It’s a neighbour to several ‘headline acts’, but Buckfastleigh is an appealing town in its own right, with a lot going on beneath the surface.

A famous tonic wine brewed by monks in a nearby ancient abbey, the tomb of a local squire who sold his soul to the devil, an otter and butterfly sanctuary – Buckfastleigh really does have it all.

This heady mix – plus its handy location between Plymouth and Exeter - makes the south Devon town a popular stop-off for visitors who are looking to stretch their legs and amuse restless children.

Incessant ‘are we nearly there yets?’ can be quickly subdued with a visit to Richard Cabell’s final resting place at Holy Trinity Church. The Buckfastleigh local is said to be the inspiration for the main character in Arthur Conan Doyle's novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Known as ‘Dirty Dick’, Cabell was described as a 'monstrously evil man'. It is said on the night of his death in 1677, black hounds breathing fire and smoke raced across Dartmoor and surrounded his manor house, based in West Buckfastleigh.

By way of contrast (and to stop any potential nightmares) the otter and butterfly sanctuary or the lovely Pennywell Farm attraction are not far away.

Or else there’s Buckfast Abbey, part of an active Benedictine monastery and where the famous tonic wine Buckfast originated.

Great British Life: Buckfast Abbey in its Dartmoor setting. Buckfast Abbey in its Dartmoor setting. (Image: Goodsouls/Getty Images)

These are some of the area’s headline acts but it’s worth taking the time to get the full measure of this medieval town.

Buckastleigh’s centre has many original 18th to early 20th century buildings, home to some interesting shops and cafes. Local organic produce is readily available and there’s also a farmers’ market every Thursday.

Victoria Park is a focal point and has a skatepark, a children’s play area, plus an open-air swimming pool, saved from closure by the local community. They do a lot of that here, take matters into their own hands. The town suffered after the decline of the area’s woollen industry and many jobs were lost when the Buckfast Spinning Mill closed in 2013. By 2015, there hadn’t been an election in 20 years, so the Buckfastleigh Independent Group (BIG) stood and won nine of the 12 seats. It has been described as a ‘quiet revolution’ and is a sure sign that the community here is good at getting stuff done. They even have a town ranger, a kind of outdoor caretaker who takes care of everything from potholes to blocked drains. There is one pressing concern at the moment, however. Rising energy costs have put Buckfastleigh’s swimming pool under threat once again and there’s a campaign to raise funds to ensure its survival. There’s a lot going on beneath the surface here, so take your time when you visit and support a community that cares deeply about its future.

Great British Life: Afternoon tea at the Singing KettleAfternoon tea at the Singing Kettle (Image: Singing Kettle)

Food & drink

The Singing Kettle (Fore Street) is a traditional tearooms, serving a mouth-watering array of cakes, as well as breakfasts and lunches.

Enjoy lunch and the views from The Orchard Kitchen at Dean Forge. As well as seasonal salads, breakfast baps, toasties and cakes, the café serves freshly roasted, small batch coffee from local roastery, Voyager.

The famous Riverford Field Kitchen is not far away at Wash Farm. The veg-centric seasonal set menu is put together with ingredients grown just a stone's throw from your plate.

Good foodie shops include The Seed (Fore Street) Buckfastleigh’s community wholefood store. Fruit and veg, bread, eco-friendly household goods, plus a range of dispensed products, such as cereals and herbs and spice.

Buckfast Farm Shop and Cafe in nearby Buckfast also sells an impressive range of organic and local produce.

For a pint with the locals, the Kings Arms (Fore Street) has good ale and often good music.

Decent pub grub can be found at The Abbey Inn (Buckfast Road) or The Tradesmans Arms in nearby Scorriton.

Great British Life: Furzeleigh MillFurzeleigh Mill (Image: Furzeleigh Mill)

Where to stay

Furzeleigh Mill is the place to be. This small country hotel (Ashburton Road) is furnished by an award-winning designer and is in a beautiful location. There’s also a fine dining restaurant, The Mill Room, which is doing great things under the guise of new head chef Mark Brankin.

Comfortable stays can be had at The Globe Inn (Plymouth Road) or the Dartbridge Inn.

The 33-bedroom Northgate House Hotel is the accommodation at Buckfast Abbey. Two superior rooms have outside balconies.

Caddaford Barns are tucked away in a hamlet just outside Buckfastleigh. Enjoy a self-catering break at this stylish barn conversion, which is next to an organic working farm.

Lavender Cottage is in the heart of town. It sleeps four and has a games room with table football and darts.

Great British Life: The nearby River Dart is a popular location for picnics and swimming. Photo: Visit DevonThe nearby River Dart is a popular location for picnics and swimming. Photo: Visit Devon

Did you know?

All in a name The name Buckfastleigh contains half the letters of the alphabet, none of which is repeated. Check it and see…

Walk the walks There are plenty of beautiful walks, within and surrounding the town. Hembury Woods and the River Dart are popular locations, for picnics and swimming. You can even walk to Tavistock along The Abbots' Way, the route across the moors taken by monks to get between the abbeys of Buckfast and Tavistock.

The Valiant Soldier This Buckfastleigh pub closed its doors for the last time almost 60 years ago and stood almost completely unchanged. It’s now a museum. The former local is said to be haunted. Apparently, the spirits always seem to have a good time.