Ottery's most important building is the parish church of St. Mary, a magnificent scaled-down version of Exeter Cathedral, developed as part of the College of Canons founded by John de Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter, in 1337. It contains many treasures including a minstrel gallery built on pillars, and a wonderful 14th century astronomical clock, and is an atmospheric setting for organ recitals and concerts.
The town's good selection of shops is well worth exploring, but don't forget to take a gentle stroll beside the river Otter to admire the unusual Tumbling Weir with its swirling "water down the plughole" effect, constructed in 1790.
Two interesting historic houses are located nearby. Cadhay is a tranquil Tudor manor house with a courtyard ornamented with striking statues of royal Tudors, while Escot offers gardens designed by Capability Brown, woodland walks, a pet and aquatic centre, and an intriguing maze.
Something a little different
Events in Ottery St Mary include the unusual Pixie Day in June, where children dress up as pixies and re-enact an old legend, capturing the bell-ringers and spiriting them away to their "cave". The Ottery St Mary Tar Barrels are the town's most famous event where men shouldering flaming tar barrels run through packed crowds - a somewhat terrifying spectacle!
Did you know?
With its glorious church and cluster of picturesque buildings, Ottery St. Mary has given literary inspiration to Coleridge, Thackeray and JK Rowling. Ottery, once chiefly known as the birthplace of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the poet who penned The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, is now known to a generation of Harry Potter readers as Ottery St. Catchpole.