Okehampton

Okehampton, Devon

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Okehampton, Devon
  • Okehampton, Devon
  • Simmons Park, Okehampton, Devon
  • Simmons Park, Okehampton, Devon
  • Okehampton, Devon
  • Okehampton, Devon
  • Okehampton, Devon
  • Okehampton, Devon
  • Okehampton, Devon
  • Okehampton, Devon

A traditional market town nestling in the northern foothills of Dartmoor, Okehampton is a great place for the outdoor enthusiast. Surrounded by spectacular countryside, the area makes a great base for outdoor adventure holidays in West Devon. 

Known as the walking centre of Devon, visitors can discover the wild side of Dartmoor on foot or explore forgotten villages by bike. Then there's riding, swimming, fishing and golf for you to take part in.  

For the less active there is a Victorian shopping arcade, a museum, a lovely park for picnics and the second oldest Norman Castle in the county. 

To the north of the town are Dartmoor's two highest peaks, whilst to the south lies the National Trust gorge at Lydford - a picturesque village with its Whitelady waterfall. 

In 2021, Great Western Railway opened the Dartmoor line, allowing for better connections between Exeter and Okehampton. The journey from Exeter is roughly 40 minutes of beautiful, scenic countryside, only stopping at Crediton in between. 

History 

Okehampton was first settled in the Bronze Age, but it began taking shape and was founded by the Saxons. The earliest written records of the settlement are from 980 AD as Ocmundtune, meaning settlement by the Ockment, a river which runs through the town. By the 10th century, the name had evolved to Okehampton, meaning a place where slaves were freed at a crossroad, and the main settlement grew up around the parish church. 

Okehampton Castle was built between 1068 - 1086 by Baldwin FitzGilbert following a revolt in Devon against the Normandy Rule. He established a motte and bailey castle which overlooked the town. The castle was passed down to the Courtenay family, who rebuilt it as a family home, until Henery VIII executed the Earl and claimed the castle for himself. 

The first church to be built in Okehampton was the Anglican parish church of All Saints, the building of the structure began in the Saxon era. Whilst there isn’t an exact date of erection, it’s likely that a previous church stood at this site before the first recorded church existed in 1261. During the late Middle Ages, the church was rebuilt and completed in 1447. In 1842, a fire ingulfed the church, and only the medieval tower survived intact. When rebuilding the church once more, famous glass designers William Morris and CE Kempe both created Victorian stained glass for the building. 

During the Medieval period, Okehampton thrived on the woollen trade and tin mining industry. If you visit the Museum of Dartmoor Life in Okehampton, you can see how local people would have lived and worked over the centuries. 

Things to do 

As Okehampton is sitting at the top of the moors, a trip here wouldn’t be complete without explore the local moorland that surrounds which ancient town. A trip to Dartmoor can be taken on foot, by bike or by car. On the northern quarter of Dartmoor National Park, several National Trust and other historical sites such as Castle Drogo and Lydford Gorge are easily accessible. The Granite Way is a popular trail with locals and visiting cyclists, taking you from Okehampton to Lydford, past Meldon Viaduct and Meldon Reservoir. 

The remains of Okehampton Castle, once one of the largest in Devon, sits upon a hill, surrounded by woodland and countryside, with a riverside picnic area and plenty of trails to walk. The site is currently owned by English Heritage, and is a short walk away from the town centre.  

Simmons Park, created by Sydney Simmons in the early 1900 sits in the south east of the town centre. The park encompasses Kempley Meadows, an area plentiful with wildlife, benches to sit on, and lots of space for your little ones to run around in! Facilities are open to the public and include a leisure centre, a bandstand, s children’s play area, a public garden, and much more. 

Something a little different 

There is an Edwardian evening in December, and an impressive farmers' market is held on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month. Here you can pick up local produce such as honey, cheese and cider! 

The Okehampton Treasure Trail is a unique way to explore the town with your family. It’s a murder mystery themed, self-guided trail, taking you through the town to learn about its history and points of interest. 

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