Great Torrington Things to Do Tips by johngayton
Great Torrington Things to Do: 6 reviews and 16 photos
The Formal Lay Out
This almost qualifies as an "Off The Beaten Path" tip as the Secret Memorial Garden here is tucked away in a corner of Castle Hill, adjacent to Great Torrington's prime visitor attraction, the 1646 Experience. Searching it out though is more than rewarding, not just for its simple beauty and tranquility but also to meet the gardener. Unfortunately I didn't catch his name on my last visit but he is certainly a character and intimately knowledgeable about his little fiefdom.
The Secret Memorial Garden was planted on a disused builder's yard to commemorate the deaths of 5 young boys in the Sydney House fire on February 19th, 1942. Sydney House at the time of the tragedy was being used as a hospice for sick children, including war-time evacuees and the Memorial Garden was created by public fundraising as a community space to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
The Garden is laid out as a Tradescant Knot Garden which is a formal style of garden filled with medical and culinary herbs and wild flowers boxed in geometrically by low hedges. Visitors can not only enjoy its serenity and aromas but are also welcome to cut themselves any of the herbs for personal use and the gardener is more than happy to share suggestions on their various uses, both medical and culinary.
The garden is open most days from 9 until 5-ish. Entry is free and there is a discreet little box beside the gate for donations towards the cost of new plants which the gardener certainly would appreciate.
Directions: On the left-hand side of the car park just before the visitor centre.
Phone: 01805 626100
Me At The Puffing Billy
This is an ideal spot to stop off for a beer when cycling The Tarka Trail being situated in the former Torrington railway station on the trail itself.
Whilst I love train travel I'm not a railway buff as such but the Puffing Billy's rail heritage certainly lends the place character and there is plenty of rail memorabalia around the pub, including a former buffet carriage (which is being restored) and a couple of goods wagons.
A decent pint of beer, friendly landlord and a good sized beer garden are all extra plusses.
The food is supposed to be pretty good too but Ihaven't had a chance to try it yet.
Address: Station Hill, Great Torrington
Directions: At the bottom of the hill on the Tarka Trail.
Phone: 01805 623050
The Pub From The High Street
Great Torrington prides itself on it friendliness and the Newmarket Inn here pretty much exemplifies that. I'd just dropped in for a swift beer and to write a postcard and was impressed by the cheery welcome from both the barmaid and the couple of regulars at the bar. A little repartee ensued regarding my camera and whether I was here for a "modelling shoot" with the rather attractive young barmaid.
The beer was excellent (Bombadier straight from the barrel) company good and I was tempted to have a couple but had a 10 mile or so cycle to get home and so just had my quick pint, wrote and posted my card and reluctantly bade all "adieu".
Definitely worth a return visit.
Address: 10 South St, Great Torrington
Directions: Just past the Pannier Market, off the main square.
Phone: 01805 622289
Enjoying The Views
Because of Great Torrington's hilltop location overlooking the Torridge Valley the views are particularly stunning from Castle Hill. By all accounts they are especially spectacular on misty days as the dawn's rising sun burns the mist out of valley. I haven't had a chance to experience this yet but the views are spectacular anyway.
There are plenty of benches to sit awhile and appreciate the scenery and also a footpath running along the hilltop (good for walking your dog).
Address: Castle Hill
Directions: Where the main car park is.
The Empty Market Hall (on a Monday)
Following the 1852 Act of Parliament regulating English market trading most of the towns of note here in Devon were required to build enclosed public markets which became known as "Pannier Markets", the panniers being the baskets which the goods were transported in.
Great Torrington is certainly one of Devon's "towns of note" and the Pannier Market here, which was substantially refurbished in 1999, hosts a general market on Thursdays and Saturdays, as well as well as a collectibles market on Fridays.
In addition to the main market there are are also a dozen small craft shops and a cafe which are open Monday to Saturday from about 10 until 4. This is the place to get your postcards as the price is about half what you would pay for identical cards at the visitor centre!
Directions: Over the road from the clock end of the main square.
Phone: 01805 626110
The Street Itself
The modern meaning of the work "Shambles" denotes a chaotic mess. However the word originally was used to describe a town's meat market which would be on a narrow street in the town centre with the adjacent buildings offering protection from the worst of the elements.
The Shambles here at Great Torrington is a perfect example and whilst no longer used as a meat market is still well worth a peek. The space has been renovated by local artists and young people, having received a lottery grant in 2003, and now hosts a colourful set of murals depicting the area's history.
Address: The Shambles, Great Torrington
Directions: Just behind the Town Hall (which is on the main square)
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