The traditional fishing town of Brixham is tucked away in the green hills of South Devon, along the spectacular...
Dartington, in South Devon, is a vibrant village that really packs a punch with regard to its worldwide fame, wealth of eateries and abundance of things to do. Boasting everything you would expect from an established village, Dartington is home to an award-winning pub, outdoor swimming pool, expansive play area, primary school, village hall, Post Office and stores, a bakery and even a community-owned brewery! The historic Dartington Hall is one of the major factors that makes the village so unique, and as such, it is highly regarded amongst artists, academics and educators and is well worth a visit should you want to fall under it’s creative spell. Situated west of the River Dart, and about two miles north-west of Totnes, Dartington is perfectly placed to explore South Devon’s coast and countryside. Should you want to venture a little further, Dartmoor National Park and the town of Buckfastleigh is just a short drive away, and oppositely, you will find an abundance of South Devon beaches to enjoy. The strength of character is so clearly evident in this village it underpins its tight-knit community, and as such, it truly flourishes and is a year-round honeypot of activity.
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It’s no secret that South Devon is a food lover’s paradise and the region is peppered with pubs, restaurants and cafés. Dartington is no exception to the rule and is home to an award-winning pub, a thriving sourdough bakery, community-owned brewery and even a local garage that serves sumptuous homemade curry with all the trimmings (onion bhajis included!), so you will never be far from a good feed. What’s more, Dartington Hall boasts several eateries too. Being just a few miles from Totnes, taking care of grocery shopping and other practical matters is straightforward. Totnes is famed for its food scene, so aside from a large established supermarket you will also find various independents including a cheese store, fishmonger, butcher and several wine shops. For ultimate convenience, Dartington has a sizable village shop/mini-supermarket, so you don’t have to jump in the car for convenience items if you don’t want to. A few miles up the road (A384) you’ll come to the home of Riverford Organic Farm and the popular Riverford Field Kitchen restaurant, as well as a farm shop that’s great for stocking up on fresh local produce.
The Cott Inn is a family run pub that’s been welcoming customers since 1320 AD, and has been thriving ever since its first drink was poured. A glorious thatch-roofed establishment, it has everything you would hope to find in a cosy traditional pub – an open fire in the winter, cob walls supported by uneven beams and a spacious beer garden for soaking up the summer sun. The menu is more restaurant-oriented than traditional pub grub, making it the perfect place for a special meal or to celebrate a special occasion with the family. Serving delicious, honestly prepared food using naturally reared meats and local line-caught fish, The Cott Inn is particularly famous for their delicious Sunday lunch, so we highly recommend booking in advance. You can also enjoy al fresco dining and feast on fresh fish, pizza and tapas in the Garden Kitchen which is heated and completely weatherproof, the perfect year-round venue! As if this wasn’t enough, you will also find live music every Sunday and Wednesday evening, so be sure to check the music section on their website for the most up to date information.
A craft sourdough bakery, The Almond Thief Bakery is one of the trendiest spots in Dartington village and boasts not just a bakery, but also a vibrant café. Testament to its produce, you will always find a hive of activity here and a queue that shamelessly trails out the door. Expect to choose from a menu of sprouted rye, pastel de nata, pain au chocolat and cheese and mustard swirls to name a few, and if you have a little time to spare, be sure to enjoy a barista coffee. Nothing beats a freshly baked, warm Almond Thief loaf, so it comes as no surprise that people visit from miles around.
The New Lion Brewery is a 100% community-owned craft brewery based in the industrial estate (Webbers Yard), central to Dartington village. Also sporting a taproom and bottle shop, it’s a lively establishment, especially at the weekend, with many people enjoying a much-deserved tipple or two. At the heart of New Lion Brewery are three core beers – Pandit IPA, Mane Event and Totnes Stout. They also brew limited edition bottles and also cellar beers that you can lay down for the future, so it’s worth having a chat to the team if you’re after something a little different
One of the main things that makes the village of Dartington so attractive to those visiting is that it has such a variety of things to do. From endless outdoor pursuits including walking, swimming, cycling, kayaking and even paddleboarding to more cultural activities such as theatre, dance and niche workshops that focus on woodwork, jewellery and wild foraging, there really is a bounty of choice…
Extremely popular amongst both local residents and visitors to the area, Dartington Pool is a 20 x 10 metre non-profit, community-run unheated swimming pool. Nestled in the grassy knoll and play area of Meadbrook, it has been active since 1976 and the pool itself was dug out by local residents. As you can imagine, it is very much an active part of the community, and you can pre-book your session or rent the entire pool by the hour should you want it to yourselves. Adjacent to other community facilities that include a bar, pizzeria, play area, river, woodland and sports grounds, it’s the perfect place for the whole family to enjoy a fun and active day out. Check their website for updates, or alternatively, engage with them on Facebook.
Also run by community volunteers, the Dartington Recreation Association incorporates an expansive playing field, play area, woodland area and also manages the swimming pool. They are busy working hard on a refresh with exciting plans in the pipeline, most notably an Adventure bike track!
Run by the village hall committee, Dartington Village Hall is a much-loved and spacious venue that is available to hire should you want a large venue for a family party or special occasion. Make sure you call and book in advance to secure your date.
Being near the A38 and just a few miles from Totnes, the village is well-located for a range of attractions, with something to suit everyone. There’s plenty of things to do in Totnes, a medieval market town with a host of individual shops, cafés, pubs, restaurants and much more. Totnes Castle is worth a visit and takes in incredible panoramic views, and from the Totnes / Littlehempston station you can take the South Devon Railway steam train to Buckfastleigh, where you’ll find the Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary and Buckfast Butterfly Sanctuary. In Totnes, there’s also the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm and a picturesque harbour where you can take a passenger ferry down the river on the Dartmouth River Cruise. For outdoor enthusiasts, a little further afield is Dartmoor, with plenty of Dartmoor walks to enjoy and other outdoor adventures such as climbing, kayaking and cycling. Oppositely, you will find a wealth of South Devon beaches to explore where you can spend your time walking the South West Coast Path, sailing, surfing or simply indulging in a little rest and relaxation. When visiting South Devon you will find an abundance of things to do, so be sure to read our full guide on things to do in South Devon for more information.
The 1,200-acre Dartington Hall estate is an award-winning destination nestled between Dartmoor National Park and the South Devon coast. From woodland walks and riverside trails to cafés, restaurants and shops, there is plenty to explore. They also host a year-round programme of art and craft activities, theatre, music and dance events at the Dartington Great Hall, as well as a wide selection of films showcased in the Barn Cinema, so expect a rich and dynamic community when you visit.
Dartington Hall has been a centre for learning for almost a century, attracting a variety of leading artists and thinkers, including potter Bernard Leach, composer Igor Stravinsky, cellist Jacqueline du Pre, musician Ravi Shankar, playwright Bernard Shaw and environmental activist Vandana Shiva. The estate is home to the Dartington Hall Trust, an educational charity that supports learning in ecology, the arts, social enterprise and within the wider community. The estate remains a fascinating place to visit to this day and your first port-of-call should most certainly be the Visitor Centre. Here you’ll be able to learn more about points of interest, historical curiosities and pick up a map so you can find your way around.
It’s worth making the trip to Dartington village purely to see the landscaped Dartington Hall Gardens – they are simply magical. Steeped in history, and a monument to the vision of the great families that owned them, they are free to explore and are open year-round. The gardens are punctuated by many points of interest, most famously the artworks on the estate, especially the Henry Moore sculpture, which occupies pride of place overlooking the Great Hall from the far end of the tiltyard. The bridge, designed by British sculptor Peter Randall-Page is also quite a feature, as is the yew tree, which is the oldest living resident of the gardens and is believed to be 1500 – 2000 years old.
The grass banks of the tiltyard are delicate, and as such, visitors are discouraged from leaving the paths and dogs are not permitted within the sculpted gardens. If the children or four-legged friends need to burn off steam, then not to worry, because there is a play area and separate grassy fields where dogs can be let off their lead. You’ll find this about a hundred yards downhill from the main estate car park.
This 15th century converted barn, which is part of the grand Dartington Hall courtyard, makes for an unusually atmospheric cinema and occasional performance venue. The film programme mixes independent and international cinema with blockbusters and streams of live broadcasts from the National Theatre and similar organisations. The Roundhouse Café downstairs offers a range of drinks and tasty homemade cakes to enjoy before, after or during the show.
Formerly known as the Cider Press Centre, the Shops at Dartington have their own car park situated just off Shinners Bridge. After leaving Totnes, take a right at the first roundabout you come to and another at the second. The car park will be on your right, it’s a straightforward walk from Dartington Hall but it does involve tackling a sizable hill, so perhaps not ideal if you’re planning to come back with lots of shopping bags! You’ll find a range of gift shops selling goods from stationary to kitchenware, an excellent deli and wine shop, plus Bayard’s Kitchen restaurant and a Venus Café should your retail therapy work an appetite.
Dartington glass, as it was known until the 1980’s, was first born in 1967 as one of the Dartington Hall Trust social enterprises. Situated in Torrington, North Devon, it quickly became one of the most recognised manufacturers of simple yet functional glassware in the country, and is still thriving to this day. The vision of Dartington Glass was simple – to build a simple yet functional product style that was rooted in Scandinavian design. Whilst this was a popular and successful social enterprise, in order to achieve commercial success, Dorothy Elmhurst (founder of the Dartington Hall Trust) invited a team of Scandanavian glass blowers to teach their English counterparts the skill of making glass.
Today, Dartington Crystal is not just the lead UK glass manufacturer, but it’s also an award winning visitor attraction. Should you choose to visit, expect to take a full factory tour and spend your time behind the scenes learning of how the skilled makers turn molten glass into beautiful products. This really is a great day out, perfect for all the family to enjoy and well worth the visit – for more information, visit the Dartington Crystal website. As you would expect, you can both purchase and view Dartington crystal products from The Shops at Dartington.
Based in the Dartington Estate, Dynamic Adventures is a small, family run, community interest company that has been operating for over 20 years. Within that time, the Dynamic Adventures team have been on an uncountable number of adventures, and have a deep-rooted passion in the importance of the outdoors. Their mission is clear – to ‘create opportunities for adventure that challenge and develop people, no matter who they are, or where they’ve come from.’ There is a huge range of activities to choose from, including kayaking, bushcraft, ziplining, archery, abseiling, rock climbing and if you’re feeling brave, why not navigate the high ropes. From equipment hire to half and full day activity programmes, there is something for all ages and abilities.
A vibrant, welcoming and light-filled space that evokes Dartingtons craft legacy, The Green Table is a popular venue for a rendezvous, post walk refuel and people watching spot. With a menu that changes daily, they serve delicious and nourishing food that is locally sourced, the menu is varied and runs through from early breakfast to afternoon tea. Creative in its nature, striking artwork hangs from the wall and you will find a piano nestled in the corner alongside several guitars. Visitors are welcome to play a tune or two, should you fancy a public jamming session. Child friendly, there are various baskets of fancy dress outfits and classic stories, not forgetting the wooden train set.
Situated by the Great Hall, the White Hart is a surprisingly contemporary bar-restaurant well-known for its food that emphasises produce sourced from the estate and the surrounding area. The outside tables are especially enticing on a sunny day, where you can enjoy views of the lawn and towards the towering trees. Just a few yards from the Dartington Hall Gardens, it is the perfect place to visit before or after exploring the magnificent gardens.
The Great Hall that towers over the 1200 acre Dartington Hall Estate was built in the late 14th century for John Holland, Earl of Huntington. Half-brother to Richard II, John lost the estate (along with his head) following a failed uprising against Henry IV in 1400, and as such, the Crown took ownership of Dartington Hall. It was purchased in 1559 by Sir Arthur Champernowne, whose family owned and lived in the hall until 1925. This is when the modern story of Dartington Hall began.
The Great Hall was mostly derelict by the time Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst purchased it and began transforming the estate. Dorothy, one of the richest women in America, was a social activist and patron of the arts. She met her second husband, Leonard, in 1920 when he was studying agriculture at Cornell University.
They dreamt of creating a new kind of rural community, defined by progressive education, transformative arts and a modern approach to agriculture. Unlike many, they had the means to turn their utopian dream into a reality. And so, the Elmhirsts took ownership of the Dartington Hall Estate, formed a charitable trust, and began a unique experiment in rural living that was as inspiring as it was controversial, to both local residents and global onlookers alike. The Elmhirsts restored the buildings including the magnificent Great Hall and introduced a swathe of farming, forestry and educational projects. Dartington Hall School, Dartington Tweed Mill and Dartington Crystal are all well-known examples.
Dartington College of Arts arrived in 1961 and continued for over four decades, producing illustrious alumni including comedian and actor Josie Lawrence. Other educational institutions are still going strong to this day, which is testament to its strength – these include Park School (a progressive primary school), the Schumacher College and some regular events such as the Dartington International Summer School and the Ways with Words literature festival.
Soon after the Elmhirsts arrived, international artists and thinkers followed them to South Devon from around the world and this trend has continued to this day. The famously ‘alternative’ feel of the nearby town of Totnes owes much to the Dartington experiment.
Dartington is one of many picturesque villages in South Devon known for a wealth of things to do, traditional pubs, beautiful surroundings and relaxed pace of life. Regardless of whether you’d like to stay in a traditional coastal cottage by the sea or a country escape deep in the heart of the South Hams countryside, we have a range of properties to suit your holiday requirements. From luxury properties ideal for both romantic getaways and family breaks, including holiday homes at Gitcombe Estate, you can enjoy finding your perfect South Devon holiday cottage.