Top 5 Best Historical Sites in Devon
Devon, and especially South Devon, is full of history. From Stone Age caverns to more castles than you can explore in a day, there’s a lot for history buffs to see and do. To make planning your next trip through South Devon a little easier, here are our top 5 favourite historical sites in Devon that we think are well worth a visit.
Dartmouth Castle is just one of the many castles in South Devon. This spectacular fortress has been guarding the mouth of the River Dart for over 600 years. During that time, the castle has protected England’s shores during the 17th Century Civil War and the First and Second World Wars. The castle ceased active service in 1955 and English Heritage now manages it, keeping it open to thousands of visitors every year.
Once a place of war, Dartmouth Castle now offers spectacular views and tranquil ferry rides. Climb to the top of the battlements and take in the best views in Dartmouth. Alternatively, spend a quiet hour with a delicious cream tea in the castle café.
In 1712, Dartmouth native Thomas Newcomen invented the first practical steam engine. The Newcomen atmospheric engine, to give its full name, pumped water out of mines and was one of the first signs of the upcoming Industrial Revolution. The engine on display once worked the canals in Coventry, before the Newcomen Society moved it to Devon in 1963. It has lived in Dartmouth ever since.
The Newcomen Engine at Dartmouth is still running, albeit thanks to hydraulics rather than steam. You can pay a visit to this piece of Dartmouth history at the Dartmouth Visitor Centre.
In 1196, six cannons and an abbot founded Torre Abbey to act as a monastery for Catholic priests. The original buildings stand to this day and represent one of the best-preserved monasteries in the South West. Torquay Borough Council eventually bought the abbey in 1930. Since then, it has provided a home to a variety of public services and works. It is most well known however, as a public art gallery.
In modern times, Torre Abbey has become the Torre Abbey Museum and Gardens. As a cultural hub, the museum hosts world-class collections along with the work of local artists and art events. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the abbey’s award-winning gardens. Set amongst the ruins of the ancient abbey, the gardens offer a wide range of rare shrubs and trees.
Greenway House was once home to author Agatha Christie, who bought the property in 1938. Christie lived in Devon for many years and was born in nearby Torquay. While not directly named, the property features in several of her books, including ‘The ABC Murders’ and ‘Five Little Pigs’.
Christie lived at Greenway, along with her husband Max Mallowan, until her passing in 1976. The National Trust purchased the house and gardens in 2000, and both are now open to visitors.
The National Trust has preserved the home as a living memory. Rooms decorated as if Christie still lived there and is just in the other room. For fans of the author, a visit to Greenway House is essential.
Kents Cavern is an important part of human history. This cave system in the heart of Devon has provided fossil evidence of ancient humans, with some bone fragments thought to be almost 40,000 years old.
While still being an important part of scientific research into our Stone Age past, Kents Cavern is also open to the public. On your visit, you’ll step back in time and see the caves as our ancestors did. As a place of shelter, away from harsh weather and deadly predators. Take a tour of the show caves and experience the famous Kents Cavern blackout. The latter has been a firm favourite of visitors since the 1930s.
If you’re looking to pay a visit to South Devon, Galmpton Touring Park is the perfect place for the weary time traveller to rest. Overlooking the banks of the River Dart, we offer a range of self-catering touring pitches and holiday let accommodation. For more information, or to book, visit the Galmpton Touring Park website.
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