If you’re planning a trip to Tavistock, there are many ways to make the most of your stay. It’s the ideal destination for those looking to unwind, destress and recharge. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore the great outdoors, there’s plenty to do, and foodies will love discovering the town’s hidden culinary gems. Finally, for history buffs, Tavistock is truly a dream destination. Here are all of the things to do in Tavistock Devon.
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Tavistock is a charming town located in the heart of Devon, England. It’s a great place to visit if you’re looking for a peaceful getaway in the countryside. The town is surrounded by rolling hills, lush green forests, and picturesque rivers, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers. If you’re interested in history, Tavistock has many heritage sites to explore. This guide covers things for families to do, couples and, of course, dog friendly things to do near Tavistock.
Table of Contents
- Free Things To Do In Tavistock
- Things To Do in Tavistock
- Shops In Tavistock
- Outdoor Activities Near Tavistock
- National Trust Near Tavistock
- Things To Do Near Tavistock Devon
- Beaches Near Tavistock
- Food and Drink in Tavistock
- Events in Tavistock
- Tavistock to Gunnislake
- Tavistock to Plymouth
- Places to stay in Devon
Free Things To Do In Tavistock
Housed in the historic Court Gate beside the Town Hall is the Tavistock Museum. It is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11am to 3pm from Easter to the end of October. The bulk of the permanent exhibition is in two rooms on the first floor, where you can lift the lid on Tavistock’s mining heritage and learn about Sir Francis Drake’s ties to the town. Here, you can pick up valuable visitor information.
There’s a superb array of rock specimens brought to the surface at mines in the Tamar Valley, some preserved mining tools, and a video presentation about the Benedictine Tavistock Abbey, founded more than a century before the Norman Conquest.
🐾 Not dog-friendly
The town’s most famous attraction is the ruins of Tavistock Abbey, a 10th-century Benedictine monastery. The Abbey is located in the town centre and offers a glimpse into the town’s rich history. It is a nationally significant standing and buried remains of the wealthiest and most powerful medieval Abbey in Devon and Cornwall. These include a still tower, two gatehouses, the Abbey Chapel and Trowte’s House, a rare surviving example of a monastic outer court building. The Abbey site is a Scheduled Monument.
Tavistock Canal Walk
One of the best things to do in Tavistock is to go for a leisurely walk along the River Tavy. The river runs through the town and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. You can also picnic by the riverbank, or children can play in the parks.
This waterway was built in the first years of the 19th Century to move goods like copper ore, slate and limestone between Tavistock and the major inland port at Morwhellam Quay, ten miles to the south on the River Tamar. Today, you can walk its towpath to see stone bridges, old locks, sweet waterfront cottages and the solemn Shillamill Aqueduct.
St Eustachius’ Parish Church
The church was built by Ordulf, Earl of Devon, and was completed in 981, when its charter was granted, but was looted and destroyed by Danish invaders in 997. After being rebuilt, the church continued to function until the Dissolution of the monasteries throughout England in 1539.
A great piece of Perpendicular Gothic architecture on Bedford Square, Tavistock’s parish church is also a key document for the town’s Medieval past. It gained its present form between 1350 and 1450 when the southernmost Clothworkers’ Aisle was constructed.
🐾 Dog-friendly, just not inside the church
Things To Do in Tavistock
Blue Plaque Walk
This charming little book is invaluable for anyone planning to visit Tavistock to learn more about its history. The book summarises the history of Tavistock with excellent accompanying photographs for each of the selected blue plaque sites. Using the included map, visitors could walk around all the 28 blue plaque sites in a day, reading the summarised history at each one. It also provides an overview of the history of Tavistock and its buildings through the ages.
The Tavistock Museum compiled this informative book, and it is available for sale at the museum for £3.00 or buy it online. I can thoroughly recommend it as an essential read for anyone interested in the history of Tavistock.
If you’re interested in live music, cinema, theatre or the arts, The Wharf is the place to head. The venue has been described as one of the finest live music venues in the South West. With a wide variety of bands, there should be something to suit your musical tastes alongside local and national theatre group productions.
🐾 Not dog-friendly
Shops In Tavistock
Tavistock is renowned for its variety of unique shops. Tavistock is a great place to buy local, organic and fresh food; it is also a fantastic place to shop for stylish clothes, jewellery and curious gifts, both large and small. While you’re here, why not take advantage of some of Tavistock’s finest boutiques, where you’ll find men’s, women’s and children’s clothes, jewellery, bags and accessories, and high-end international clothes.
🐾 Many of the shops are dog-friendly. Stickers and signs are in the windows or pop your face in and ask.
Tavistock Pannier Market
King Henry I awarded Tavistock the right to a weekly “Pannier Market” in 1105; the tradition has persisted for 900 years. The name “pannier” comes from the baskets used to transport goods. The market is open from Tuesday to Saturday and is always busy. The air will be filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries. The market is housed in a historic building and is a great place to find local produce, handmade crafts and unique gifts. Tavistock Pannier Market has charm and character that is impossible to replicate.
You can catch Tavistock’s Farmers’ Market on Bedford Square, in front of the stately Town Hall. It is a treasure trove of fresh, local food, drink and plants direct from the producer. You’ll also be able to ask questions of the stallholders, as these are the people who grew, baked, reared, caught, smoked, pickled or brewed this produce and will be happy to speak for their stock. The market voted Best Market in the South West, takes place on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.
Outdoor Activities Near Tavistock
Dartmoor National Park
For outdoor enthusiasts, Tavistock is also home to Dartmoor National Park. The park covers over 350 square miles and offers endless hiking, cycling, and sightseeing opportunities. You can explore the park’s rugged terrain, ancient woodlands, and fascinating wildlife. There are endless places to stop and natural beauty.
The National Park Visitor Centre is in Princetown, a 15-minute drive from Tavistock. It is where Sherlock Holmes writer Conan Doyle stayed. Here, there is an interactive introduction to Dartmoor. The Church of St Michael and All Angels is a short walk from the visitor centre, built by the American Prisoners of War and Dartmoor Prison Museum. Adults are £4 each, £2 for children and £12 for a family ticket.
A 20-minute drive from Tavistock is Tamar Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lush green hills stretch out before you. It is a haven of tranquillity shaped by the Tamar, Tavy and Lynher rivers. Lace up your walking shoes, pack a picnic and prepare for a discovery journey.
The open-air museum of Morwellham Quay is a restored village where visitors are transported back to 1860. There are docks, a quay, a ship, a farm and a nature trail to keep you busy. You can even tour the copper mine on a small train. The costumed staff make you feel like you’ve left the 21st Century.
Entry is from £14.95 per person or £13.95 for seniors. Children are £13.95, with under 2’s free of charge.
🐾 Dogs are welcome on a lead but cannot enter the Living History Tour, Miners Adventure Play and live music events. They are charged £1 for entry.
Tree Surfers is a thrilling experience that lets you get a bird’s-eye view of hundreds of acres of woodland. This attraction lets you test your limits on a high ropes trail with zip wires, Tarzan swings and rope bridges. For those who want to stay on the ground, there’s an archery range, cycle paths and various walking trails. It is one of the best family friendly attractions near Tavistock.
🐾 No dog-friendly
National Trust Near Tavistock
Buckland Abbey is part museum, part house, and filled with treasures. It has remained virtually unchanged since it was built over 700 years ago. Beginning life as a tranquil monastery with a productive estate, Buckland has been redeveloped, restored and adapted, passing through the hands of famous seafarers such as Sir Francis Drake. He lived at Buckland Abbey for several years and even helped fund the construction of the Great Hall.
Walk through the halls and marvel at the intricate architecture and stunning artwork adorning the walls. It is easy to imagine what life was like for the monks who used to call this place home.
You will discover meadows, orchards and woodlands and enjoy far-reaching views of the Tavy Valley. The Elizabethan Garden is a riot of colour, especially in summer. In the kitchen garden, fruit and vegetables are grown. The Cider House and Secret Wild Garden have many spots to admire the scenery and wildlife, such as deer, birds and butterflies. Buckland Abbey is beautiful and a living testament to England’s rich heritage.
Entry is £14 per adult and £7 per child, and family tickets start from £21. National Trust members are free. There is also free parking
🐾 Dog friendly. Dogs can go on all estate walks, visitor facilities, Ox Yard Café and Book Shop, and gardens.
The historic Cotehele estate has a truly magical atmosphere. The stone walls rise into the sky and almost glint in the sunlight. Wander through the various rooms, marvelling at the intricate tapestries, elegant furnishings and stunning views from the windows. Head down through the woods to the quay and mill, which has been restored.
The estate was the ancestral home of the Edgcumbe family for centuries. It is decorated with tapestries, armour and old oak furniture. Outside, there are formal and natural gardens to be explored. As well as the planted terraces, there is an Upper Garden and two orchards with apples and cherries. The grounds are renowned for the old oaks, yews and Spanish chestnut trees.
Entry is £14 for adults, £7 for children, and family tickets start from £21. National Trust members are free. Free parking for National Trust members. Or car parking starts from £1.
🐾 Dog-friendly, they can go everywhere apart from the formal garden, orchards and house.
National Trust Membership
With your membership, you can visit over 500 houses, gardens, parks and castles in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The National Trust membership includes:
- Unlimited free entry to all of the properties.
- Essential companion card where you can bring up to two carers if you have a disability. These can be different people; the card is in your name.
- Free parking at the majority of car parks. Some National Trust car parks are in other natural areas like beaches and countryside walks.
- Annually you’ll be sent a handbook full of information about the properties. However, the website is easy to navigate, finding places to visit by area or postcode.
- Regular members magazine, sent three times a year.
- Regular e-newsletters.
- Join by direct debit and get a £15 gift card to spend in the National Trust shops or café.
Perks to visiting National Trust properties:
- The majority of National Trust sites are dog-friendly. Going inside the buildings can be tricky, as dogs can’t enter them. However, you can take turns if you go as a couple or a group.
- There are plenty of activities for children, such as things to find in the gardens and walking trails. Many of them have play areas too.
- If you are going for history, you may have to do your own research.
- National Trust wins in nature, as the properties have many grounds, long walks, and nature areas such as the South West Coast Path.
How much is a National Trust membership?
Memberships can be purchased in total, by direct debit or as a gift voucher and are for a year. Get yours here.
- Adult Membership (age 26 plus) = £84 a year (£7 per month)
- Young Person Membership (age 18-25) = £42 a year
- Junior Membership (age 6-17, under 5’s are free) = £10 a year
- Joint Membership (2 adults) = £139.20 a year (£11.60 per month)
- Family Membership (for 2 adults) = £146.40 a year (£12.20 per month)
- Family Membership (for 1 adult) = £91.20 a year (£7.60 per month)
- Individual Life Membership = £1, 845 or £1,380 for over 60s
- Joint Life Membership = £2,305 or £1,730 for over 60s
- Family Life Membership = £2415
Use Top Cash Back when purchasing your membership
I’ve been a member of TopCashBack UK for several years and, to date, have earned over £1000 from it. Trust me, it’s a no-brainer, and you can make extra money by shopping online. Currently, you can get 3.15% back on your National Trust membership.
Things To Do Near Tavistock Devon
The Garden House
One of the places to visit near Tavistock is the Garden House, found on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. With 10 acres of stunning gardens, more than 6,000 different varieties of plants ensure colour throughout the year. From snowdrops in February to wildflower meadows in the early summer.
The Walled Garden sits within the ruined walls of the 16th-century vicarage. It comes into its own from August to the end of September, with borders awash with herbaceous perennials and shrubs such as hydrangea, phlox, eryngiums and dahlias. The Japanese maples that gently sit on either side of a natural tumbling water feature turn to stunning colours throughout Autumn.
The Jubilee Arboretum (opened in 2011 by the Countess of Wessex) contains more than 100 specimen trees carefully selected for their impact and interest. They are planted around two natural lakes – a beautiful place to sit and contemplate any time of the year!
Adults are £13.20, Children (aged 6-15) are £6.60, and under 6s are free. Memberships are available, and RHS members also get free entry on Fridays.
🐾 Not dog-friendly
Tamar Valley Donkey Path
With a tagline of Cornwall’s happiest donkeys, how could you not visit Tamar Valley Donkey Park? Fun for all the family. Get up close and meet the donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs. There are also six indoor play zones, including miniature tractor rides, soft play, and toddler play.
🐾 Dog-friendly. Must be kept on a lead.
Merrivale Prehistoric Settlement
At Merrivale Prehistoric Settlement are the remains of a Bronze Age ritual site. It includes three stone rows, a circle stone, standing stones and several cairns. The closest to the road is a large cluster of roundhouses. There is a substantial round stone here, often mistaken for a tomb. But it is an apple crusher stone used in cider making. The ritual monuments are believed to be from several different periods, indicating that the site was of great spiritual importance. It is one of the exciting things to do around Tavistock.
The village of Lydford is on the edge of Dartmoor National Park. It was an important medieval town, and by the 10th Century, it even had its own mint. The Vikings tried to take the town but were repelled. Soon after the siege, William the Conqueror started building Lydford Castle.
The Castle Tower was built in the 12th Century and has been used as a goal. The most well-known was Richard Strode, an MP for Plymouth. He described his stay as “one of the most annoious, contagious and detestable places wythin this realme”. By 1650, the castle was in decay, and even though repairs have been made, it is now in ruin.
Lydford Church is next door to the castle, which has existed since 639 AD. It is dedicated to St Petroc, a Welsh monk preaching in the West Country in the 6th Century. It is believed the Viking raiders burnt it down in 997, but it was rebuilt and enlarged in the 13th and 15th Centuries. Ensure you go inside; the pews are highly decorated with carvings, and the ceiling and other artwork are fascinating.
🐾 Dogs are welcome on a lead, but not inside the church.
Dominating the surrounding landscape, you’ll find Launceston Castle at the top of a large mound. It was built during the Norman conquest. The keep has breathtaking views of the town and countryside. The castle was the seat of the Earl of Cornwall from the 13th Century. It has a colourful history from being a prison and the base for the Royalists during the Civil War. I’d recommend taking a picnic and also strolling around the town of Launceston.
Entry is £8.50 per person or £7.50 for seniors and students. Under 5’s are free, and other children are £4.50. Family tickets start from £13. English Heritage members are free.
The remains of the largest castle in Devon, in a stunning setting on a wooded spur above the rushing River Okement. Begun soon after the Norman Conquest as a motte and bailey castle with a stone keep, it was converted into a sumptuous residence in the 14th Century by Hugh Courtenay, Earl of Devon, much of whose work survives. After the last owner fell foul of Henry VIII in 1539, Oakhampton Castle declined into a ruin.
There is a riverside picnic area, and beautiful woodland walks nearby. It’s also an excellent place for bird lovers with regular visiting species. In spring and early summer, you can enjoy a variety of seasonal wildflowers, which adorn the meadow, woodland and motte.
Entry is £7.50 per person or £6.50 for seniors and students. Under 5’s are free, and other children are £4.50. Family tickets start from £11.50. English Heritage members are free.
What is included in English Heritage membership?
The English Heritage looks after 400 historical monuments in England, including castles, ruins, and ancient sites. Some of the most famous destinations are in the South West, including Tintagel Castle, Pendennis and Stonehenge.
The English Heritage membership includes:
- Unlimited free entry to all English Heritage sites.
- Free entry for up to six children (aged under 18). They don’t have to be your children. They could be nieces, nephews and friends’ children.
- Free English Heritage properties access for assisting companions or carers for a disabled member. (This can be a different person each time!)
- Free parking at English Heritage car parks.
- Reduced price events, such as Christmas Lights at Eltham Palace or jousting at Pendennis Castle.
- A member’s handbook is sent annually.
- Exclusive members magazine, sent four times a year.
- Online magazine for children, including videos, games, activities and recipes.
- Regular e-newsletters.
- Member’s rewards scheme where you can access over 60 partners. Includes food and drink, discounted hotels and places to stay and other tourist attractions.
- Reduced entry to CADW (in Wales), Historic Scotland and Manx National Heritage properties in your first year and free admission after year one. Free access to Ireland Heritage automatically.
English Heritage Membership Benefits:
- Many attractions are dog-friendly. Best to double-check before you visit. Going inside the buildings can be tricky, as dogs can’t go in them. However, if you go as a couple or a group, you can take it in turns.
- There are plenty of activities for children, although some come at an extra charge or are members only.
- English Heritage is a clear winner if you’re interested in history. This is their primary focus.
English Heritage Offer
Get 15% off gift and annual memberships by using the promo code EHAFF2023 at the checkout. It is valid until 31 December 2023. Making a single membership £56.10 per year and a couple’s membership £97.75. Get yours here.
Dingles Fairground Museum
Dingles Fairground Heritage Centre is a unique attraction in the UK. It is one of the best things to do in Tavistock when it rains, as it is indoors. With fairground art and historic and vintage rides, the memorabilia is exciting for children and big kids. It captures the magic of the bygone age through exhibits, engineering and displays. Pre-booking your visit is recommended as there is a morning and afternoon session. Tickets start from £12 per adult and from £10 for children.
🐾 Not dog-friendly
Beaches Near Tavistock
Tavistock isn’t near the sea. However, you can take a day trip to the seaside. Favourites include Bovisand, a quiet, small beach; Mothecombe, one of the most beautiful beaches in the South West; and Seaton Beach, a well-known tourist trap.
Food and Drink in Tavistock
The town has many restaurants, cafes, delis and pubs selling excellent, locally-produced food. Your first stop should be at the Tavistock Pannier Market for fresh produce, baked goods, cheese and meats. The Bedford Hotel also serves homemade food, including Dartmoor lamb and Tamar Valley beef. The Devon crab cake is highly recommended; it is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The Cornish Arms is a cosy pub with a wide range of drinks. Doom Bar is a popular local ale. The town also has a Fairtrade status, which means it encourages shoppers to buy products that support farmers and producers who are sustainable.
Stannary Brewing Company
Stannary Brewing Company is a small craft brewery and taproom. The team is inspired by beer styles worldwide and develops fresh and exciting full-flavoured craft beers. All beers are unfiltered and unfined, which means they are vegan-friendly. Alongside the kegs and bottled beers, there is a small range of ciders, wines and local gins. The Stannary Taproom is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday throughout the year, and the Beer & BBQ Bash takes place on the last Saturday of each month.
Get 50% off food
After visiting the National Trust, refuel up with Tastecard. You get 50% off the food bill or two meals for the price of one. There are over six thousand participating restaurants across the UK. Get a 60-day free trial here:
Take a Picnic
Devon Hampers, send the best of the South West to your front door. The cream tea and afternoon tea hampers include scones, clotted cream and jam. There are also cheese hampers, chocolate, cider and BBQ hampers.
Devon Hampers Promo Code
Get 5% off hampers or create your own. Order anything from a clotted cream tea for two or a large hamper full of goodies. There is no minimum order amount. Use DEVON5 at the checkout.
Events in Tavistock
All year round, Tavistock has many diverse events for locals and visitors to South Devon to enjoy, making it a fascinating town to visit. Festivals, markets, exhibitions; there’s always something going on for people of all ages.
The annual Pride festival takes place in July, a fantastic fanfare of colour and love, followed by the town Carnival. Food festivals take place throughout the summer, whilst the famous Tavistock Goose Fair is in October! In the lead-up to Christmas, the town travels back to the Victorian era for Dickensian Evening.
Tavistock Things To Do
Overall, Tavistock is a wonderful destination for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy some peace and tranquillity in the countryside. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or simply relaxing, there’s something for everyone in this charming town.
Tavistock to Gunnislake
The village of Gunnislake is just a 10-minute drive from Tavistock. The village is in the countryside but is an excellent base for exploring South Devon. As with many places in the South West, mining took place here for tin, wolfram, arsenic, and copper. The narrow streets of miner’s cottages, as do the numerous ruins of mines, still exist today. They are making miles of attractions to explore when looking for things to do in Gunnislake.
Tavistock to Plymouth
Plymouth is about a 45-minute drive from Tavistock. It is also linked by buses. I love visiting Plymouth; it’s usually somewhere we stretch our legs or eat some local fish and chips on our way to Looe and Polperro in Cornwall.
- Free things to do in Plymouth.
- Dog friendly restaurants in PlymouthAfternoon tea in Plymouth
- Mount Edgcumbe Country Park
- The ultimate guide to outdoor activities in Plymouth
- National Trust near Plymouth
Places to stay in Devon
Sykes Cottages has over 17,500 holiday cottages to rent across the UK, including in Devon and the surrounding areas. There are pet-friendly cottages, large holiday homes and even houses with hot tubs. They’ve been operating for over 30 years, so you know you’re booking is in good hands.
Best Western Hotels
There are three Best Western Hotels in Devon; Exmouth Beach, Dartmouth and the Lord Haldon Country Hotel in Exeter. Every Best Western hotel is individual and crammed full of its own personality. From big comfy beds, fresh linen sheets and free WiFi. Some of the hotels in Manchester have parking which charges a small fee. Check out their special offers.
I stayed at Bideford Bay when I visited Bude. There’s also Challaborough Bay near Bigbur, Ruda and Torquay. The caravan park and lodges have a children’s play park, indoor swimming pool, tranquil gardens, pub and restaurant. It is a short drive to Lostwithiel. There is some dog-friendly accommodation too.
Devon Cliffs Holiday Park is in Sandy Bay in Exmouth. It is the biggest park in the Haven family but also a peaceful paradise. With acres of fun for all the family and an award-winning Blue Flag beach, you’ll be thrilled with your stay here. Both caravans and lodges are available here, with plenty of leisure facilities and an indoor pool.
Britannia Hotels in Devon are in Torquay and Illfracombe. The hotel offers excellent value for money with spacious en-suite bedrooms, TV’s and tea and coffee-making facilities. Complimentary WiFi sessions are included as well as low-cost parking. Even pets are allowed to stay for a small additional charge.
National Trust Holidays
You can stay in cottages, converted farmhouses and campsites in Devon with National Trust Holidays. With countryside views, you’ll have all the facilities and home comforts to hand. Including patio areas or gardens and BBQs to enjoy in warmer weather.
National Trust Holiday Promo Code
Get 15% off selected cottages for bookings made and taken before 12 December 2023. Use discount code NTAF.
Cornwall Hideaways have a massive selection of luxury holiday homes to make your next staycation perfect. Whether it’s a romantic getaway or a family holiday, there’s plenty to choose from. You’ll be able to find properties with the things on your tick list, including dog-friendly, sea views, walking routes or even a log fire. There are barn conversions, cottages, lofts and manor houses.
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