Ashburton lies in the heart of the South Devon countryside on the southern slopes of Dartmoor. It is roughly half way between Plymouth and Exeter and is an ideal base from which to explore the whole region from the moor to the coast. Among the various activities offered in the area are walking, pony trekking, canoeing and fishing. In addition, there are a variety of good food outlets and plenty of places to stay.
There are many lovely old buildings in this ancient stannary town which dates from Saxon times and has grown along the banks of the River Ashburn and its tributary the Balland Stream. The Parish Church of St Andrew has an impressive exterior with a 92 feet high tower. Near the base of this tower is the grave of a French prisoner of war who died in 1815, at the very end of the Napoleonic Wars. The church was originally erected in the 12th century but entirely rebuilt in the 15th century. There is a memorial to Lord Dunning penned by his friend Samuel Johnson and an ancient Parish Chest in the North Transept Chapel.
Around the turn of the century, Abbot Boniface Natter decided to revive Catholic life in the area. The first Mass was celebrated in a temporary chapel in a barn in 1911 and it was not until 1935 that the Church of Our Lady and St Petroc was opened.
Ashburton Museum is housed in a building which was once a brush factory. It houses an interesting collection which, in addition to items of local interest, includes a large display of North American Indian artefacts.
The Chapel of St Lawrence is one of the town’s oldest and most interesting buildings. It started life as a private chapel for the Bishop of Exeter. In 1314 he gave the Chapel to the town to be administered by the Guild of St Lawrence, on the stipulation that a Chantry School was maintained there. This became a Grammar School, which celebrated 600 years in 1914. The school closed in 1938 due to a fall in numbers but the building was still used as an annex to the local primary schools until 1994. The building is now used as a Heritage Centre throughout the summer season.
Ashburton's nearest tor on Dartmoor is Buckland Beacon. From this high point there is a magnificent panorama of deep and wooded valleys, with the River Dart winding away towards Dartmeet and the wild moorland hills beyond. Buckland Beacon is 1281 feet above sea level. A local stone-mason has cut the Ten Commandments into the granite rock. There are many other interesting walks around Ashburton.