven town is complete without its own set of independent coffee shops and Totnes is no exception.
Having fended off the high street chains, there are lots to choose from. However, the queues outside The Hairy Barista and The Curator are solid indicators of just how good their produce is.
Along with their coffee, The Hairy Barista also sell homemade sweet and savoury vegan specialties and gluten and sugar-free locally baked cakes.
The Curator has a cluster of outside tables that are the perfect spot for people-watching and prides itself in its excellent selection of Italian-inspired pastries and sandwiches.
Situated in the town’s designated Market Square, the twice-weekly (Fridays and Saturdays) Totnes markets are famous for their eclectic offerings. Fruit and veg, of course.
Organic? No problem. But what about takeaway food? There’s plenty there, from Ethiopian platters and vegan paella to pan-Asian ideas and locally-produced burgers, cheeses and pastries.
Keep an eye out for the Devon honey stall too, and note that there’s a dedicated food market in the square on the third Sunday of every month.
The weekly markets host a wide range of craft and second-hand stalls vending vintage and second-hand goods, handmade soaps, house plants and more.
Buskers rock up to entertain the crowds and there’s even a guy selling homemade wands. Magic.