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Tavistock on the western slopes of Dartmoor a delightful and friendly market town in West Devon.
Tavistock. Its recorded history until recent times shaped firstly; by the presence of an Abbey, and then by the influence of the Dukes of Bedford. A Benedictine Order of Monks founded the Abbey in the 10th century- though sadly now very little remains of the once extensive Abbey buildings. Notably in surviving are two gatehouses, the Court Gate is particularly imposing; Betty Grimbal's tower; and a short length of original cloister set in the wall of the present churchyard. The fine parish church, on the east side of Bedford Square is the Church of St. Eustachius, consecrated in the 12th century, though largely reconstructed in the fifteenth century. Admire the 15th century font and bench ends in the chapel.
Upon the Dissolution in 1539- the Abbey Estates and their obligations were granted by Henry VIII to John Russell, the first Earl of Bedford. It is they, the Dukes, particularly Francis the 7th Duke, who was to remodel Tavistock , funding the construction of many of the fine sea-green coloured stone public buildings around the Square, notably the Guildhall, present day Police Station and Pannier Market, and many buildings still standing to this day in Duke St, as well as hundreds of model cottages for mine workers, all in a distinctive style. Notice the statue of the 7th Duke in the car park?. (He charged dues of over a quarter of a million pounds at 1860's prices on ore extracted from the nearby mines.)
In the town take a pleasant walk in Meadowlands Park with the canal's towpath to one side and the River Tavy to the other. Use the popular swimming pool, and tennis and squash courts. Have a game of golf or a walk on Whitstone Common. Follow the Tavy's upper reaches the delightful villages of Peter and Mary Tavy, with their imposing churches and pubs and inns full of character. Explore the best of what West Devon has to offer.
A mile or so downstream of the town, the oak woods at Double Waters, where the Tavy is joined by the River Walkham are a delight particularly in spring or autumn, when the light greens or the gold’s and browns of the leaves are at their colourful best. Denham Bridge an old packhorse bridge. The River Tavy meets the sea at Lopwell Dam itself a pleasant spot for a stroll or a picnic.
Take the Coast to Coast National Cycle Route 27 (NCN 27) to join the Granite Way a largely off road and level cycling route on the line of the former Southern Railway. Wonderful views from the impressive Lake and Meldon Viaducts. Stop in Lydford for a bite to eat, explore the castle keep. Take a walk in Lydford Gorge, see the White Lady Waterfall and the delights of the golden colours of autumn. Or head south towards Plymouth.
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For a pleasant Devon car drive at any time of year head for the wide open spaces and tors of Dartmoor. Stop off at Princetown, with its High Moorland Visitor Centre, before heading to Postbridge a granite clapper bridge dating from prehistoric times. Maybe then head southwest to make a circular tour of Burrator Dam before heading back to your accommodation.
Milemead Fisheries, Tavistock Trout Fishery for superb Fly Fishing
Lydford Castle Dartmoor. West Devon.Adjacent to the Church of St Petroc. The Castle dates from the 11th century, an imposing now roofless three story tower atop a grassy motte. Surrounded on one side by trees and with the parish church, awash with bluebells in spring next door. Used as a prison and courthouse in the 18th century.
Inside the adjacent churchyard is watchmaker George Routleigh's tomb, whose stone has recently recut, but whose epitaph is found inside the Church. Also inside the church don't miss the carved bench ends. Beside the Porch are several headstones dating from the 1700's. Behind the Church, rarely visited by tourists, is an old iron age fort, whose defensive rings can still clearly be seen.
Mention must be made of Tavistock Goose Fair, dating from 800 years ago, held on the second Wednesday of October. Fairground rides run all week, taking over a couple of the car parks. On fair day itself Bedford Square and several town centre streets are closed to traffic, coming alive with stalls and side shows, attracting thousands of visitors to Goosey Fair. Though nowadays you will be unlikely find ducks or goose for sale, many of the restaurants and inns will have duck on their menu.
Christmas and New Year. Don't miss the town's Dickensian Evening. When traders and shoppers alike dress up in Victorian costume to mark the start of late night shopping in the lead up to Christmas. Roast chestnuts, carol singers, a brass band, steam engines and mulled wine add yet more to the magical atmosphere. Shops decorated, and lights festooned across the streets. Usually held on the first Friday evening (from 6pm to 9pm) in December. (During December there are additional Christmas markets, even one with a Victorian theme, and Craft Fayres in the Pannier Market)
At 11am on Boxing Day the local hunt provide a traditional colourful spectacle as they Meet outside the Bedford Hotel. Horses, riders, followers and of course the several couples of hounds. Mince pies being served by the staff from the Hotel. Check dates and timings before making a special journey
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