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26 things to do in Totnes with kids

26 things to do in Totnes with kids

The historic market town of Totnes is packed full of character with its Norman castle, riverside location and many delightful independent shops and eateries. If you’re wondering if there’s much for families there’s good news on that front too. In this guide I’m sharing the very best things to do in Totnes with kids including lots of fun Devon places to visit close by.

A bit about Totnes

Drone view of Totnes Castle and Totnes in South Devon

While 21st Century Totnes has a very bohemian feel, it was originally founded as a garrison town with an important role in defending the area from invading Vikings. Later it was William the Conqueror’s friends who built the castle here to keep the local population in check.

Roll forward several millennia and the market town of Totnes had its up and downs as a centre for commerce and ship building. It remains an incredibly pretty place to explore with tightly packed buildings connected by secret passages and sparkling views of the River Dart.

It’s also a great base for exploring South Devon, with its own train station and just 15 minutes drive from the A38 which can whisk you off to Plymouth or Exeter.

Family-friendly things to do in Totnes

While visiting Totnes here’s some of the best things to do here with children:

1. Totnes Castle

View of Totnes Castle in Autumn
Totnes Castle

As I’ve already mentioned, Totnes comes complete with its own castle built by William the Conqueror’s mate Judhael to protect the settlement’s important place on the River Dart and subdue the locals.

It started off as a timber construction but this was replaced with stone at the turn of the 14th Century. It’s now one of the best preserved Norman motte and bailey castles in England.

Visiting this English Heritage site (free for members) doesn’t take long but is a great additional to wandering around quirky Totnes. You can climb the motte, admire the views down the River Dart and picnic in the castle walls.

Find out more about Totnes Castle.

2. Browse Totnes market and shops

Totnes High Street - a pretty town to visit in Devon
Totnes High Street

There’s always an eclectic mix of delicious local produce, pre-loved furniture and vintage fashion to be found in Totnes’ markets and shops.

Totnes High Street and its charming side streets are where to head for a mix of new age boutiques, artisan bakeries and fair-trade trinkets.

The general market takes place every Friday and Saturday in the Civic Square.

On the fourth Friday of the month this is supplemented by an indoor market.

And if you’re lucky enough to be visiting on the third Sunday of the month you must see the award-winning Totnes Good Food Sunday Market. It’s one of the top things to do in Totnes for foodies.

Find out more about market dates and opening times.

3. South Devon Railway

Welcome sign and stream train at South Devon Railway in Dartmoor, Devon

Totnes is on the main line between London Paddington and Penzance, but it also has a steam train line which is open to visitors.

South Devon Railway runs from Totnes though the picturesque River Dart valley to Buckfastleigh. The ride takes 30 minutes in each direction and dogs can join you too.

Your ticket includes entrance to a small museum at Buckfastleigh Station where you’ll also find a cafe.

Make a day of it with a visit to Totnes Rare Breeds Farm and Buckfast Butterflies and Dartmoor Otters Sanctuary at either end of the line.

Find out more by visiting the South Devon Railway website.

4. Join the Round Robin

Steam train in Kingswear Station in South Devon
Steam train in Kingswear Station – one stage of the Round Robin

Totnes is one of three starting points for the Round Robin tour of South Devon by river boat, steam train and bus. This is one of the top fun things to do in Totnes for fans of steam and beautiful scenery.

You can buy your tickets in the office on Steamer Quay and either start by taking a voyage up river to Dartmouth from where you catch the coastal steam train from Kingswear, or you can take the bus to Paignton and catch the train from there.

The timings and direction you take are likely to be affected by the tide times so this is a day out to plan in advance.

Each stage of the Round Robin tour is dog friendly so your pooch can join you too.

If you’re visiting at Christmas look out for the Train of Lights which departs from Paignton.

Please note that the Round Robin doesn’t run all year.

Find out the latest information about Dartmouth Steam Railway.

5. Totnes Rare Breeds Farm

Child standing in goat enclosure at Totnes Rare Breeds Farm in South Devon

We love this small farm where kids can get hands on feeding and petting the animals. There’s donkeys, wild fowl, goats and rabbits – all rare breeds which are being nurtured at this family-run charity.

Read about our guide to visiting Totnes Rare Breeds Farm.

The farm isn’t open all year round so check the website for open days and times.

If you want to make a day of it you can combine the farm with a ride on the South Devon Railway and Dartmoor Otters and Butterflies Sanctuary at the other end of the steam train line.

Find out more on the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm website.

6. Totnes Show

Award winning cow at country show

A highlight of the Totnes events calendar is the Totnes Show held at Great Court Farm each July.

This traditional country show is now more than 100-years-old. Expect livestock competitions, shows in the main arena and live music the whole family can enjoy.

Find out more about this year’s show.

7. Delphinis Gelato in Totnes

Delphinis serves up a taste of Italy in the medieval town of Totnes. Visit for homemade gelatos including vegan flavours as well as sorbet.

It’s one of the best places to sample local ice cream in Devon.

Find Delphinis on High Street in Totnes.

8. Boat trips to Dartmouth

There are regular boat trips from Totnes to Dartmouth between the Spring and Summer. Book a trip at the Steamer Quay Kiosk.

Down the River Dart you’ll spot pretty villages and wildlife. Shorter trips are also available to Greenway – Agatha Christie’s holiday home, on the former Raleigh Estate beside the river, and pretty Dittisham, which is great for crabbing.

You can also hire a kayak in Totnes and ride down the river at your own pace.

Free things to do in Totnes

If you want to have fun without splashing out, here’s some of the cheap and free things to do in Totnes:

9. Picnic on Vire Island

Wooden play equipment on a grassy lawn

Right beside Totnes Bridge is Vire island, which is a nice spot for a picnic and play not far from the shops.

The island is named after the French town twinned with Totnes. It is a narrow, tree lined stretch of parkland with full public access, sitting snugly between the town and the main flow of the river.

There are picnic benches, a wooden climbing frame and pétanque area.

Keep an eye on small children as you are surrounded by the river bank.

10. Steamer Quay play park

A raised flower bed in front of a children's play area shaped like a pirate ship

If you’re looking for a spot to let young kids play while you grab a refreshing coffee, Steamer Quay has a small ship-themed playground with cafe and toilets right next door.

To reach this from the main town, cross Totnes Bridge (be aware the footpaths on this historic structure are narrow).

Take a left down Seymour Road and the next left will bring you on to Steamer Quay.

11. Totnes skate park

On Borough Park near Totnes Leisure Centre there’s a skate park that older kids might like to check out.

12. Leechwell Gardens

Wooden play equipment on a grassy lawn

If the bustle of Totnes gets too much there’s a secret garden not far from the market place.

Leechwell is a community garden with picnic areas, a natural play area and sculptures.

It’s open from 8.30am until dusk and is free to explore.

Find out more about the gardens.

13. Walk the River Dart Valley

Whatever your ability you can find a walk to suit you near Totnes, Devon.

Visit Totnes has a number of suggested walks on its website.

Things to do in Totnes when it’s raining

If the weather fails you here’s some fun things to do in Totnes when it’s raining:

14. Pottery painting at China Blue, Totnes

Child painting pottery at China Blue in Totnes
Pottery Studio at China Blue

This is the perfect activity for rainy days in Totnes.

Drop into the China Blue pottery studio and pick an ornament or piece of crockery to decorate.

There’s also an extensive gift shop and the China Blue cafe where you can enjoy coffee and a piece of cake, lunch or even dinner in the evenings.

As well as being one of the best things to do in Totnes when it rains, China Blue is also dog-friendly.

Find out more by visiting the China Blue website.

15. Totnes Musuem 

A recreated 19th Century kitchen in Totnes Museum

Totnes Museum is a wonderful place to step inside and appreciate the history of this part of Devon. The building itself is an Elizabethan Merchant’s House with timber beams and a surprisingly large herb garden.

In its displays you’ll find stories about the people of Totnes and life in the town from its Tudor heyday to its decline following the English Civil War.

Totnes Museum is easy to spot just below East Gate on Fore Street. The museum is run by volunteers and often has extra activities on during school holidays.

Check the website for special events and opening times.

16. Totnes Guildhall

The courtyard of Totnes Guildhall

This working council building has more than one thousand years of history having served the town in many guises.

Some of its darkest tales are from when it was a courtroom and jail.

The single cell was known as the Dark House because there was no natural light. Prisoners served short sentences here or were held here while awaiting trial in the courtroom. Many were transported to Australia.

Visit Totnes Guildhall from April to the autumn. Find out more on the Town Council website.

17. Totnes swimming pool

Somewhere to go if the weather isn’t top is Totnes Leisure Centre. It has a swimming pool with regular float sessions.

Check the timetable on the Leisure Centre website.

Things to do near Totnes

You’ll find plenty more great activities and places to visit not far from Totnes. Here are some of the best things to do in South Devon:

18. Berry Pomeroy Castle

Ruins of Berry Pomeroy Castle near Totnes

This 16th Century ruin is said to be one of Devon’s most haunted places and it is juts a short drive from the centre of Totnes.

There’s audio tour that tells you all the ghostly tales – one for the teens in your family! You can also walk the woodlands and have a Devon cream tea in the nearby cafe.

Visiting is free for English Heritage members.

Find out more about visiting Berry Pomeroy.

19. Cider Press Centre at Dartington

A half hour walk or three minute car ride from the centre of Totnes is this charming shopping centre with lots of Devon food, homeware and gifts. There’s also a lovely toy shop if you kids have earned a treat.

The Cider Press Centre holds lots of events throughout the year so keep an eye on its website to see what’s on.

20. Dartington Estate

Family enjoying event at Dartington Estate
Picture credit: Dartington

This community hub has more than one thousand years of history. It was once a private home but by the 1900s the Hall had fallen into ruin.

In 1925 it was bought by the Elmhirst family who restored it as place of creativity, learning and social enterprise. It now hosts a programme of family-friendly events, festivals and courses as well as welcoming visitors to its hotel, cinema, restaurant and gardens.

The estate is great for scenic walks and it’s always worth checking Dartington Hall’s website to see if they have any events on.

Find out more on the Dartington website.

21. Pennywell Farm

Red Rocket tractor ride at Pennywell Farm
Red Rocket ride

Introduce your little brood to the cute and cuddly animals at Pennywell Farm. Holding a miniature pig and feeding the lambs is a must if you visit in the Spring. 

As well as the animals you’ll find plenty of toddler-friendly indoor and outdoor play areas. 

There’s also a wonderful nativity at Pennywell Farm each Christmas with animals, tractor rides and Santa.

Find out more about visiting on the Pennywell Farm website.

22. Woodlands Family Theme Park

Kids on tractor ride at Woodlands theme park in Devon
Tractor ride at Woodlands

Woodlands aces indoor and outdoor play with several areas dedicated to slides, soft play and ball pits. It’s one of my top adventure parks in Devon and things to do on wet days in Devon.

Outdoors my girls love the tractor ride, bumper boats, bouncy cushion and toboggan run.

If adrenaline rushes are more your family’s thing then check out these rides: the pirate galleon, three water coasters, the avalanche tray slides, and the Vertigo drop tower ride.

You’ll not find rollercoasters here but there’s plenty of rides to give you a thrill.

Here’s what you need to know about visiting Woodlands Family Theme Park.

Find out more on the Woodlands Family Theme Park website.

23. Visit a beach

Children wearing buoyancy aids in the sea at Blackpool Sands beach in the South Hams
Blackpool Sands

Totnes isn’t a seaside town but the sea is not far away. You’ll find plenty of beaches along the coast of the South Hams and surrounding South Devon area.

24. Visit Dartmouth

Reflections on Dartmouth boat float on autumn morning

Less than half an hour away is the Medieval harbour town of Dartmouth with its cobbled streets, half timber houses and a fleet of sail boats.

It’s another super pretty Devon town to explore with its own set of family-friendly experiences from dessert cafes to ancient fortifications and some of the best embankment walls for crabbing in Devon.

Here’s my top tips on things to do on Dartmouth.

25. Visit Brixham

Golden Hind replica ship in a dry harbour in Brixham, Devon
Golden Hind in Brixham Harbour

There’s piratical adventures to be had in Brixham where you’ll find a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind which took him around the world.

A visit to Brixham wouldn’t be compete without indulging in a hearty potion of fish and chips fresh from the dock and a dip in one of the most scenic outdoor pools around.

Find out more in my full guide to all the things to do in Brixham.

26. Visit Paignton

Child playing on Paignton beach in Devon

When it comes to traditional English seaside destinations, Paignton has to be one of the top in Devon. It has beaches, amusements and lots of family-friendly attractions like the pier and zoo.

Take a look at my full guide to things to do in Paignton with kids.

Other things to do in Devon with kids

If you exhaust all the ideas above check out these other Devon guides:

101 days out in Devon with Kids cover and pages

Download the 101 Days out in Devon with kids ebook

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Grab your copy of this guide to family-friendly things to do across the county, from coast to coast, in the cities, on the moors and whatever the weather.

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