Devon Buried: Totnes
Incoming international student, Ness Kasumyan, explores the surrounding areas of Exeter and Devon. In her first article for Exepose, she tackles Totnes!
In a state of post-pandemic panic, at once eager to pursue my dreams and terrified of making the wrong choices, it took me months to decide I was moving to Exeter, a city I had never stepped foot in prior to relocating for my postgraduate degree in September 2021. Originally from Los Angeles, I had promised myself I would move to the United Kingdom when I was a little girl listening to a relative’s stories about living in England.
As deadlines for accepting offers approached, I chose the University of Exeter over four other schools. In the end, it was not only the university’s renowned academic reputation, but Exeter’s proximity to centuries of magical and mythical history, that solidified my choice. Pixies prancing around stone circles in Dartmoor, knockers terrorizing local miners, and of course, Arthurian legends in nearby Cornwall.
“Britain’s alternative capital,” home to modern-day witches and “shiny hippy people.”
I was speaking to a classmate about my penchant for myth and magic when she recommended a visit to Totnes, a small market town in South Devon. In 2005, The Guardian dubbed Totnes “Britain’s alternative capital,” home to modern-day witches and “shiny hippy people.” Naturally, I scheduled a visit for Halloween weekend, a holiday I have come to learn receives none of the commercial fanfare in the UK as it does in the United States.
Totnes’ high street has no shortage of New Age shops selling crystals and stones advertised as having metaphysical properties, chakra bracelets, incense, and so forth. Having recently paid 100 USD to a Los Angeles soothsayer, only for her to tell me there is an evil eye out on me, I could not resist darting into one of the shops to see if I could purchase a protection crystal. While I am not normally superstitious, I figured it would not be that much more of a dent in my wallet to hedge my bets. I walked into Firefly, the first shop I saw, and left with an amulet of Ganesha, a Hindu God known as “the remover of obstacles.”
My next stop was The Hairy Barista, an independent coffee house just a one-minute walk from Firefly. The shop offers specialty coffee and a number of organic, plant-based and gluten-free desserts and dishes. After guzzling a double dirty chai, a cozy concoction of espresso and masala chai blend, I headed to Totnes Castle. Built after the Norman Conquest of 1066 AD, the castle sits on a hill overlooking the town. Its keep offers stunning views of Totnes and surrounding hills. Although I did not have a chance to visit, the town is also just two miles from the Berry Pomeroy Castle, dubbed one of the most haunted castles in the UK. One of several ghost stories associated with the site is that of The White Lady, believed by some to be the spirit of Margaret Pomeroy. It is said she haunts the dungeons of the castle, where she was locked up by her sister Eleanor due to jealousy over Margaret’s beauty, as well as romantic rivalry.
Totnes is about a forty-to-sixty-minute train ride from Exeter Central, but the stunning countryside views make the journey go by in no time. A quintessential blend of old-age history and new-age magic, Totnes is the epitome of small-town charm and bohemian bliss.
Edited by Ryan Gerrett