Just a 30-minute drive from Plymouth, Tavistock is a bustling, historic market town that was the birthplace of Sir Francis Drake. It is a world heritage site with an amazing history that starts with the building of a Benedictine Abbey, on whose foundations the town now sits.
In 1642 the town was first held for Parliament and later hosted Charles I and his army. The Earl of Bedford was made Duke in 1694, so starting the strong links with the Bedford dynasty.
Sir Francis drake was a local boy, and he was made Mayor of Plymouth in 1581.
The town blossomed with the creation of a canal in 1803 which linked Tavistock to Morwhellam. When the railway arrived in 1859 the Bedfords started on a huge re-building project and the landmark architecture: town hall, guildhall, pannier market and Duke Street shops, have survived and are well used today.
It is quite easy to spend a day here as there is a large number of local activities to choose from, including golf, tennis and Dartmoor Walks. This is not a town full of national chains, there are plenty of individual shops, cafes and restaurants to choose from which is all part of the charm.
We hope this unique guide will inspire you to go slightly off the beaten track, and lift the lid on some truly special local places for you to enjoy.
If we were to stay overnight, we would choose the beautiful Tavistock House Hotel, which was once a Victorian townhouse built by the Duke of Bedford in 1850.
The hotel has been painstakingly renovated and no attention to detail has been overlooked. Rooms are decorated to a high standard offering a very comfortable stay and breakfasts are included if you book direct.
A great place for: extra touches that really make a difference: wifi and tablets in your rooms to help you research local places; fresh milk brought to your room for your tea and coffee.
On the second, fourth and fifth Saturdays of the month, the town hosts this local producers’ market. Voted the best farmers market in the southwest, in nearly 20 years this market has grown from being a small selection of stalls to hosting 20+ producers most months.
Some weeks the market is supported by local entertainment, and at previous markets jazz bands, a harpist and a silver band have all been heard.
A great place for: home-made breads and a fantastic choice of local cheeses
Taylor’s Café Bar & Restaurant
Menu choices are heavily influenced by what is season and readily available and the lemon merengue pie is deserving of its ‘outstanding’ reputation.
A great place for: afternoon tea, so you can sample all the delicious cakes in bite-sized form. Terrific value at £16 with a glass of prosecco!
As the website for this local kitchen suppliers says: essentials for home living. This family run business has been trading ironmongery and hardware since 1904. Lawsons has expanded from its original starting place in Plymouth to have branches in 3 Devon towns. The Tavistock branch is situated in the town’s corn mill and has been serving the local community since 1992.
Kitchenware, pet goods and even local school uniforms can all be bought here. The staff are always on hand for advice and we always pop in when we are in town as there are usually some good special offers that rival some of the larger, national competitors.
A great place for: reasonably priced, reliable and sturdy kitchenware
Just a five-minute walk from the town centre, between the River Tavy and the canal is The Meadows.
This is the perfect spot for gentle walks and despite the children’s play area and trim trails this remains a beautiful, peaceful outdoor space.