Exploring West Devon

The attractive bustling market town of Tavistock is without doubt the best place to base oneself when spending a day or two touring West Devon. Here you are smack in the middle between the Western fringes of Dartmoor and the Tamar Valley which marks the boundary with Cornwall. The town itself is notable for its fine pannier market and parish church while visitors will find it difficult to escape the fact that it was also the birthplace of Sir Francis Drake, the Elizabethan explorer who circumnavigated the globe and later helped lead the English defeat of the Spanish Armada.

 Overlooking the town is a delightful, bow-windowed Georgian mansion which is home to Mount House School, probably the finest boys' preparatory school in the South West. Notable alumni include former Foreign Secretary, Dr. David Owen, the world famous author and broadcaster, Christopher Hichens and his brother Peter. 

 Just outside the town you will find some of the most magnificent scenery on Dartmoor. Alongside the road to Princetown you will see Cox Tor and it is well worth walking the gentle slope from the car park to the summit. From there you will be able to enjoy one of the most spectacular views in the whole of Devon. The panorama stretches from the little church perched on top of Brent Tor all the way down to the sea at Plymouth Sound. 

 From here, continue on to Princetown itself and catch a glimpse of Dartmoor Prison, the grim institution originally built for Napoleonic prisoners of war. A mile or two further on along the Ashburton road, you will encounter the renowned Two Bridges Hotel. If you can, leave the car in the car park and take a leisurely walk to Wistman's Wood with its eerily beautiful stunted oak trees that grow from between moss-covered boulders and are festooned with mosses, lichens and ferns. This is probably one of the top three sites on the whole moor and well worth the effort. 

               On your return to Tavistock, why not plan your next day trip exploring the Tamar Valley from Gunnislake south through Calstock down to St. Germans and Plymouth. The latter's main attractions are the Barbican and the famous Hoe which looks down across the majestic bay known as the Sound. This is where legend maintains that Sir Francis Drake insisted on finishing his game of bowls before embarking to take on the Armada. 

 From the Hoe, stroll down around the imposing Citadel which is still an active Royal Marine base and you will encounter the delightful harbour area known as the Barbican from where the Pilgrim Fathers departed on the Mayflower to the New World in 1620. This is the old part of the city which largely survived World War 2 bombing raids and contains numerous stylish restaurants and jolly pubs like The Dolphin which was immortalised by Beryl Cook's humorous paintings.

Exploring West Devon