The town dates back to the Saxon period, when it had a mint, and was formerly a walled town.
The narrow main street tumbles down the hill, being High Street at the top and Fore Street at the bottom. Along the street is a jumble of Elizabethan and Georgian houses, many timber framed and some with pillars over the pavement.
High Street and Fore Street are separated by the highly picturesque 15th century Eastgate, damaged by fire in 1990 but subsequently restored. There is another gate, the Northgate, in a less frequented part of town.
St. Mary`s Church is strikingly built of the local sandstone. It has an outstanding painted stone rood screen, dated 1459, and the tower is of around the same date.
Totnes Castle, at the top of the town, has an impressive 14th century shell keep.
A timber framed Tudor house in Fore Street is now a museum.
The nearby Brutus Stone is where, according to legend and the tales of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Brutus, grandson of Aeneas, arrived from Troy and founded Totnes and Britain.
Totnes is the lowest bridging point on the beautifully wooded River Dart, and from here a steam boat service runs to Dartmouth, while steam trains run from Totnes to Buckfastleigh.
Charles Babbage, the computer pioneer, attended the grammar school at Totnes.