As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Exmoor National Park, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of restaurants, cafés and markets to find the best local food and drink in this glorious protected area in southwest England.
Exmoor National Park has more than its fair share of local bounty – and for visitors that translates into an exciting array of food and drink to fuel your exploration of the national park. Fishing boats land their catches at Ilfracombe and Brixham, so fresh fish and seafood graces many menus.
Cattle, sheep and rare-breed pigs graze and snuffle, and there’s game aplenty – unsurprisingly, local venison is renowned. Rivers and lakes are alive with salmon and trout. Breweries such as Exmoor, Otter and Clearwater supplies pubs with fine ales, and cider farms produce excellent adult apple juice to slake thirsts on summer afternoons.
Just as importantly, Exmoor’s pubs and restaurants know what to do with these riches, and we’ve tracked down eateries that focus on locally sourced ingredients to produce tantalising menus. From cream teas to home-made pies and gourmet gastropub cuisine, there’s a feast of flavours to be sampled.
From its lofty perch on Exmoor – it’s the National Park’s highest restaurant – The Culbone lures locals and farther-flung food-lovers alike with award-winning fare based determinedly on locally sourced ingredients, notably beef from Devon Red cattle and fresh Brixham fish. Each of the five spacious, en-suite rooms has its own character, contemporary and chic but understated – flamboyance is superfluous when eyes are magnetically drawn to the windows and dramatic moor views. Still, facilities are exemplary – upmarket hospitality trays, free wifi in the bar, flat-screen TVs, should you feel the need to stay indoors – with comfy beds for post-walk relaxation. theculbone.com
Built in the mid-17th century by James Boevey, first warden of Exmoor forest, the fortunes of stately Simonsbath House have waxed and waned over the years – though the views along the Barle Valley haven’t suffered. The elegant restaurant dishes up locally sourced dishes – salmon in tempura butter, Exmoor fillet Rossini, West Country cheeses and homemade Simonsbath House ice cream. simonsbathhouse.co.uk
Exmoor White Horse
A warm refuge plumb in the middle of the national park at Exford, this substantial 16th-century inn is the epitome of a village hostelry – just the kind of place you long to arrive after a day out on the moor. West Country game, lamb and cheeses, along with fish and seafood from Ilfracombe and Exmoor ales. And the bar – well, with crackling fires and a hundred or so malt whiskies to sample, don’t expect a visit to be brief. exmoor-whitehorse.co.uk
Exmoor Forest Inn
A country inn in the true sense, the bar of this convivial pub in Simonsbath is a warm, snug bolthole and is decorated with reminders of sporting pursuits, with hunting photos and deer antlers adorning the walls. Food is hearty and proudly local, with fish, meat and game from nearby suppliers, served with ales from Devon breweries. The Two Moors Way walking trail passes through Simonsbath, while cycling, horse-riding and Exmoor wildlife-watching safaris are popular activities in the area. exmoorforestinn.co.uk
Torre Cider Farm
Fans of adult apple juice flock to this family run farm where four kinds of traditional scrumpy ciders are produced, ranging from medium sweet to ‘mind-blowing extra dry’. Visitors in autumn watch the process in action, from harvesting the eight acres of apples to fermenting 30,000 litres of scrumpy, and there’s a host of family fun year-round, with rare-breed pigs, chickens and pigmy goats to admire. The shop stocks a wide range of local produce – dairy goods, chutneys, preserves, cheeses, country wines and Exmoor Ales, among other treats – while the tea room dishes up cream teas and fresh-baked goodies (including, naturally, Torre Cider Cake). https://www.torrecider.co.uk
Hindon Organic Farm
You’ll rarely meet farmers who care so much about the welfare of their animals as the Webbers, whose family has worked this 380-hectare hill farm for three generations. And this passion is evident in the quality of the organic meat they produce: Aberdeen Angus beef, lamb and mutton, and Gloucester old spot pork yielding ham, gammon, hand-made sausages and home-cured bacon. Rick Stein and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have both acclaimed the produce, and it’s also garnered numerous awards from Taste of the West, the Soil Association and the National Trust (on whose Holnicote Estate at the moor’s eastern edge it lies). http://www.hindonfarm.co.uk
For information on characterful places to stay, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our