Starting within the town itself we’d recommend a visit to Okehampton Castle, Okehampton Town Nature Reserve, Simmons Park, and the Museum of Dartmoor Life.
English Heritage’s Okehampton Castle is fascinating. You’ll find the remains of the largest castle in Devon, in an awe-inspiring setting above the West Okement river. Building was started soon after the Norman Conquest as a motte and bailey castle with a stone keep, then it was converted into a luxurious home in the 14th century by Hugh Courtenay, Earl of Devon, much of whose work survives.
Okehampton Old Town Park Nature Reserve
The town’s Nature Reserve is literally next door to the castle. If you’re driving, use the car park next to the castle and it’s easy to access the nature reserve as well. It’s worth noting that both the Two Castles Trail and the West Devon Way run through the park.
There’s an interesting information board just the far side of the footbridge over the West Okement River which reads;
‘Old Town Park Local Nature Reserve flanks the southern bank of the West Okement river and lies within the northern boundary of Dartmoor National Park. This area was once part of Okehampton Castle’s deer park. Archaeological evidence from the castle’s kitchen waste shows that fallow deer were introduced by the original Norman occupiers in the 11th century when the deer park was created. The castle ramparts gave a bird’s eye view of the chase, looking across into what is now Old Town Park where the scene of the final kill may have taken place.’
Simmons Park is one of the jewels in Okehampton’s crown. The park is easily accessible, it’s a five-minute walk from the town centre, or if you’re travelling by car there’s a carpark on site. You can reach the park from a footpath just a few yards down from Okehampton Railway Station, or a 15-minute stroll down Station Road. There are some several lovely memorials, including a stone plaque to honour Sydney Simmons, the creator of the park which opened to the public in 1907.
Walking around Simmons Park you’ll will find wooden bridges and a quirky stone one too, superb gardens and waterfalls, ancient woodland, and an abundance of wildflowers. Due to its many gardens, trees and natural habitats, the park is rich in wildlife and can be spotted or heard from all over the park. The area is popular with local dog walkers, although they must be on a lead on the far side of the river where the fountains are located. Simmons Park is often found to be hosting an event, from concerts to dog shows and funfairs.
Museum of Dartmoor Life
Wonderfully quirky and full of history and fascinating artefacts is the Museum of Dartmoor Life. Situated within a cobbled courtyard the museum exhibits over three floors a vast collection of objects spanning 5,000 years of life on Dartmoor from the Bronze Age through to the mid-20th Century. Together with providing the Visitor Information Point for Okehampton, Northern Dartmoor and beyond.