A jam packed day in Buckfastleigh and Totnes, a fantastic adventure with three attractions in one. We took a ride on the South Devon Railway line, visited some otters and saw beautiful butterfly’s. The train also took us along to the Rare Breeds Farm in Totnes. The train line was built in 1872 and is now run by the South Devon Railway Trust charity.
We started our day by going along to the Buckfastleigh Butterfly Farm. A hot and humid butterfly house filled with the most fascinating collection of butterflies and moths. You enter the room and then you are surrounded with the incredible array of colours flying right past you. My eldest daughter thought she was in something resembling a fairy-tale. The amazement on my girls faces was a delight to see. You get really close up to these pretty insects and then begin to really understand their life cycle whilst viewing wiggling chrysalis and reading the many facts they have around the enclosure. In the entrance you can also witness the extreme will power of the leaf cutting ant, whilst they travel along a long rope and carry their chosen freight delivery back to their nest.
You can then head outside to see the playful otters and enjoy watching them being fed. The keepers are on hand to provide you with lots of otter facts and knowledge… Including things like they enjoy eating beef burgers, particularly Sainsbury’s finest! They are really adorable little creatures, Dartmoor is an important home for otters as they are a globally threatened and protected species. There is also an underwater viewing area where the otters seemed to love performing for the spectator’s. We were lucky enough to have them swimming right past the glass on several occasions, something my girls found hilarious.
We then headed towards the station to catch our lunchtime steam train. Station, butterfly farm and otter sanctuary all share the same parking area and are a very convenient stones throw from each other.
The train arrived with its whistle blowing and the steam billowing from the engine. I particularly enjoyed the feel of stepping back in time into the old carriages, with the original fixtures and furniture really capturing my imagination. We unpacked our lunch and all sat around a comfortable table to enjoy the ride.
We were greeted by very friendly staff who were all traditionally suited and booted. They came to say hello and tell us all about the railway line, train and history of the stations. The stations are all decorated with original Great Western Railway memorabilia, including original booking offices, fireplaces and signs from the era.
He also mentioned that there may be some goblins and fairy’s outside the windows if we looked carefully. To their delight the girls did spot the array of gnomes and other figurines in places along the trackside on the 45 minutes journey to Tones. A distraction that we were very grateful for, although by the time we had eaten our lunch and had chatted to the train staff it seemed like the perfect length ride.
At the other end there is then more to do. You walk over the crossing on the train line to the Tones Rare Breeds farm. We can’t tell you how much we enjoyed this little place, and be sure to pick up a bag of feed or two from the reception on your way in. To our surprise when we walked in there was the best display of owl’s myself and my partner have ever seen. I realise that this is a real animal farm but the stillness of the stunning owl’s was unbelievable, for a minute I don’t think any of us thought they were real. Until one of them gives a little blink or slight head movement its honestly quite tricky to adapt to the fact that these incredible birds are sat right in front of you. We got to stroke the smallest one who was perched on the fence at the end, next to an adorable sign saying “if I am sat on the fence they please give me a stroke”.
We then went out into the paddock where you can pet some of the goats, sheep and geese. We all found this really enjoyable with my youngest even getting to say hello to the smaller animals. Some of the bigger animals are a little cheekier though and I nearly lost the whole bag of feed on several occasions, to the amusement of the rest of my family! As the name describes, they have a lot of rare breeds at this lovely little farm. Some being in the last 20 of their species, and what a shame too as there are some truly beautiful animals here. Before heading over to the café for a quick cuppa the girls visited the pet’s corner and hatchery where we saw tiny new fluffy chicks and held some great natured and may I say very brave guinea pigs.
There are areas of interest at all of the stations on the day out, so you really are never short of anything to do. We sat at the other end of the train this time which was again another exciting experience for the kids especially my eldest who is a Harry Potter fan. We had a compartment complete with squishy long seats and vintage luggage racks. We felt like we were in the film and we hoped someone might come along with a chocolate frog! We enjoyed our own snacks though and kept our eyes peeled out of the window for more fairy tale creatures.
There are cafés, gift shops, toilets and baby changing facilities at both of the main stations. So you are never very far from anything you may need. Although we did have a very busy day, we left feeling good and not at all like we had to rush anything or had over done it.
An absolutely full day with a great variety of experiences all rolled in, we can highly recommended this day out for all the family. Another huge thank you to Dartmoor Accommodation for arranging this one for us, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and will certainly be going back.