Tavistock and Sir Francis Drake

A 15-minute drive from our camping grounds on Dartmoor will have you in the centre of the picturesque World Heritage town of Tavistock. This beautiful town sits on the River Tavy and is the birthplace of one of England’s most famous explorers and privateers, Sir Francis Drake. Both Tavistock and Sir Francis Drake have left their mark on the western side of Dartmoor National Park and helped shape our local history.


Tavistock on Dartmoor’s western border

Tavistock Abbey

In the 12th century, King Henry I gave Tavistock centre the right to hold a weekly market. Tavistock market still runs today from a large stone hall. Just as when it began 900 years ago, Tavistock’s pannier market is open from Tuesday to Saturday. Each day is designated for particular items. Friday is the main market day when fresh local produce is sold alongside delicacies from further afield, such as coffee from Spain or olives from Greece. Other days are devoted to crafts, art, antiques and collectables.


Two centuries later, King Edward I, appointed Tavistock as one of four Stannary Towns in Devon and Cornwall. This allowed Tavistock to become part of a monopoly on all tin mining in Devon, recognising it as one of the four places where tin could be assessed, refined and coined for sale. Not only did this bring more business to the area, but it also established the town as one of the key players in the supply of sort after minerals to Europe.


While Tavistock was still enjoying its heyday and very much a part of England’s industry, Sir Francis Drake was born.



Sir Frances Drake


Sir Francis Drake

Portrait of Sir Francis Drake

In the 1540s, Sir Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, where he remained until 1549 when he fled with his family to Kent because of the Prayer Book Rebellion. In Kent, he was apprenticed to a master of a sailing ship that traded merchandise with France and his life on the seas began. Sir Francis Drake went on to become famous for his exploration of the world, circumnavigating the globe, leading an expedition to America and fighting the Spanish Armada on more than one occasion for his Queen and country.


At the age of 40, shortly before being awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Drake purchased Buckland Abbey in the Tamar Valley. The property remained within the Drake family until 1946 when it was sold and handed to the National Trust.


Buckland Abbey is just a 20-minute drive south on Dartmoor from our camping grounds. It offers a wonderful day out for those interested in the history of England and the area. Most Dartmoor tourist maps note both Tavistock and Buckland Abbey as excellent locations for a day out.

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