Al Fresco Eating & Drinking
From pub gardens to floating pontoons, here’s our pick of Devon’s best pub gardens, cafes and restaurants to visit in summer.
Winking Prawn, Salcombe
With a salty location on the North Sands, the Winking Prawn beach café and BBQ is the perfect stop for a sunny lunch, ice cream or the inevitable cream tea. Cracked crab, lobster and sea bream fillets are amongst the main course attractions.
Ring of Bells
Our friendly village pub, the Ring of Bells, is a traditional thatched 13th century longhouse, complete with oak beams, wonky walls and log-burning stoves. The food is delicious, there's a great wine list and ales are poured straight from the barrel.
There are two expansive terraces at Bovey Castle, both giving way to expansive views of the estate and Dartmoor. As a guest of Moorland View, you have 15% off food and drink.
The views of River Dart and Capability Brown-designed hillsides are worth the trip to Sharpham alone, but their vineyard tours, on which you get to taste their delicious sparkling and white wines, as well as their cheeses, are the clincher. Their Cellar Door cafe makes a scenic spot for lunch. Closed winter. Book ahead. > More guided tours in Devon
A waterside pub makes summer complete, and we defy you not to fall in love with the 17th-century Waterman’s Arms, overlooking tinkling Bow Creek, near Tuckenhay. Hidden away at the bottom of a steep valley, the streamside tables are perfect for savouring a pint of the fine Palmer’s Copper Ale. The lunches, sourced from local suppliers and served under an outdoor awning, attract foodies from as far away as Exeter and Plymouth. Another enticing option is the Maltsters Arms(01803 732350; tuckenhay.com) in Tuckenhay. On the River Dart, it has its own jetty and is big on open fires in winter and guest beers all year round.
The Cleave, Lustleigh
The Cleave is a thatched Devon pub in the pretty village Lustleigh, the next village up from Moorland View. Flagstone floors, wood-beamed walls and crackling log fires make it one of the cosiest places to hole up while outside is a sunny pub garden for warm days. The food is hearty, delicious and generously portioned. For a good day trip, walk to Lustleigh from the cottage, have lunch at The Cleave and book a cab back (or walk if your legs are up to it).
The Rugglestone, Widecombe-on-the Moor
With flagstone floors, open fires and Dartmoor and Butcombe Best Bitter poured straight from the barrel, the Rugglestone, a Grade-II building in remote Widecombe, is the moor-dwellers’ choice. The rudimentary bar is tiny, providing plenty of opportunity to join in on the old boys’ conversations. The two restaurants - one of which has an open log fire – are more spacious, and outside, over a small bridge, is a large sheltered garden with picnic tables and fabulous views.
The Cott Inn, Dartington
First licensed in 1320, The Cott is the second oldest inn in Britain and its roof is reputed to be the longest thatched roof in England. Walkable from the River Dart and just a mile from Totnes train station, it is lively and welcoming, with a strong local following. Outside there's a spacious beer garden and patio, plus a wood-fired oven in a separate garden kitchen, which is used from March to September. It's not a rowdy pub, although there are regular music nights – on Wednesdays an acoustic folk trio play and there's also a live band on Sundays.
The Ship Inn, Noss Mayo
The sun terrace of this two-storey inn on the banks of the Yealm estuary is our favourite spot for a Devon for a waterside tipple. Inside, there’s a panelled library, English-oak floors, log fires, old furniture and interesting nautical memorabilia, including searchlights, torpedoes and an impressive ship’s bell which is used for chiming last orders. The cellar stocks a great range of regional beers, including Summerskill’s, brewed just down the road. The local sailing school has an excellent reputation; there is boat hire, easy coastal walking and crabbing.
Salcombe Distilling Co
Born out of a love of gin and inspired by the sea, co-founders Angus and Howard created Salcombe Distilling Co, a beautiful waterside distillery and bar overlooking the estuary in the stunning coastal town of Salcombe, South Devon. Visitors can enjoy the ultimate ‘Salcombe & Tonic’ overlooking the estuary or watch the distillers handcraft the multi-award winning gin ‘Start Point’ which is an exceptionally smooth ‘London Dry Gin’ handcrafted on ‘Provident’, their striking 450l copper pot still which stands proud behind glass doors within the distillery for all to view. There is a fabulous seasonal cocktail menu and they also serve a wonderful selection of wines, beers, soft drinks and coffee alongside their gin. The distillery and bar is open 7 days a week and visitors are welcome to sample Salcombe Gin, find out more about how it is made, watch the distillers at work or simply relax in the bar with a drink.
Venus Cafe, Blackpool Sands
At The Venus Café you can sit gazing out over a seascape that is often named as one of the most beautiful in the world. Whether you’re visiting the region or live locally, a trip to the secluded ‘Blue Flag’ awarded Blackpool Sands with its clear turquoise waters is an absolute must. Open daily, The Venus Company’s beach café and takeaway serves the best, organically made, locally sourced ingredients with many of its dishes coming from the nearby land or sea. The company’s philosophy is best summed up by their strapline ‘Loving the Beach’ as co-owners Michael and Louisa are keen to support and help develop sustainability in the regional economy through enterprise and innovation.
The Gastrobus, Bantham Beach, Kingsbridge
The Gastrobus occupies an enviable spot on one of South Devon’s premier surf beaches. Try the Bantham burger (a 6oz patty with smoked bacon and a choice of Devon Blue or mature cheddar), local crab rolls and loaded hot dogs.
Part of celebrity chef and restaurateur Mitch Tonks’ growing collection of informal seafood restaurants, the Brixham branch of the award-winning Rockfish is perched above the world-famous fish market that supplies many of the UK’s top restaurants. Grab a window table or seat on the terrace and watch the fleet of day boats bringing in the day’s catch as you tuck into fish and seafood that is often still in the sea an hour before you eat it. Try the roasted half-shell local scallops with garlic and breadcrumbs or the fritto misto of prawns, sprats, monkfish ‘scampi’, cod and calamari with chilli and tartare sauce and unlimited chips. therockfish.co.uk
The Breakwater Cafe, Brixham
The Breakwater in Brixham is just a stone’s throw away from Berry Head. The cafe has long been there supplying ice creams and the like but in recent years has developed into a fine eatery with a cafe feel in the day but more intimate dinners by night. This family run bistro offers stunning vistas of the half-mile long Breakwater with Torquay and Paignton looking enviously over from the other side.
The Guardhouse Cafe, Brixham
The Guardhouse Café is located within the Northern Fort of Berry Head National Nature Reserve. On Torbay’s southern tip, there are stunning views north to Torquay and Paignton while looking east and south over the sea you’ll get frequent sightings of porpoise, dolphins and sea birds. The guardhouse, completed in 1802, was used by the troops defending the fortress. Inside the café you can still see part of the tunnel system which was built inside the fort all those years ago.
Crab Shack, Teignmouth
Located on Back Beach, looking directly over the estuary at Teignmouth, Amanda Simmonds says the main reason people travel from all over to the Crab Shack is because it has its own fishing boats and they catch most of the fish and seafood themselves (Amanda’s husband has been a crab fisherman for more than 30 years). The menu is made up mainly from anything that can be produced from crab or lobsters, with the most popular dish being fruits de mer. Expect to have to crack, pull and tear apart your dinner here.
Shoals Café on The Lido, Brixham
Sean and Sarah Perkes have transformed a near-derelict building with limited water and electricity supplies into a thriving dining destination since opening Shoals in the summer of 2015. Above the open-air Shoalstone sea water pool, Shoals is open seven days a week during the summer, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. For Sean, a fifth-generation fish wholesaler and exporter who spent his youth at the iconic lido, it was only natural that this beach-side restaurant would showcase the very best local seafood and the menu changes daily depending on what arrives at Brixham fish market in the morning. Get plates of local day-boat scallops and monkfish in a flamed whisky, bacon and cream sauce served with chips or crusty bread; and Elberry Cove mussels in a white wine, garlic and cream sauce. The fresh Brixham crab sandwiches and homemade mackerel pâté and melba toast are the stuff of dreams.
Rising Sun, Lynmouth
Overlooking Lynmouth harbour, with dramatic views of Lynmouth Bay and Exmoor National Park, this 14th-century thatched smugglers’ inn is in one of Devon’s most picturesque locations. Inside, it’s wonderfully rickety and rambling, with a fire-lit bar, Exmoor cask ales, award-winning food and genial locals. It’s no wonder RD Blackmore felt compelled to write several chapters of his West Country classic, Lorna Doone, here. It also appealed to Percy Bysshe Shelley, who isthought to have spent his honeymoon there with his 16-year-old bride, Harriet, in 1812.