Devon's Perfect Pubs
Gastro pubs, traditional pubs, pubs with walks, pubs with gardens - here’s guide to Devon’s most perfect pubs.
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 Pilchard Inn, Burgh Island, Bigbury on Sea
A creaky, weather-beaten smugglers inn dating from 1336 on a private island (ask about the smuggler’s escape tunnel). Getting to The Pilchard Inn is all part of the fun - it's cut off by tides from the mainland twice a day, when transport across is by sea tractor.
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 Devon’s best moorland pub. 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.
Ring of Bells, North Bovey
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.
The Horse, Moretonhampstead
Heralded as a ‘genuine slice of foodie heaven’ by the Michelin guide, the Horse serves some of the best pub food in Devon, in contemporary pub setting. There's a pretty walled courtyard for dining al fresco on summer evenings.
Chagford Inn, Chagford
Under Head Chef, Russell Hamby, The Chagford Inn produces as much in-house as possible – ranging from baking their own bread to curing our own bacon, coppa, bresaola, salt beef, pastrami, fish and our version of Serrano ham. Their Dexter beef travels about half a mile from local farmer Richard ‘Elmo’ Ellis’s farm and is butchered and prepared totally in-house. Cuts and dishes change regularly … from rib eye steak through confit Dexter flank to roasted ox liver - no part of the animal is wasted. They don’t use stock cubes or anything ready prepared, and bones are roasted every morning to produce rich and delicious stocks. Menus change daily. At the time of writing, dishes included seared scallops with squid ink risotto, confit pork belly with puy lentil cassoulet and celeriac remoulade and, for dessert, plum and ginger crumble with ice cream or clotted cream. On Sunday lunchtime, they offer a traditional roast – always beef, occasionally, another roast meat – as well as a range of other dishes including vegetarian options. Dogs are welcome.
The Dartmoor Inn, Lydford Gorge
On the fringe of Dartmoor and a stone's throw from one of the National Trust's prettiest walks in Lydford Gorge, the Dartmoor Inn is the perfect blend of olde worlde pub-meets-contemporary diner. Sunday lunch features all the traditional favourites with a modern twist. Desserts are not to be missed either, and come with a helping of seriously good clotted cream. Book ahead, but be careful not to confuse it with a different Dartmoor Inn.
The Nobody Inn , Doddiscombsleigh
There’s a story in every nook of this 17th century inn; allegedly the central beam separating two periods of the inn – stood vertically here – is from a local church’s bell tower; you can see where ropes have worn the wood away. Blackened oak beams jut from low ceilings, antique weapons and farm tools hang from rough plaster walls, and an entire wall is given over to the Nobody Inn’s collection of 240 whiskies and spirits, while another room houses the 250-strong wine collection.
Warren House Inn, high Dartmoor
Since 1845, travellers across the moor have been stopping for refreshment at Warren House Inn, the highest inn in the southwest. Once a favourite Devon pub with local tin miners, it now serves up real ales, warming soups, ploughman’s lunches and local steak and ale pies to a mix of locals and tourists. Another special is their Warrener’s Pie, made with fresh-cooked rabbit.
The Millbrook, South Pool
Probably the only place in Devon where pigs’ trotter patties and escargots appear on the same menu, the Millbrook is a cosy pub where old-school Devon meets French auberge. On a babbling brook and close to a tranquil creek, it’s accessible by boat from Salcombe so, in summer, yachtie crowds come and go with the tides. There’s live gypsy Jazz every Sunday and fish barbecues in the summer.
The Pigs’s Nose, East Prawle
This whitewashed smuggler’s inn is on one of Devon’s beautiful stretches of coastal path, at Prawle Point. Run by a delightfully eccentric music manager, The Pig’s Nose has played host to The Animals, The Yardbirds, the Boomtown Rats and Curiosity Killed the Cat, and still stages regular acts. The knitting corner is for customers who prefer a quieter pint.
The Bridge Inn, Topsham
One of England’s last traditional ale houses, little has changed at The Bridge Inn for centuries: faded bunting from George V’s 1911 coronation still hangs in the tiny bar. This ‘museum-with-beer’ is a must for ale connoisseurs.
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 Devon 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 Devon pub 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.
Waterman’s Arms, Ashprington
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.
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, this Devon pub is 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 is thought to have spent his honeymoon there with his 16-year-old bride, Harriet, in 1812.