Want to swerve the shopping malls and soft-play this weekend? Lord, yes! This 1200-acre estate on the outskirts of Totnes has been Muddy’s cross-generational boredom-buster since my little un’s were, er, little. It has shops, walks, a cinema and numerous eateries, a gallery and workshops plus the Grade II listed gardens are stunning year-round, with a Henry Moore sculpture and a whispering circle where you can hear yourself echo across the Tiltyard.
Dartington has a fascinating history. Wealthy heiress Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, a pioneering pair bought the estate in the 1920’s and used it to promote the arts, social justice and sustainability. It’s Dartington’s influence that’s made nearby Totnes, ‘a bit Totnes’ as they say, with its fiercely indie shops and bohemian vibe. The estate is now run by a charitable trust who still walk the talk, hosting famous arts and music events. Visit the beautiful Barn Cinema for a great programme of independent films all year round.
Woman cannot live on ‘progressive international thinking’ alone, so you’ll be glad to know, food-wise there’s much going on, including The Green Table, and The White Hart in the courtyard which dates back to medieval times with a Games of Thrones-y hall. Dartington’s menus channels the estate’s local and sustainable outlook with food from the kitchen garden and tenant farmers informing the farm-to-fork dishes.
At the risk of raving on, I just want to name-check their courses too – which run all year-round, from the practical, including wreath or furniture making to the more esoteric and mind-expanding, plus there is a vibrant music and arts programme. Other highlights include the The Cider Press Centre, where you’ll find a toy shop, homeware and gifts, and of course those gardens which are, due to being a charity and yep, lockdown, are now charging for entry – but members go free and locals get a discount.
Lucky locals have loads to keep them coming back (a family membership costs £50) for but if you’re at a distance, you can make a stay of it by booking into one of the B&B courtyard rooms (genteel – like staying at Cambridge Uni), set up a tent at Camp Dartington, or a gorgeous old fisherman’s cabin right on the edge of the River Dart where you can go off-grid for a few days with just the babbling of the water and kingfishers for company.
Sounds like a soul-soothing topper-upper to me, and that pretty much sums up Dartington.
At a glance
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Dartington, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6EL
Monday: Cider Press 10am-5pm; Green Table 10am-5pm; Garden 9am-5pm
Tuesday: Cider Press 10am-5pm; Green Table 10am-5pm; Garden 9am-5pm
Wednesday: Cider Press 10am-5pm; Green Table 10am-5pm; Garden 9am-5pm
Thursday: Cider Press 10am-5pm; Green Table 10am-5pm; Garden 9am-5pm
Friday: Cider Press 10am-5pm; Green Table 10am-5pm; Garden 9am-5pm
Saturday: Cider Press 10am-5pm; Green Table 10am-5pm; Garden 9am-5pm
Sunday: Cider Press 10am-5pm; Green Table 10am-5pm; Garden 9am-5pm
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