Another self-proclaimed gateway town to Dartmoor, this time the eastern entrance, Bovey Tracey sits in a wide valley below some of Dartmoor National Parks most iconic Tors at Haytor and Hounds Tor and is therefore a very walker friendly place.
Its major historical events surround the Civil War, with Oliver Cromwell surprising the Royalist troops here who were supposed to be guarding the town but were too busy drinking in the Riverside Inn (now closed).
The Royalists were playing cards and only escaped by hurling the money out of the window and making good their getaway whilst the Roundheads scrabbled around for the loot. It may have been an inspired move, but it failed to help them much as Cromwell slaughtered them the next day at the Battle of Bovey Heath.
The towns more modern industrial roots lie in its Mills on the powerful River Bovey and the potteries which flourished because the local clay deposits made raw materials immediately accessible. The bottle kilns are still here and are now listed buildings. The Church is also an indication of the wealth Bovey once enjoyed with fine carvings, although it was, in fact, built as a penance by the local knight, Sir William de Tracey. In 1170 he was one of the infamous four who hacked to death Archbishop Thomas a Beckett on the High Altar of Canterbury Cathedral on King Henry II’s command - one of the most notorious acts in English History. However, the locals of Bovey did not feel much shame at this terrible crime and they added the name of “de Tracey” to that of Bovey, where it has remained ever since.
There are a handful of teashops (including The Flying Pig Coffee Shop) along with several Inns and Hotels serving food.
For other needs the town has a chemist, deli with an impressive selection of West Country cheeses, cash machines and a small walking equipment shop. For those who want a refreshing dip at the end of the walk here then right on the Dartmoor Way as you arrive there is the excellent Bovey Tracey Open Air Swimming Pool where you can take a plunge in the heated waters whilst looking up to the heights of Dartmoor above.
Well worth visiting as you cross the old bridge into town on the Dartmoor Way is the MAKE Southwest (formerly Devon Guild of Craftsmen), the largest contemporary craft centre in the South West. Housed in a former mill, there are regular exhibitions as well as products from around 250 South West based artists and craft makers. The Terrace Cafe here has rooftop seating with good views across the town and offers meals cooked with local ingredients including farm cider.