The best pubs in Devon

Penned on the 17th November 2021

The best pubs in Devon

After a day out exploring in the fresh air, is there anything better than winding down at a welcoming local pub? Whether you’re looking for a pit-stop pint or somewhere to hunker down with your loved ones for a hearty meal, Devon is filled with characterful pubs for every occasion. Here are some of our favourites to get you inspired, from historic hideaways in the countryside to picturesque pubs by the water.

The Rugglestone Inn, Widecombe-in-the-Moor

Best for: Walkers

Widecombe is one of Dartmoor’s most picturesque villages and this 200-year-old grade II listed pub only adds to its charm. Surrounded by peaceful moorland with Haytor Rocks and Hound Tor close by, The Rugglestone Inn is a popular respite for walkers. On dry days enjoy a rest in the sheltered garden with a tranquil stream and beautiful views of the green rolling countryside. Or if you need to warm up on a chilly day, there’s a cosy open fire inside.

Hungry visitors will be pleased to see that their menu includes a hearty range of pies, pasta, jacket potatoes and more, made with locally sourced ingredients where possible. Children and dogs are welcome, but dogs should be kept on leads because chickens and ducks roam freely in the garden.

Room with a View is the perfect accommodation to stay and explore this area of Dartmoor, and it’s just a mile and a half from The Rugglestone. This secluded cabin at the foot of Haytor has panoramic views of the national park and a snug wood burner - it’s a walker’s paradise. 

 

Start Bay Inn, Torcross

Best for: Fresh seafood by the sea

In the small coastal village of Torcross in South Devon, you’ll find this 14th-century inn on a thin piece of land surrounded by water. From the front, gaze out to sea across Slapton Sands and from the back, admire Slapton Ley freshwater lake - a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the largest natural lake in southwest England. 

The menu is a perfect match for the waterside location too. Choose from their speciality fish and chips, or see what the daily catch has brought in for an authentic taste of the coast: monkfish, lemon sole, bass, scallops, crab, lobster and squid all make regular appearances. 

Rosie’s Hut, Ashley’s Shack and Poppy Yurt are three off-the-beaten-track hideaways under an hour’s drive from here, so if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in this area you’re spoilt for choice.

 

The Old Firehouse, Exeter 

Best for: A city getaway 

This buzzing, city-centre pub is the perfect place to stop for refreshment after a day wandering the historic streets of Exeter. Situated in the old fire brigade and dating back to the 1800s, it’s got plenty of traditional charm - but with a contemporary edge. If you’re looking for something to keep you entertained, there’s often a quiz night or a local band on.

The Old Firehouse is famous for its delicious pizzas, and the bar is loaded with ales, beers and ciders from the West Country. There’s an enticing cocktail menu too. Something to note is that this pub is more suited to adults than families - children over 10 are welcome from 12 pm to 5 pm, after which it’s over 18s only. 

For a peaceful base outside of the city, we have two tranquil countryside retreats to choose from. Shepherd’s Delight and Shepherd’s Oak are both less than a three-mile taxi ride away if you find yourself enjoying The Old Firehouse late into the evening.

 

The Lamb Inn, Sandford

Best for: A cosy atmosphere

In the peaceful village of Sandford in mid-Devon, this characterful 16th-century red-brick building looks like something from a postcard. Inside, the open fires, low ceilings and comfy sofas create an atmosphere that’s so cosy you won’t want to leave. And for something a little more quirky, upstairs there’s a room with a traditional skittles alley and a projector screen for movie nights, where you can make yourself at home and mingle with the locals.

The food is equally as comforting too. On their chargrill menu you’ll find a mix of quality, seasonal meals, from Venison Haunch Steak to Truffled Wild Mushroom Pâté. The landlord is passionate about real ale too, so they’ll usually rotate between four local casks to keep them fresh. 

There’s endless unspoilt countryside to explore in this area, so it’s worth staying for a while. The Wagon with Faraway Views and Shepherd’s Sky Super Hut are both within a short drive of Sandford.

 

Cary Arms, Babbacombe

Best for: A romantic meal for two

If you’re looking for a romantic haven with breathtaking views, look no further. Cary Arms is an award-winning boutique hotel as well as an inn and with its location perched on the English Riviera, you can’t get much closer to the sea than this. There’s a spa too, including a dedicated couples treatment room, if you want to indulge in an extra special treat. 

Their menu includes freshly caught fish, Devon meat and other seasonal produce. You can opt for a relaxed environment at lunchtime, or book dinner for something a little more formal. Make sure you finish your evening with a stroll along with the beautiful Babbacombe Bay. 

For more quality time with your loved one in a secluded, off-grid retreat, take a look at our collection of romantic Devon glamping breaks here. 

 

The Thatch, Croyde

Best for: A post-surf pint

Just a short stroll away from the famous Croyde Bay in North Devon, this popular pub is the perfect spot to enjoy a well-earned pint after a surf or day at the beach. With regular live music and local entertainment, there’s a lively atmosphere to soak up all year round too. 

On the menu you’ll find a good selection of pub grub - they’re especially well-known for their loaded nachos - as well as local drinks and a huge range of gin and rum! There’s seating both inside and outside so it’s a good choice whatever the weather, but it gets busy in the summer months so make sure you book ahead. 

Looking to stay nearby? The picture-perfect Bo-Peep Cabin is just half an hour’s drive away. From there you can also explore the beautiful beaches of Saunton Sands and Woolacombe, both of which are great for surfing if you’re looking for a saltwater escape. 

 

The Masons Arms, South Molton

Best for: Foodies

This Michelin Star inn on the edge of Exmoor is a haven for foodie visitors. Despite the sophisticated menu, the idyllic thatched roof and cosy wooden-beamed interior keep the atmosphere warm and low key, making it the perfect place to relax after an afternoon walking in the stunning national park surroundings. 

Owner and chef Mark Dodson have produced one of the finest menus in the region, with a focus on seasonal ingredients and local produce - the sample a la carte menu includes a fillet of halibut with potato crust, roasted partridge, and fillet of Exmoor beef with braised cheek. As you can imagine, advance booking is essential. 

Horseshoe Shepherd’s Hut and The Piggery are two beautiful boltholes within a twenty-minute drive if you want to stay and explore more of what North Devon has to offer. 

 

Instow Arms, Instow

Best for: Dog-friendly dining

This modern pub restaurant is a stone’s throw from Instow’s year-round dog walking beach, making it the ideal spot to enjoy with your four-legged family members. The friendly team warmly welcome dogs and are known to provide treats at the bar too! Make the most of the views over the beautiful estuary from the decking area outside, where there are blankets and heat lamps to keep you cosy on cooler days. 

This North Devon pub serves a good variety of satisfying food, from classics like Chicken Supreme to coastal cuisine like Moules Marinère. And you’ll always find a selection of real ales and local drinks at the bar.

Looking for more inspiration for dog-friendly escapes? We’ve got plenty of pet-friendly luxury camping sites to choose from here. 

 

The Pilchard Inn, Burgh Island

Best for: A taste of smuggler history 

This old smuggler’s tavern, built-in 1336, is on the famous Burgh Island on the coast of South Devon. It’s a tidal island, so if the water’s low enough you can walk across - but at high tide, it’s arguably more of an adventure because you can travel to and from the inn by sea tractor! After your trip, stone fireplaces and a traditional wood-beamed interior welcome you in from the cool salty air. 

The food is simple and hearty. Find yourself a nook by the window and as you’d expect, there are heavenly sea views to enjoy. 

The inn is owned and operated by the Burgh Island Hotel - a spectacular Art Deco landmark that’s also steeped in history. If you’d like to treat yourself to a fine dining experience on the island, indulge in their 7-course tasting menu in the Grand Ballroom, where black tie and evening dresses are a must. 

Take a look at the beautiful hideaway Little Modbury Lookout, for somewhere to stay nearby.

 

Royal Castle Hotel, Dartmouth

Best for: Families 

Situated in the heart of Dartmouth in South Devon, this iconic 17th-century pub overlooks the beautiful River Dart. It’s the perfect family-friendly pit-stop after an afternoon wandering the quaint harbourside streets or enjoying a boat ride. 

Whether you’re after a light bite or a comforting three-course meal, Royal Castle Hotel’s menu features fresh seafood and revamped pub classics, including a children’s menu to keep your little ones happy. 

If you’re looking for a family escape, we’ve got plenty of spacious yurts and shepherd huts to choose from. Explore our Devon retreats here, where the kids will have the freedom to play while you have the chance to relax in your blissful natural surroundings.

 

River Exe Cafe, Exmouth

Best for: Dinner with a boat trip 

This isn’t technically a pub but with an outstanding location like this, we couldn’t miss it off our list. The River Exe Cafe prides itself as ‘Devon’s only floating gastro shed’. It’s sat on a custom-built barge off-shore in the Exe Estuary and is only accessible by boat - you can book the water taxi when you book your table. 

You’ll be rewarded with an incredibly scenic view and the perfect sunset spot, whilst you enjoy fresh, locally sourced food and drink. But beware - they tend to close in the winter months so make sure you check the opening hours before you go. 

If you’re looking to stay nearby try Hatway Hideaway, a quaint cottage just half an hour up the coast near Sidmouth. You can do a number of cruises and boat trips from here too, where you can marvel at the Jurassic Coast, England’s only natural World Heritage Site. 

 

Looking for more inspiration for magical places to stay in Devon? Browse our full selection of hand-picked hideaways here.