A thoroughly attractive town, Ashburton sits just below Dartmoor as the Southern Gateway to Dartmoor National Park and is the largest town within its boundaries. Originally a Saxon village, recorded in the Domesday Book, and from 1285 one of the designated stannary towns of Dartmoor (along with Chagford and Tavistock). Nearly half of all the tin mined in Devon passed through the town from the Middle Ages onwards.
Its early prosperity still shows today - attractive tall merchants houses from the 15th Century with overhanging slate frontages now house antique shops, cafes and a range of quirky independent stores. The Dartmoor Way walker is well served for refreshments as Ashburton has established a reputation for being a “foodie” haven. Cafes, restaurants and several pubs abound to suit all budgets and tastes, and there are 2 delicatessens, a bakers and a daily market selling organic vegetables and other produce farmed locally. The Tourist Information Centre run by enthusiastic volunteers is well worth visiting with an excellent selection of books and leaflets covering the National Park.
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, described Ashburton as “the most heathen town he had ever visited” but things clearly improved and as the Dartmoor Way passes the Parish Church you can reflect on the wealth the town must have enjoyed. It’s an impressive structure with a 92ft tower and intricately carved roof. There is a small museum in the centre worth visiting, although not open every day. Bizarrely for a small town on the edge of Dartmoor it holds an internationally renowned collection of North American Indian items!
Most people start and end The Dartmoor Way from Buckfastleigh. However, with an excellent bus service to the nearby mainline train station at Newton Abbot, walkers can, if they prefer, look to start and finish the Dartmoor Way here from the larger town of Ashburton – just ask for info on accommodation options.