Great Torrington is an old market town built on the trade route between Barnstable and Plymouth. It was built on an impressive hilltop location overlooking the river Torridge which was of strategic importance in the middle ages.
However it is now so easy to drive quickly through without realizing how much Great Torrington has to offer! I would suggest parking in the South Street car park -
SS 494 189 - and enjoy the fantastic views before exploring further.
If you look down the valley on the far side of the river you can see two long thin fields which are examples of medieval land culture. There were originally seven fields here which were culitivated by lepers for at least 500years. The leper hospital was in Taddiport which you can see to your right.
In the left hand corner of the car park (while looking at the view) there is a stone arch – rather well hidden – which leads to many paths which zig-zag down to the river. Rolle Road , the wide path along the river used to be a canal but was closed in 1871 and was filled in to form a toll road. Now we can all enjoys lovely walks along the riverside.
Torrington is recognised as a heritage centre for the history of the 17 th century. It contains 97 Listed buildings and there is a Conservation Area around the medieval core of the town where most of the listed buildings are to be found.
On February 16 th 1646, during the English Civil War, the famous Battle of Torrington was fought. The Parliamentarians lead by Sir Thomas Fairfax defeated the Royalists lead by Lord Hopton. This was the end of Royalist resistance in the West Country and led on to the eventual death and execution of King Charles 1 st .
There is a strange twist to the story. Fairfax imprisoned 200 Royalist prisoners in the church which unbeknown to him had been used as a gun powder store. Something happened to cause the powder to explode caused the destruction of the church and the death of all the prisoners within.
The church was rebuilt a few years later – now known as St Michaels and All Angels. The large cobbled mound outside the church door is said to be where the remains of the prisoners bodies were buried.
To find out more visit the tourist attraction – Torrington 1646, which brings history to life. This is situated next to the South Street car park. Another source of information is Torrington Heritage Museum, housed in the town hall in the town centre. It is a small museum but it does have some fascinating exhibits. Tel for opening times 01805 626140 Next to the museum is the Green Lantern Cafe - great for a fantastic brunch!
Torrington is surrounded on three sides by 365 acres of common
land given to the town
town in 1194 by Baron FitzRobert. In 1889 the rights to this land were transferred by an act of parliament to an elected Committee of Conservators. Originally they protected the land against over grazing and control quarrying. Now grazing has stopped and techniques must be used to stop the common reverting to scrub and woodland.
On these commons are
20 miles of footpaths, perfect for an afternoon stroll, through a landscape which has changed much for hundreds of years.Park in South Street car park for walks near the river or there is a car park on the west side of the town -
SS 484 194. There is a picnic area here, along with toilets and usually an ice-cream van!
Tarka Trail - SS 481 197
There is good access point with a car park to the west of the town
at the Puffing Billy pub. The walks from here are very peaceful and well surfaced. Ideal for bikes, wheelchairs and pushchairs. Bikes can be hired from
Torridge Cycle Hire, Station Yard, Tel: 01805 622633 The Puffing Billy sells food all day and has a beer garden
Rosemoor Gardens -
01805 624067 -
SS 499 176
Compared to other RHS gardens Rosemoor is quite new and was gifted to the RHS by Lady Anne Berry. It soon became a garden of national importance and now contains over 3500 varieties of plants. There are many different themed gardens which are increasing all the time. However the favourite must be the absolutly wonderful rose garden packed full of very heathly looking roses with the most heavenly scents imaginable.
Dartington Crystal 01805 626266
A very useful trip out for a wet day. On the tour you can see how the molten glass is transformed into beautiful hand crafted pieces of crystal. Other childrens activities are often available as well. There is a good cafe for lunch and a lovely factory shop were both seconds and first quality items can be purchased.
Swimming Pool 01805 623085
A small pool but useful if you are on holiday nearby. Situated on the road to Dartington Crystal.
The Plough 01805 624624
The Plough Arts Centre which is in the town offers a wide programme of events including Films, Theatre, and Music. There is a gallery, a small shop and a foyer cafe. The Plough is usually closed on a Sunday and Monday.
Torrington Golf Club 01805 622229
This is a 9 hole heathland course with 18 differing tees. The course measures at 4423yards with a PAR of 64. It may only be a short course but has quite a few tricky features and some holes are especially interesting. It is also quite hilly so you will know you have had your excercise for the day. It is very good value for money, along with fantastic scenery and a great meal in the clubhouse afterwards
Coarse Fishing at Darracott Reservoir - 01409 211514
This is an
attractive three acre water which is controlled by The South West Lakes Trust. Depths at this venue vary from only 3ft at the narrow end to nearly 27ft at the dam end. This venue is known for its bream with fish to 6lb. Day tickets in advance only from Summerlands @ Westward Ho 01237 471291, Kingfisher @ Barnstable 01271 344919, Bideford TIC 01237 477676 or Whiskers Pets @ Torrington - 01805 622859
Directions - From the town centre, take the road towards Dartington Crystal. After two miles turn right signposted Darracott Reservoir. Follow this road for two miles and the venue car park is on the right.