20 of the best pubs in Devon

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Start Bay Inn

Best for: straight-out-of-the sea fish suppers

Where: Torcross

There are views for miles at Start Bay Inn, the 14th-century pub in the little village of Torcross, about half way between Plymouth and Exeter. Built on a reed-thin piece of land the pub is surrounded by water, with the sea at the front and Slapton Ley, the south west’s largest lake, at the back. It’s not just easy on the eye; the pub has won fans far and wide for its fresh seafood caught from DH92 (the inn’s own boat). When they can’t catch enough crab, scallop, fish or lobster, the kitchen sources from local fisherman in nearby Beesands and Dartmouth. The result is a list of ever-changing fish specials, including monkfish and skate, though it’s the fish and chips that’s the real treat, served in giant portions with a light batter.

Address: Start Bay Inn, Torcross, Slapton Sands, South Devon TQ7 2TQ


Telephone: +44 1548 580 553


Website: startbayinn.co.uk

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Pilchard Inn

    Best for: briny seadogs who want to roll out the barrel

    Where: Burgh Island

    Burgh Island is the atmospheric little Devon outcrop that inspired Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (the writer also wrote Evil Under the Sun while staying here). The Pilchard Inn is everything you would expect from a salty seaside drinking hole. Huge stone fireplaces, which would have once warmed fishermen and smugglers, cast a flickering, orange glow. The pub now belongs to the Burgh Island Hotel – an Art Deco looker that opened in 1929 – but it’s open to everyone. Stop by after a brisk walk over to the island at low tide, order a pint of St Austell’s Tribute and huddle by the fire or watch the tide wash in and out from one of the benches outside, just as people have done since the 14th century. And if the tide comes in while you’re finishing your drink, you can return to the mainland by sea tractor – a real thrill in itself.

    Address: The Pilchard Inn, Burgh Island, Devon TQ7 4BG


    Telephone: +44 1548 810514


    Website: burghisland.com

    The Anchor Inn

    Best for: Devon’s best mussels

    Where: Cockwood

    Life revolves around the River Exe at The Anchor Inn – from the extensive fish menu through to a tiny harbour on the doorstep that fills with water according to the tides. Located in the village of Cockwood at the mouth of the river (avoid pronouncing the ‘w’ if you want to sound like a local), the pub bustles come summertime, with drinkers draping legs over sea walls and squeezing onto the handful of benches outside. Along with the views and fresh sea air, this picturesque spot is famous for its mussels, with 16 variations all inspired by different countries or regions. We like the Mussels West Country (Cheddar cheese sauce and Devon cider). The pub also looks over Brunel’s famous Great Western Railway – time it right and you might spot the Torbay Express steam train.

    Address: The Anchor Inn, Cockwood, Exeter, Devon EX6 8RA


    Telephone: +44 1626 890 203


    Website: anchorinncockwood.com

    The Elephant’s Nest

    Best for: refuelling after a long tramp on the moors

    Where: Horndon

    Set in Dartmoor National Park, The Elephant’s Nest has all the hallmarks of a traditional country pub – bar the name, of course. The chocolate-box-gorgeous building still appears on some Ordnance Survey maps as its previous moniker, The New Inn, despite the portly former landlord changing its name in the 1950s after he received a particularly inventive insult. Whether you’re a serious rambler or more of a Sunday stroller, the pub offers respite for those exploring Dartmoor’s harsh terrain, with a serene, green beer garden and a cosy interior. The old building has also had an extension (using Dartmoor stone), so that three bright and spacious bedrooms are now available for bed and breakfast. More importantly, they’re within tripping distance of the bar and its Devon ales.

    Address: The Elephant’s Nest, Horndon, Mary Tavy, Tavistock, Devon PL19 9NQ


    Telephone: +44 1822 810273


    Website: elephantsnest.co.uk

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    Golden Lion Inn

    Best for: unbeatable home-cooked meals

    Where: Tipton St John

    From the plates piled with pink West Country beef on Sundays through to the slow-roasted lamb shank on a Friday, the Golden Lion is a bit of a Devon secret. Those in the know will drive for miles to come and eat here. French chef and owner Francois Teissier knocks up dishes that are a fusion of Britain and the Med – think bowls of locally sourced chunky fish soup accompanied by a potent garlicy rouille. The pub is at the heart of the small village of Tipton St John near Exmouth and cheery locals prop up the bar, always happy to offer advice on the driest cider or hoppiest ale. Works by local artists decorate bare stone walls, illuminated by Tiffany lamps, but if it’s a sunny day make use of the long beer garden, which looks almost Tuscan with its wisteria and vines clambering across wooden frames.

    Address: The Golden Lion, Tipton St John, Sidmouth, Devon EX10 0AA


    Telephone: +44 1404 812 881


    Website: goldenliontipton.co.uk

    The Masons Arms

    Best for: a taste of the Jurassic Coast

    Where: Branscombe

    Though it may share a name with the popular Masons Arms in Knowstone (which you can read more about below), further inland, this east Devon pub is renowned in its own right. Part of ‘England’s longest village’, the old stone building is hobbit cute, with thatched roofs and climbing roses. It’s also hiding 27 modern rooms, as the cottages in the grounds have been transformed to include bedrooms with views over the surrounding hills. Join the villagers in the pub, owned by Cornish brewery St Austell, for pints of Tribute and Proper Job and dinner from a menu indexed according to a local food map that includes cheese from Quicke’s Dairy, just north of Exeter. Do try and drag yourself away from the comfortable spot – a 15-minute walk across fields and you’ve reached the red cliffs and pebble beaches of the Jurassic Coast.

    Address: Masons Arms, Branscombe Village, Branscombe, Devon EX12 3DJ


    Telephone: +44 1297 680 300


    Website: masonsarms.co.uk

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Rock Inn

    Best for: an epic Sunday lunch

    Where: Georgeham

    Inland from Woolacombe and Croyde, The Rock Inn in Georgeham serves up a feast for Sunday lunch. The pub rears its own pigs on the outskirts of the village, including two named ‘Osbourne’ and ‘Thatcher’, lamb is from locally loved butcher M C Kelly and deli boards are piled high with charcuterie or for veggies, honey-roasted figs and humous. The decor is also pub-lunch perfect with old photos of the area hung up on walls and locals propping up the little wooden bar, a pint of Doombar in hand. Sit in the light and spacious conservatory in winter to best enjoy any sun and in summer venture out to the beer garden.

    Address: The Rock Inn, Rock Hill, Georgeham, Devon EX33 1JW


    Telephone: +44 1271 890332


    Website: therockinn.biz

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Old Firehouse

    Best for: an urban escape in Exeter

    Blink and you’ll miss this teeny-tiny, up-and-down, atmospheric pub, steps from Exeter high street and once a fire brigade base in the 1800s. Supposedly the inspiration for The Leaky Cauldron in J K Rowling’s Harry Potter, it’s now a hangout for students and locals, with three floors and a courtyard filled with rickety wooden tables, benches and even pews. The fairy-light bar is racked up with a choice of beers, ales and ciders from the West Country, including crowd-pleaser Yellow Hammer (brewed in nearby Half Moon Village) and popular Otter ale. Things tend to kick off after 8pm, when the kitchen starts to serve delicious tray-baked pizzas, perfect for lining your stomach or sharing with a date. And there’s no fear of it being quiet – most weekday evenings there’s a local band or a quiz night.

    Address: The Old Firehouse, 50 New North Road, Exeter, Devon EX4 4EP


    Telephone: +44 1392 277279


    Website: oldfirehouseexeter.co.uk

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Hourglass

    Best for: a cosy date with plenty of conversation-starters

    Where: Exeter

    Hidden down a residential street overlooking Exeter quay, the wedge-shaped Hourglass is about as quaint as they come. The pub is distinctly Alice-in-Wonderlandish, with a circular bar in the middle of the room and little nooks and crannies around it. The arty crowd blend in well with the eclectic decor: knick-knacks and curios scattered around and a stuffed badger in a suit guards the staircase. Drinks are locally sourced, including ales from Dartmoor, and downstairs the unpretentious restaurant serves up delicious dishes such as Portuguese fish and chorizo stew. Don’t let the simplicity fool you: the menu is changed every six weeks and features some of the region’s best game and poultry with everything baked on site, even the bread.

    Address: The Hourglass, 21 Melbourne Street, Exeter, Devon EX2 4AU


    Telephone: +44 1392 258722


    Website: hourglassexeter.co.uk

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Masons Arms

    Best for: Michelin-starred pub grub on the edge of Exmoor

    Where: South Molton

    Owner Mark Dodson won a Michelin star for this pub within six months of opening in 2006, having been head chef at Michel Roux’s Waterside Inn in Bray. But despite its foodie credentials, this thatched little pub avoids being pretentious. And with the same menu available throughout, you can choose between the smart restaurant upstairs or the cosy bar downstairs – fondly known as the village local – which adheres to the strict dress code of a Devon pub: fireplaces, beams and Barbour-wearing farmer types. Food tends to be locally sourced and follows the seasons: Mark and his team serve delicious Devon game such as guinea fowl with confit-leg cannelloni and morel cream sauce, along with puddings including orange posset and a white-chocolate millefeuille.

    Address: The Masons Arms, Knowstone, South Molton, Devon EX36 4RY


    Telephone: +44 1398 341231


    Website: masonsarmsdevon.co.uk

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Maltsters Arms

    Best for: Pimm’s on the River Dart

    Where: near Totnes

    Set in a valley between Totnes and Dartmouth, the Maltsters Arms in Tuckenhay is the perfect place for reclining on a summer’s day with a Pimm’s or pint beside the River Dart. Formerly owned by TV chef Keith Floyd, who hid fake crocodiles in the banks opposite, much effort has gone into ridding any garishness, meaning the pub is now much more pared-back. The menu is predominantly seafood, from River Exe mussels to fish and chips, and ale is from nearby Bays Brewery in the seaside town of Torbay. The pub used to be two 18th-century cottages, and has been converted to include six small but lovely double bedrooms, with a delicious, generous English breakfast served in the morning.

    Address: The Maltsters Arms, Tuckenhay, Totnes, Devon TQ9 7EH


    Telephone: +44 1803 732350


    Website: tuckenhay.com

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Cary Arms

    Devon’s best pub for: sleeping by the sea

    Where: Babbacombe

    Deep in smuggler territory, Peter de Savary’s Cary Arms fits in perfectly, snuggled as it is against the red sandstone cliffs and overlooking Babbacombe Bay, a lovely cove with a little pebble beach and harbour. The pub itself is rather grand; a restaurant, bar, residents’ room and terrace give plenty of options for drinking. For the best views, book the Captain’s table, a raised platform just big enough for four to sit and gaze at unhindered sea views. There’s a selection of rooms in the pub if you want to make a weekend of it, along with a four-bedroom cottage which is just the thing for a boozy get-together, with an Aga, huge baths and, best all of all, a complimentary decanter of Plymouth sloe gin. More recently, six plush beach huts have opened, decked out with double beds looking directly out to sea, as well as a new spa.

    Address: The Cary Arms, Oddicombe Beach Hill, Babbacombe, Devon TQ1 3LX


    Telephone: +44 1803 327110


    Website: caryarms.co.uk

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    Nobody Inn

    Best for: whisky and cheese lovers

    Where: Doddiscombsleigh

    Brave the twisty-turny lanes to get to Doddiscombsleigh’s only pub, the Nobody Inn. The 16th-century building is everything you would expect from a country pub: imposing fireplaces, oak beams, snuggly corners and then some. The bar is extremely well stocked, selling more than 300 types of whisky, the most expensive being the 1938 Glenlivet at £97 a tot, as well as an eponymous beer brewed in Branscombe especially for the inn. Food varies from delicious pub grub at lunch to game and fish in the evening, all with the emphasis on keeping producer-to-plate miles as low as possible. If you have even a smidgen of space left at the end of supper, indulge in the cheese board, a choice of six or nine of the 15 local cheeses, including Sharpham brie, Ticklemore goats’ cheese and Devon Blue. There are also five bedrooms upstairs if you want to extend your country escape for a little longer.

    Address: Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh, near Exeter, Devon EX6 7PS


    Telephone: +44 1647 252394


    Website: nobodyinn.co.uk

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    River Exe Café

    Best for: the most incredible views

    Where: Exmouth

    Founded by wakeboarding company Exe Wake, the River Exe Café was born from a love of watersports and alcohol and may well be the most scenic boozer in Devon. Several floating platforms have been lashed together to create a pontoon upon which the freshest seafood is served, along with local wine Pebblebed, cultivated two miles upriver. The café is incredibly popular with boat-shoe-bedecked Devonians who roar up in their RIBs on summer evenings. Landlubbers fear not: the water taxi runs from Exmouth docks and ferries punters back and forth in various time slots; when you call to reserve a table, you can also book a taxi spot. Make sure you wrap up warm as the wind can be chilly and don’t forget your phone – if ever there were a place to snap that Instagrammable sunset, this is it.

    Address: Get a water taxi from Exmouth Marina’s Visitors Pontoon, EX8 1XA


    Telephone: +44 7761 116103


    Website: riverexecafe.com

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Turf

    Best for: an incredible pub garden

    Where: Exminster

    Only open from spring to autumn, this former lock-keeper’s cottage is one of the liveliest and loveliest pubs on the River Exe during the summer. The huge beer garden is on a spit of land jutting out from the canal into the river with wonderful views of the Devon hills. The best part? You can’t drive there. But for a pub that’s so remote it has a lot of other transport options. During the summer months, the Topsham to Turf ferry runs daily, the Exe Cycle Trail continues to Dawlish, meaning you can cycle in a big flat loop from Exmouth or Exeter, and there are plenty of places to hire kayaks and canoes to paddle down the canal, including at the pub itself. Clive and Ginny Redfern celebrated their 25th year as landlords in 2015 and they can still be found pouring pints or flipping burgers on the BBQ that runs over sunny weekends. The bar serves a great variety of local beers, ales and gins, including Tarka lager, Dragon Tears cider and Tarquin’s gin from North Cornwall. With such a glorious location, the Turf does get very busy, so phone ahead and book an alcove or hire the yurt at the end of the garden for the night, then sit back, pint in hand, and watch the world sail by.

    Address: The Turf, Exminster, Devon EX6 8EE


    Telephone: +44 1392 833128


    Website: turfpub.net

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    Warren House Inn

    Best for: amazing views of Dartmoor

    Where: Postbridge

    The wild and windswept landscape of Dartmoor has long inspired poets and writers, including Arthur Conan Doyle and his hound of Baskervilles. And the Warren House Inn, considered the loneliest pub in the UK, is a welcome respite from the stark surroundings. The pub, which once served the local tin-mining community, is entirely self-sufficient with electricity from a generator and water from an underground spring, and legend has it that the fire has been burning since 1845. The hearty menu is still fit for a tin miner, with steak-and-ales pies made with local meat and ale, and Warreners pie, a rabbit pie made to the inn’s own recipe. At 434 metres above sea level, it is also the highest pub in southern England, conveniently meaning you don’t have to hike up a tor to get some of the best views of Dartmoor.

    Address: Warren House Inn, Postbridge, Devon PL20 6TA


    Telephone: +44 1822 880208


    Website: warrenhouseinn.co.uk

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Bridge Inn

    Best for: real ale lovers

    Where: Topsham

    Although the pink facade of the Bridge Inn in Topsham might not look like much from the outside, there’s a reason it’s the first pub the Queen ever officially visited. It has been in the same family for five generations, and having a pint in the Bridge Inn is like stepping back in time. The 18th-century coaching inn still keeps the same opening hours as in 1914, doesn’t play background music and has a room where mobile phones are forbidden. Visitors order pints from landlady Caroline Cheffers-Heard who rotates the real ales almost daily and tries every single one to make sure it’s up to scratch. As well as the obvious antiquity of the building itself, there’s a wonderful sense of family history about the place. Old photos of Caroline’s ancestors hang on the walls and the downstairs function room is decorated with her grandmother’s furniture. Come in the summer and sit outside next to the river; in the winter, get cosy near one of the giant roaring fireplaces.

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Thatch

    Where: Croyde

    You don’t go to The Thatch for a quiet country evening. You go to The Thatch to hang out with boisterous surfers sporting top knots and wetsuit tans. Friday night is live music night, with the pub keen to support original talent rather than cover bands. Touring surf groups have been known to base themselves here, so be prepared for neon face paint and banging dubstep. During the day there’s a great selection of burgers and a varied kids’ menu – it’s a wonderful lunch destination for families taking a break from digging sandcastles at some of the best beaches in Devon nearby including Croyde or Saunton. It also does an excellent cream tea and has a huge garden for little ones to run around in. Look out for craft ales from small breweries such as Exmoor Ales, Wizard and Dartmoor Ales.

    Address: The Thatch, 14 Hobb’s Hill, Croyde, Braunton, Devon EX33 1LZ


    Telephone: +44 1271 890349


    Website: thethatchcroyde.com

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Sloop Inn

    Best for: a lovely afternoon by the beach

    Where: Bantham

    There’s something very special about The Sloop in Bantham, on the Avon Estuary. First, there’s the incredible setting in the South Hams – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – with views over to Burgh Island. Then there’s the history: at more than 700 years old, the pub has a tale or two to tell, and the bar staff are more than happy to recount stories of seafaring folk, pirates and shipwrecks. Upstairs, the bedrooms are small and a little twee, but all you really need for a weekend of beachcombing and exploring tidal coves and rock pools. If you’re just stopping by, grab a thick-cut Salcombe crab sandwich or indulge in an utterly delicious sticky toffee pudding.

    Address: The Sloop Inn, Bantham, Kingsbridge, Devon TQ7 3AJ


    Telephone: +44 1548 560489


    Website: thesloop.co.uk

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  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Turf, Exminster

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  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The River Exe Cafe

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Lamb Inn, Sandford

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Lamb Inn, Sandford

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Bridge Inn, Topsham

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  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The fire that has been burning since 1845 at Warren House Inn

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    Nobody Inn, Doddiscombesleigh

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Rock Inn, Georgeham

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    Scallops at the Rock Inn, Georgeham

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Pilchard Inn, Burgh Island

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Masons Arms, Knowstone

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Masons Arms, Knowstone

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

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  • 20 of the best pubs in Devon

    The Lamb Inn

    Best for: fitting in with the locals

    Where: Sandford

    Half an hour north of Exeter is the 16th-century Lamb Inn, a lovely red-brick building in the tiny village of Sandford. The pub has a real community feel, with villagers huddling around the fire and the wooden bar in winter and out in the bright beer garden in summer. It’s all wonderfully quirky; there’s a skittles alley upstairs which doubles up as a home cinema, with an email newsletter listing the film showings. The landlord is passionate about real ale, rotating between four and five cask brews at a time to ensure they are fresh. This place is also lovely for a weekend in the country; the rooms are surprisingly well kitted out, with solar-powered underfloor heating, king-size orthopaedic beds, and deep baths to soak in.

    Address: The Lamb Inn, The Square, Sandford, Crediton, Devon EX17 4LW


    Telephone: +44 1363 773676


    Website: lambinnsandford.co.uk

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