The main towns and cities to visit when you are in Devon

Towns and Places of Interest in and around Devon


As you come into Hatherleigh you will enter the pretty little market town from the best direction, on a road that meanders down a sharp hillside surrounded by little colour-washed cottages and old pubs, including The Tally Ho Inn, which even has its own brewery. Going to Hatherleigh on a Tuesday you won't believe how busy it can become. Everyone converges on Hatherleigh on that day when the ancient market still takes place. Watch the poultry auction, visit the cheese shop or just wander around the market and marvel at the variety of stalls.


Okehampton is the biggest town in north Dartmoor with a variety of shops for locals and tourists alike. Fore Street is dominated by the 14th century Chapel of St James. Tucked away in a small courtyard are tea rooms, craft shops, and the very good Museum of Dartmoor Life. This is in a 19th century mill with a working waterwheel and is full of things relating to old dartmoor. Also nearby is Okehampton Castle dating back to Norman times although what you can see today was built in the thirteen hundreds by the Earls of Devon. The castle was partly demolished by Henry VIII but you can still see what it must have looked like. It is set on grassy mound over the river amidst lush woodlands, once a royal deer park.


Tavistock is a really beautiful market town that was once home to the most powerful abbey in southwest England. Some of the structure still stands, the abbey gate is now part of the Town Hall, and opposite, its infirmary dining hall is now a chapel. The town's next big period of wealth come in the thirteenth century with tin mining when Tavistock became the biggest stannary town in Devon. After the tin came a cloth boom and then the great 'copper rush' of the 19th century when a large seam was discovered nearby. Eventually Tavistock re-invented itself as a market town and nowadays the Pannier Market is a hustle and bustle of different stalls nearly everyday. Francis Drake was born in Tavistock in 1542 and although there is nothing left to see by way of a house there is a great statue in the centre of the town. This is the original of the statue situated on Plymouth Hoe.


To many people Exeter is the place at the end of the M5, which you go past on your way to the holiday resorts of south Devon and Cornwall. Anyone who doesn't take the time to stop and explore this remarkable city is missing a real treat because it has just about everything you could wish for - a long and important history, magnificent old buildings, fascinating places to visit, a good shopping centre, a lively arts programme and one or two surprises - where else, for instance, can you explore the tunnels of a medieval water supply?

At its heart is the spectacular Exeter Cathedral which rises up from spacious lawns so that the whole building can be seen in all its glory. The earliest part, the two great towers, date from 1110, but most of the building is of the 14th century, including the beautiful West Front, with its medieval figures of apostles, prophets and soldiers. Inside the cathedral are treasures too numerous to mention in detail. On a nice day, the Cathedral Close is a lovely place to linger, to sit on the grass or the low wall which surrounds it and soak up the atmosphere, but if your time is limited, don't sit for too long because there is so much more to see.


Plymouth's seafaring legacy is legendary. Naturally blessed with one of Europe's finest deepwater anchorages, the patronage of Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins established the port's supremacy in the 16th century. And it was, of course, from here in 1588 that Drake sailed to crush the Armada, though he did have time to finish his game of bowls first, or so the story goes. In 1620 a more peaceable crew, the Pilgrim Fathers, set off from Plymouth aboard the Mayflower to make a new life in North America and to lay the foundation for New England. In later years Captain Cooke launched his voyages of discovery from here and in the 19th century both colonists and convicts set sail to Australia from Plymouth. Recent history has not been so kind - the city was devastated during World War II and the centre has been completely rebuilt, but much of the old harbour area survived.