Travel back into prehistory and uncover the fascinating stories behind some of the many buildings, monuments and sites from around the wider county cared for by the English Heritage charity.
Castle Street, Totnes, TQ9 5NU
Open now until 9th December. Re-opens 30th March 2019.
Non-member adults: £4.70
Non-member children: £2.80
Family ticket (2 adults 3 children): £12.20
Imagine life after the conquest of 1066 as you acquaint yourself with this humble motte and bailey castle with a later-built stone keep sat proudly atop its steep mound overlooking the Saxon town of Totnes. As arguably one of the best-preserved examples of this style of castle in England, here is your best chance to relive those school history lessons in real life.
There are a number of steep steps rising from the busyness of Totnes town but the effort will be worth it to enjoy beautiful views across the town and of the River Dart in the distance. Bring a picnic and make the most of the picnic benches on site too if the weather is nice, otherwise, being right in the centre of town, you can easily find a café for a bite to eat before exploring everything else on offer.
Southleigh, Colyton, EX24 6JE
Free to visit and accessible any time. Parking available in a free woodland car park.
This Iron Age hillfort requires a bit of imagination to bring its historic prowess back to life. Now surrounded by woodland and reclaimed by nature, with little left of the towering ramparts and fort walls, this 4th century BC site is better used today for picnicking and natural discovery for the little ones. But there’s still plenty of evidence of its prehistoric use, including a triangular shaped embankment and ditch.
As with most settlements of this type, the site is located on a narrow ridge high on the hilltop providing great overlooks for visitors to enjoy.
Bayard’s Cove Fort
Dartmouth, TQ6 9AX
Free to visit and accessible on foot any time during daylight hours. Pay & display car park at the quay – five-minute walk from the fort.
Slightly more modern compared to some of the other sites in the area; this Tudor fort, built between 1522 and 1536 by the borough of Dartmouth, was used as a defensive structure armed with heavy weaponry to protect the town from any attack. This Fort served as the third line of defence in the event of any ships making it past the either of the castles at the mouth of the cove. Now the site sits as an open shell of what remains, but its structure is still awe-inspiring and serves to this day as a stunning spot to watch the sunset.
Tie this trip in with a visit to the quaint town of Dartmouth itself where you can walk along the embankment and while away a few hours popping in and out of the shops and cafés along the way – of course don’t miss the castle just up the hill!
Lydford, Okehampton, EX20 4BH
Free to visit and accessible any time during daylight hours. Free parking in the village.
It wasn’t long after William the Conqueror came along and besieged Exeter in 1068 that a small defensive structure was built at Lydford. This wasn’t used for long and was later replaced by the square two-storey tower you see today, dating from approximately 1195. It didn’t see a lot of use after this until later years – throughout the Middle Ages – where the castle was used as a prison, housing in particular the Plymouth MP who was thrown in the gaol in 1510 after complaining about the Plymouth harbour being silted up with mining debris from the moorland rivers. Today you can admire the unusual design of the structure that remains and enjoy views over the village and down the valley. Once you’re done, head down the river and take a relaxing walk through the woodland to the dramatic Lydford Gorge.
Postbridge, Yelverton, Devon, PL20 6TB
Free to visit and accessible any time during daylight hours. Limited layby parking.
Discover the remains of 24 late Bronze Aged stone roundhouses which have survived on this desolate part of Dartmoor, enclosed within a 150m diameter circular stone wall. It’s one of the best-known prehistoric settlements on the moor after its excavations during the end of the 19th century. The settlements were an example of how the hunter gatherer lifestyle phased into a reliance on farming and a need to move to upland areas to make that possible.
Turn your trip into a historic tour by bundling in some of the other sites in the area, including Hound Tor Deserted Medieval Village and Okehampton Castle too – all within 10 miles.
For more information on any of these sites and to discover more from around the country, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk
Ben Grantham, Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/ycr4q8ht
Matthew Hartley, Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/y75wdg5d
Archangel12, Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/y9otrncv
All other images: English Heritage