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Built on the site of an ancient settlement atop an inland cliff with the River Torridge below, Great Torrington is a friendly, welcoming market town which enjoys spectacular views across rolling hills and unspoilt green countryside.
Things to do in Great Torrington
Great Torrington is full of independent shops offering unique items, many of which are made by local crafts-people. Regular markets are held in the Victorian Pannier Market on Fridays and Saturdays and there are often pop-up craft events and shops at Castle Hill, in the Town Hall and at The Plough Arts Centre.
Fancy taking in a show? The Plough Arts Centre is a welcoming and dynamic venue for arts events showcasing a mix of local and national talent to suit the whole family, including theatre performances, concerts, comedians, art exhibitions and workshops.
There are a wide range of other attractions in and around the town too. Explore the enchanting gardens of RHS Rosemoor and take a leisurely stroll through the huge variety of formal and informal gardens; take a factory tour around Dartington Crystal to experience the traditional craft of glass making followed by a visit to the UK’s largest glass shop; visit the Heritage Museum to find out more about the fascinating history of this important market town or, spend a few quiet moments in the magical Secret Memorial Garden just a few paces from Sydney House Car Park which was created as a memorial to five young evacuees who tragically lost their lives in a fire close by at Sydney House.
Great Torrington is connected to many local villages and towns via a network of walking and cycling trails, including the Tarka Trail, a 180-mile figure of eight which runs through North Devon following the route taken by the fictional Tarka the Otter in the famous novel by Henry Williamson.
Great Torrington hosts a number of events throughout the year including a parade every February to commemorate the Battle of Torrington in 1646 and the annual Mayfair and Carnival celebrations during the first week of May. Every five years the Torrington Cavaliers voluntary group stage an impressive themed bonfire and firework display on the Commons. The next bonfire in August 2021 will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower to America with the centrepiece being a replica of the Mayflower ship.
During August and September 2021 the streets are alive with the sound of music in Great Torrington! Local artists are serenading residents and visitors to the town as they shop and relax with family and friends. As part of the Government’s Welcome Back Fund, the Town Council has signed up local musical talent to provide street music on a Saturday morning/lunchtime in the town centre and Pannier Market. Great Torrington’s Mayor, Councillor Doug Smith, explained “We are very proud of the shopping experience people can already have in Great Torrington. We’re delighted with the opportunity to deliver an exciting new musical programme and welcome the public back to our town centre, which boasts a myriad of independent shops”. So come along, shop local and relax and listen to a variety of genres of music over the next couple of months!
Local Food and Drink
Great Torrington has a variety of eateries and pubs including several cafes in the town centre serving locally produced delights.
The countryside around Great Torrington is brimming with spectacular flora and fauna and thanks to its prominent hilltop position, boasts impressive views over the surrounding area. The town is enveloped on three sides by 365 acres of common land given to the people of Great Torrington in the 12th Century and since 1889 administered by a Committee of Conservators. The area is freely accessible to all, and visitors can walk the 20 miles of footpaths, ranging from the 9-hole golf course in the north; ancient wood and wild flower meadow in the west; and dropping down to the beautiful River Torridge to the south of the town.
Great Torrington has a long and varied history. As ‘Toriton’ it is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday survey of Devon while the remains of Neolithic and Iron Age settlements show that people have lived in the area for thousands of years. In the 12th century, Toriton was designated a borough under the control of a succession of local barons; the town evolved to become the busy centre of a thriving agricultural economy with people travelling from miles around to trade at the large weekly markets.
Although the Normans and their successors built a castle and fortifications to take advantage of its position overlooking the valley, the town was recorded as peaceful until the 17th century. In 1646 the town played its part in the English Civil War when the Parliamentarians under Sir Thomas Fairfax defeated Lord Hopton and his Royalist army. The Battle of Torrington marked the end of Royalist resistance in the West Country, leading to the defeat and execution of Charles the First and a significant step towards our current parliamentary democracy.
Through the Middle Ages the wool industry grew and thrived but by the 18th century was overtaken by glove making as the town’s main employment. The next two hundred years saw the growth of factory-based work, a canal was built to transport heavy goods, a railway to the town was opened in 1872 and the town became home to the largest dairy in Europe. Great Torrington’s heritage remains accessible through existing homes, civic buildings, disused factories, monuments, infrastructure and landscape. Like most towns it has been home to people who are of historical interest such as Lady Margaret Beaufort, the grandmother of Henry VIII; Thomas Fowler, inventor of central heating and a wooden computer; William Keble Martin, botanist and illustrator; and, of course, Tarka the Otter.
Great Torrington’s rich history can be further explored at the town’s Museum and self-guided History and Civil War Trails will soon be available.
Fascinating history, arts, crafts and culture, a beautiful setting and friendly locals all make a visit to Great Torrington worthwhile.
Parking & Transport
- Car Parks - Sydney House (South Street) Long Stay Car Park EX38 8AA: approx.280 spaces Barley Grove Long Stay Car Park: 70 spaces
- Coach Parking - Sydney House (South Street) Long Stay Car Park
- Free car park - Parking free in Sydney House (South Street) Car Park after 12 midday Saturday and all day Sunday Limited on-street parking in High Street, South Street and Fore Street.
- Parking for disabled visitors - Disabled parking available in Sydney House (South Street) and Barley Grove Car Parks
Towns & Villages
- ATM - No charge ATMs available in Co-op on South Street, Duffy’s Home Hardware on High Street, ATM at corner of Sydney House (South Street) car park and South Street and in BP/M&S Petrol Station on New Road
- Church - Church of England: St Michael and All Angels Church, Church Walk, Great Torrington, Devon EX38 8BN: https://www.stmichaelstorrington.org.uk/ Catholic Church: Holy Family Catholic Church, Gas Lane, Torrington, Devon, EX38 7BE: http://www.bidefordcatholicchurches.org.uk/html/torringtoninfo.html Baptist Church: Torrington Baptist Church, New Street Great Torrington, Devon, EX38 8BS: http://www.torringtonbaptist.org/ Methodist Church: Windy Cross, Mill Street, Torrington, EX38 8AL: https://torringtonmethodistchurch.weebly.com/ Grosvenor Church: The Plough, Fore Street, Great Torrington, EX38 8HQ: http://torrington.grosvenorchurch.org.uk/
- Farmers market - Torrington Pannier Market: https://www.facebook.com/pages/biz/topic_concert_venue-EX38-8HE/Torrington-Pannier-Market-Events-Page-183018365640547/
- Information Centre - http://www.great-torrington.com/ Torrington TIC, Castle Hill, TORRINGTON EX38 8AA
- Museum - http://www.torringtonmuseum.org.uk/ Great Torrington Heritage Museum 14 South Street, Great Torrington, Devon,EX38 8AA
- Public telephone - Corner of Sydney House (South Street) Car Park and South Street
- Public toilets - Sydney House (South Street) Car Park: South Street, Torrington, EX38 8AA The Commons: Old Bowling Green, Station Hill, Great Torrington, EX38 8DL Pannier Market, Torrington, EX38 8HD
- Recycling points - Sydney House (South Street) Car Park, Torrington, EX38 8AA
- Supermarket - Lidl: New St, Great Torrington, EX38 8BX Co-op: 22 South St, Great Torrington, EX38 8AA McColls: New Road, Gt Torrington EX38 8EJ M&S Food at Great Torrington BP Service Station, New Road, Torrington EX38 8EJ
- Toilets for disabled visitors - Full facilities (including Radar) at South Street and The Commons public toilets and partial facilities at the Pannier Market.
- Train station - Nearest train stations are: Chapelton and Umberleigh
Map & Directions
Exit the M5 Southbound Exit at Junction 27, and join the A361 link road signposted Barnstaple/Bideford. At Barnstaple join A39 signposted Bideford (Atlantic Highway), keep heading towards Bideford on the A39 until you reach a roundabout signposted to Great Torrington (B3232). Take this road and follow it into Great Torrington.
Public Transport Directions
Trains to Exeter St Davids run direct from Plymouth, Taunton, Bristol, London and other cities. The 5B bus leaves from in front of the station (stop A), every two hours Monday to Saturday (no buses Sunday). It’s a scenic 90 minute journey to Great Torrington.
Alternatively, you can take the train to Umberleigh or Barnstaple on the Tarka Line. Umberleigh is a request stop, from where you will need a pre-booked taxi. Barnstaple has a taxi rank and the 5B bus to Great Torrington.