In 1846 The South Devon Railway reached Newton Abbot and transformed the town from a market town into a communications centre and base for industry. Branch lines to Torquay (in 1848) and Moretonhampstead (in 1866) made Newton Abbot a prime location for further industrial development.
Much of the fabric of the modern town dates from this period. Of particular note are Courtenay Park and Devon Square, both elegant Victorian developments, and Mackrell's Almshouses on the Totnes Road. St Leonard's Tower, in the centre of the town, is the remains of a church demolished in 1836. The history of the town, with an appropriate emphasis on Brunel and the Great Western Railway, is on show at an excellent museum.
Newton Abbot today is a substantial shopping and commercial centre, the largest in South Devon, with all the usual superstores and high street names in attendance and a busy industrial and financial sector. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday (includes an indoor pannier market) and there's a farmers' market on Tuesdays in Courtenay Street. There is also an annual Cheese and Onion Fair.
Among the town's many attractions are Decoy Country Park, on the edge of town; Tuckers Maltings, the only UK working malthouse open to the public; Plant World, and Orchid Paradise. Also worth a visit locally is Ugbrooke House set in a fabulous Capability Brown garden. If you fancy a workout, then the newly refurbished leisure centre has a fitness suite, swimming pool and fitness classes.
All within a short distance are: Stover Country Park, with the recently added Ted Hughes Poetry Trail, and Trago Mills, an unusual combination of discount warehouse and leisure park. England's highest waterfall is at Canonteign Falls, and the cutting edge Centre for Contemporary Arts and the Natural World is on the top of Haldon Hill, as is the Haldon Belvedere if you like spectacular views, and the Haldon Forest Park if you like woodland exploration with a difference.
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