Devon is home to some of the most atmospheric traditional ale taverns in the country. With lots of local beer and cider producers, it’s no wonder the pubs are stocked with such a wide selection of tasty brews. Devon’s two coastlines are fertile waters for fishermen and this is reflected in the wonderful seafood-focused menus found throughout the county.
The Crabshell Inn
Best for: Estuary views.
The Crabshell Inn is beautifully positioned on the quayside with enchanting views over the water. With its coveted south-westerly aspect, the Inn basks in the sun all day. On cooler days the interior has a contemporary dining room with vast windows, which also overlooks the bustle of the boats on the estuary.
Aptly named, The Crabshell’s seafood-focused menu is making waves and is becoming acclaimed among the foodies of South Devon. Featuring ocean-inspired dishes, fine wines and sharing platters, the menu is mouth-watering and the ambience buzzy. You can expect to find delicious dishes, such as Brewdog beer-battered fish and chips, king scallops and crab tagliatelle.
Jack in the Green Inn
Best for: Award-winning cuisine.
The Jack in the Green in Exeter recently celebrated its 25th year as a Devon dining institution. With a strict emphasis on locally sourced produce, the restaurant has a reputation for its delicious cuisine, which is backed up by a multitude of regional and national awards.
The pub exudes the aesthetic of a traditional tavern with flagstone floors, leather armchairs and low beams. The restaurant seating area enjoys a brighter ambiance and a slightly more formal atmosphere. The focus at The Jack in the Green, however, is the food, with contemporary twists on classic pub grub. Its popularity continues, even after 25 years.
Location: South Devon
Best for: Arriving by boat.
Situated in the sleepy village of South Pool, in the heart of the South Hams, this idyllic pub can be reached in style when the tide is right. Zip up the creek from Salcombe and moor your boat beside the pub to understand what locals mean when they say “enjoy the brewer’s tide.” When the water retreats, the Millbrook can also be accessed by car via the nearby towns of Kingsbridge and Dartmouth.
Iain Dawson is the celebrated chef in charge of the Millbrook Inn kitchen. He mixes his fine-dining sensibilities with seasonal, local produce. Low beams, log fires and original stonewall features make this a popular and traditional choice.
The Bearslake Inn
Best for: A walk in the moors.
The Bearslake Inn in Lake Sourton is a thatched roof pub nestled within the rugged North West corner of Dartmoor. ‘Bear,’ or ‘be-re,’ comes from the old Devonian word meaning wooded place. While ‘Lake’ is actually the name of the hamlet where the farm is located. This means the original name roughly translates as ‘the wooded place in Lake’.
The Grade II listed building is a traditional Devon longhouse, which provided shelter to people and animals alike. Parts of this particular longhouse are thought to date back all the way to the 13th-century. Today, the village pub is a welcoming, family-run establishment serving tasty pub food and refreshing beverages to those who enjoy a walk in the moors.
The Ferry Inn
Best for: Lively atmosphere.
The Ferry Inn is an unpretentious pub that enjoys exceptional views over the sparkling water of Salcombe harbour. On a sunny day, the lively terrace makes for one of the finest spots in Devon to enjoy a cask ale or a chilled glass of rosé.
The large modern bar and traditional rustic seating area make for a welcoming drinking hole. Enjoy popular plates such as fish and chips and West Country rump steak, inside by the wood burner or out on the waterside terrace. Conveniently located next to the ferry jetty, punters have been known to jump into the water between pints!
The Harbour Inn
Best for: 12th-century charm.
The Harbour Inn is a quaint thatched roofed pub set within the quaint village of Axmouth. It’s a short distance from the Axe Estuary which is popular with walkers and birdwatchers, and lies within the acclaimed East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
This country pub dates back to the 12th century and retains many of its original features, including a large stone fireplace and exposed wooden beams. Dishes include Lyme Bay lobster, classic fish pie and farmhouse ploughman’s. The owners also serve woodfired pizza straight out of the brick oven when the sun shines on the beer garden. Well behaved children and dogs are more than welcome.
Hope & Anchor
Best for: Dog owners.
The Hope & Anchor pub at Hope Cove is a contemporary, coastal retreat in the peaceful and secluded seaside village of Kingsbridge. This relaxed bed and breakfast welcomes dogs and is just a stone’s throw away from a number of dog-friendly beaches, so it’s ideal for all the family. With outdoor decking overlooking the beach, this is a glorious spot on a sunny day.
The restaurant menu is filled with local Devon produce, with a particular focus on seafood, fresh from the sea below. Tasty mussels, lobster and crab take centre stage.
The Rock Inn
Best for: Visiting ancient stone structures.
In the breathtaking Dartmoor National Park, The Rock Inn has been earning AA rosettes for over two decades. Timber beams, antique furniture and cosy features give the inn all the welcome trimmings of an intimate country pub. All food is prepared in-house by imaginative chefs, who love to make the most of freshly caught fish, locally sourced meat and game.
Burrowed in the valley below is the iconic Haytor Rocks. This is a great place to refuel after hiking to the top of the ancient stone structure. Rocky granite outcrops like Haytor have dominated Dartmoor’s landscape for over 280 million years. The Rock opened 200 years ago in the 19th-century, making it a relatively new addition to the area!
Best for: Post-surf nachos.
The Thatch is a popular and bustling pub in the heart of the seaside village of Croyde. The menu features pub classics made with local ingredients, alongside real ales. The real star of the show, mind you, is the nachos. A favourite among the many local and visiting surfers.
As the name suggests, The Thatch has a large thatched roof and its interior features old wooden beams, stone walls and interesting bronze etchings. Full English, veggie breakfasts and pancakes are also available, making it the perfect spot before or after a long surf session.
Ye Olde Cider Bar
Location: Newton Abbot
Best for: Cider fanatics.
Ye Olde Cider Bar is a traditional pub that prides itself on, you guessed it, an unrivalled selection of independently produced ciders. With over 30 barrels of cider and perry to choose from, cider fanatics will love whiling away an afternoon in this achingly old-school wood-furnished pub.
Winning the competition in 2011 and 2017, Ye Olde Cider Bar is the only pub in the United Kingdom to win CAMRA’s National Cider Pub of the Year award on two occasions. Landlords Jonathan and Kim often host music nights, quizzes and charity fundraisers that are popular with Newton Abbot locals and visitors alike.
Best for: The English Riviera.
Cary Arms is a celebrated gastropub serving fresh, seasonal dishes underpinned by a deep-rooted respect for the surrounding waters. Perched on the rocks overlooking the sparkling waters of Babbacombe Bay in Torquay, the pub offers visitors the chance to relax and enjoy the English Riviera.
The atmospheric bar area is endowed with dark wood ceiling beams, a log fire and original stone walls. Featuring a number of accommodation options and spa treatments, The Cary also boasts areas of modern maritime design. The beachside spa area is a completely different kettle of fish to the bar. It has an ocean-view jacuzzi with panoramic glass walls and a muted white and blue colour scheme.
Start Bay Inn
Best for: Seafood lovers.
With a heritage dating back to the 14th century, Start Bay Inn has spent hundreds of years as the focal point of Slapton Sands seafront, in Torcross. The age-old pub serves local ales and ciders alongside a mouth-watering selection of freshly caught local seafood dishes. From whole fish and fried fillets to fish cakes and cold platters, the menu is an absolute dream for seafood lovers.
Uniquely, a large proportion of the seafood served at this thatched tavern is actually brought in by Start Bay Inn’s very own fishing boat. They launch the DH92 directly from the beach in front of the pub in search of the freshest scallops, crab, lobster and fish.
The Bridge Inn
Best for: Drinking like royalty.
This atmospheric pink period pub in Topsham has had some special visitors over the years. The most notable probably being the Queen of England herself, when she visited the The Bridge Inn back in 1998. This was the Queen’s first official visit to a pub and has gone down in local history.
Famous visitors aside, what really makes The Bridge Inn truly special is its unique atmosphere and character. Owned by the same family for over 100 years now, the interiors of this Grade II listed property are cosy and traditional, the selection of ales is top notch and the locals friendly. Everything you could ask for from a good old traditional British pub.
The Pilchard Inn
Location: Burgh Island
Best for: Agatha Christie fans.
Set on the atmospheric Burgh Island, a tidal island off the coast of South Devon, the The Pilchard Inn is a proper old school smugglers haunt. Dating back to the 14th century, you’ll find huge stone fireplaces and plenty of hot toddy waiting for you here.
When the island is cut off by the tide, you can hop on a high-sided ‘sea tractor’ to bring you over to the island. Or else, wait for low tide and walk over yourself. This dramatic rocky outcrop was actually the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s novel ‘And Then There Were None’, which just proves how truly atmospheric it is.
The Elephant’s Nest Inn
Best for: Hikers, bikers and ale lovers.
Despite the whacky name, The Elephant’s Nest Inn comes with all the trimmings of a traditional English pub. Set amidst the sweeping beauty of Dartmoor National Park, this cosy spot offers refreshment for hikers and cyclists and is a must-visit for any ale enthusiast in the local area.
Work your way through a range of delicious local ales, whilst chatting to the affable landlord and making friends with the resident dogs. If the sun is shining, then make use of the large beer garden out back. Or, if you’re feeling the chill, snuggle up in front of one of the roaring log fires. Whatever the weather, The Elephant’s Nest Inn is always worth a visit.
Location: East Prawle
Best for: Beer, grub and rock & roll.
Known for miles around for its real cask ales, tasty home cooked food and live music, a trip to Pigs Nose in East Prawle is always a treat. Run by a, somewhat kooky, music manager, the place has alternative vibes. It’s filled to the rafters with music memorabilia, rickety curios and furniture.
It’s not all noise and middle-aged rockers here though. You’ll also find a ‘knitting corner’ for anyone who wants to enjoy a pint in peace and quiet and there’s even a box of toys for children, just in case you’re visiting with the little ones.
The Cott Inn
Best for: History lovers.
One of the oldest pubs in the whole of Britain, this atmospheric joint has truly stood the test of time. Established in 1320, The Cott Inn remains lively and welcoming to this day, still serving an array of tasty ales and refreshing lager to Totnes.
Within walking distance of the River Dart, this is the perfect spot for an post-walk pint. Bask in the afternoon sun in the spacious beer garden or else rub shoulders with the locals at the bar. The traditional thatched roof of this pub is rumoured to be the longest in the whole of England, so make sure you snap a picture of it before you go.
The Rugglestone Inn
Location: Widecombe in the Moor
Best for: Fans of a proper pint.
Another Dartmoor beauty, The Rugglestone Inn is located in the remote village of Widecombe in the Moor. Although it started life as a cottage, the building was converted into an inn back in 1832 and has remained that way ever since.
The landlords here are very serious about serving local real ales and only pull them from the barrel. While the guest ales change from time to time, you’ll always be able to find Teignworthy’s ‘Rugglestone Moor Beer’ and Dartmoor Breweries ‘Legend’ behind the bar.