Where to Eat in Somerset & Exmoor

As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Somerset & Exmoor, Jackie King picks out a selection of pubs, restaurants, festivals and markets .

Local produce in Somerset and Exmoor is as good as you’ll find anywhere – and finding it is a treat. As well as excellent independent shops, a series of farmers’ markets showcase the best fresh products and artisan goods – breads, cheeses, ciders, cakes – while festivals assemble the producers of the region’s finest fare. You could also join a foraging workshop to learn how to spot nature’s bounty.

Local Food Direct, Somerset

"Fresh, locally produce direct to you door"... a community business of local producers, based in Glastonbury, that runs an online farmers' market that has been delivery fresh, local food to households throughout Somerset since 2002. Produce includes meat and fish, dairy, fruit and veg, and bread (including gluten free bread). localfooddirect.co.uk

Cheddar Ales

A stone’s throw from Cheddar Gorge is the microbrewery, Cheddar Ales. Head brewer, Jem Ham, uses natural ingredients, all of which are sourced from English suppliers, and time-honoured methods to produce a fine selection of Cheddar Ales, such as Totty Pot and George Best. You can book onto a tour or stock up on ales from their shop on site. cheddarales.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). torrecider.co.uk

Lye Cross Farm

The Alvis family has been farming the land for 400 years and, for the last 50 years, has been producing tasty farmhouse cheddar from their 1000-strong herd of cows. As well as dairy production, they also rear their own beef and pork. You can stock up on Lye Cross Farm produce at their lively farm shop onsite, which has a great deli and bakery, and sells fresh milk, preserves and chutneys. lyecrossfarm.co.uk

Butcombe Brewery

If you’re a beer lover, no trip to the Mendips wouldn’t be complete without a stop off at the brewery of the West Country’s most popular bitter. The new Butcombe Brewery, which produces some 50,000 barrels of the stuff annually, is located in the village of Wrington, on the edge of the Mendips. You can book onto a tour of the brewery (advanced bookings only) or visit the shop to stock up on aler, cider, and even clothing and other merchandise. butcombe.com

Thatchers Cider

The Thatcher family has been producing cider on their farm in Sandford for over 100 years. Their apple orchards may have expanded to some 380 acres, but they still use the same oak vats, recipes and ingredients that William Thatcher, the company’s founder, created in 1904. Deeply committed to protecting the business and farmland for future generations, the family has planted 200 acres of orchards in recent years, as well as 2,000 native British trees (ash, beech, oak). Stop off at their cider shop to stock up; the Strawberry Line footpath cuts straight through the orchards. thatcherscider.co.uk

Yeo Valley Farm

It all began in the 1960s, with the newly-acquired Holt Farm, 30 cows, a few sheep and some arable crops. Fifty years on and Yeo Valley has become one of the nation’s favourite dairy producers. Although Yeo Valley is renowned for its delicious yogurt, produced from its 400-strong herd of British Friesian cows, Yeo Valley focuses heavily on education: Wills Barn, recently-converted, is now a classroom to teach schoolchildren about sustainability and where their food comes from; there are Sarah Mead’s organic gardens – 18 years in the making and now open to the public – and tours and events held throughout the year (ploughing competitions, seed swapping events and summer festivals), as well as courses to sign up to, such as the farm adventure tour, where you can learn about organic and dairy farming. An inspiring place - visit their fun and funky website to find out what it’s all about. yeovalley.co.uk

Quince Honey Farm

Established in 1949 with just two hives, Quince Honey Farm is now home to the world's largest collection of the humble honey bee. Unique interactive displays allow visitors to get intimate views of the hives and the bees at work, whilst viewing galleries cleverly transport you through the honey making process, from extraction to bottling. There's a fantastic soft play area for kids, a cafe, shop and a tiny museum with fascinating collections of old beekeeping equipment. The farm also runs beekeeping courses and events throughout the year. quincehoneyfarm.co.uk

Nutcombe Chocolates

A small family business based in Minehead, close to Exmoor National Park, who use a variety of chocolate making techniques to fashion a wide range of hand made chocolates, truffles and seasonal figures using premium Belgian chocolate. Yum! nutcombe-chocs.co.uk

The Ring O’ Bells, Compton Martin

This is Butcombe Brewery’s oldest owned pub and is perfect for walkers, fisherman, and families. You’ll find lots of delicious dishes on the menu, such as a trio of pork and Butcombe sausages with creamy mash, and local smoked trout salad with apple, capers and new potatoes. They have recently opened two rooms upstairs as B&B – a perfect country retreat in the heart of the Mendips. butcombe.com/pubs/ring-o-bells

The Ring O’ Bells, Hinton Blewett

A traditional pub located between the Mendip Hills and Chew Valley with fantastic, far-reaching views, great local beers and an exciting, locally-inspired menu. Landlady and head chef, Becky, sources only Somerset and west country produce, and her menu includes dishes such as Chew Valley chuck steak & stout pie, old-fashioned ‘Bells’ bangers, and pot-roasted Somerset chicken. The pub hosts a variety of events throughout the year, such as quizzes, and even a pig-racing night! The pub even has its own cricket team and golfing society, and organises brewery tours in the autumn. butcombe.com/pubs/ring-o-bells-2/

The Bridge Inn, Dulverton

Classic country pub on the beautiful River Barle that dates from 1845. Kenny and Rachel McDonald have been the owners since December 2006 and pride themselves on their cask ales, single malt whiskies and large selection of craft beers and ciders. Awarded Somerset CAMRA's 'Pub of the Season' for Autumn 2013 and graded silver by the green tourism business scheme. Menu is classically British (eg. pies served with mash, peas and traditional gravy) with their own unique twist. Dogs are welcome, in fact the owners own dogs, Molly & Milly, keep a secret stash of gravy bones behind the bar for visiting dogs! thebridgeinndulverton.com

The Lamb, Axbridge

Occupying an old 15th-century coaching inn in the pretty medieval square of Axbridge is the Lamb Inn, the focal of the village and popular with visitors and locals alike. Inside, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, with wonky beams and old slate floors. The menu features a delicious range of dishes, such as their famous beef and Butcombe pie, or homemade delights such as lasagne or scampi. The Lamb Inn is slap-bang on the Mendip Trail, a walking or cycling circular route connecting six Butcombe pubs in the area. butcombe.com/pubs/the-lamb-hotel

The Queens Arms, Bleadon

In its former life, this Butcombe pub, on the western edge of the Mendip Hills AONB, was a cottage. Now, it is a lovely village pub with a cosy, lively atmosphere: warm terracotta walls, old pews and settles, and award-winning chefs who whip up great locally-sourced food – try the ham hock terrine with Rose Farm piccalilli or the Butcombe beer battered fish and chips served with home-made tartare sauce. They grow their own herbs and bake their own bread, too. The pub is dog-friendly so it makes a perfect pit-stop for walkers on the Mendip Trail. butcombe.com/pubs/queens-arms

The Swan, Rowberrow

This pub in Rowberrow, an ex-mining village, started out life as an old cider house. Thatchers is still served here, but it’s the food which attracts the punters these days (though cider does features heavily in the menu!): opt for the slow-cooked spiced pork belly with Ashton Press cider apple sauce, Welsh rarebit with Ashton Cider chutney, or roasted butternut squash and rosemary risotto. Walkers, horse-riders, cyclists and runners are all made very welcome. butcombe.com/pubs/swan-inn

Dunster by Candlelight

For just two evenings a year, on the first Friday and Saturday of December, the Exmoor village of Dunster can be explored by candlelight. Get a head start on your Christmas shopping, enjoy the entertainment on offer, and savour locally-produced food and drink. This unique event gives visitors the chance to escape the modern world, and see this medieval village as it once was; you won't only be supporting local businesses but also helping to raise money for charity. Accommodation disappears quickly, so book a long time in advance if you intend to stay in the village. dunsterbycandlelight.co.uk

The Royal Bath & West Show

This wonderful celebration of the British countryside is well worth a visit. There's a vast range of trade stands displaying the best food and drink that the South West has to offer, and The British Cheese Awards and British Cider Competition are held at the show. Once you've had your fill of the culinary attractions, there's plenty more to see and do. Go canoeing, watch livestock competing for the title of best in show, and enjoy an array of equestrian events. If you're after something quirkier, pay a visit to the alpacas, or see the shearing competitions. bathandwest.com/royal-bath-and-west-show

Carymoor Environmental Centre

This remarkable nature reserve sits atop a disused landfill; a range of habitats have been carefully created, resulting in extraordinary biodiversity on the site, with wildlife including newts, grass snakes, butterflies, deer, stoats, barn owls, and more. Carymoor Environmental Centre doesn't just entertain, but also educates visitors about ecology. There's a programme of fascinating events for young naturalists, and rewarding volunteering opportunities on offer. Other attractions include a stroll along the Tree Trail, and a visit to the apple orchard and wildflower collection. carymoor.org.uk

Go Wild

Snack on bugs and nettles in the undergrowth, take up the fire-lighting challenge, go foraging in the hedgerows, learn how to shoot... Whether you’re planning a hen or stag party, a company away day, or have simply always fancied yourself as a bit of a Ray Mears, sign up to Go Wild you can enjoy these and many more equally entertaining, inspiring, low impact activities in a beautiful rural setting in the Mendips. They also provide accommodation, from cottage to glampsites. gowildweekends.co.uk

Dudwell School

At Dudwell School in the Mendip Hills, your culinary education is in safe hands: Caroline Waldegrave, founder of Leiths School of Food and Wine and co-author of the Leiths Cookery Bible, will teach you to create a range of gourmet dishes in idyllic surroundings. The school specialises in five-day residential courses, with luxurious accommodation in the Waldegrave family home- there's even a heated pool on site. Bespoke courses are also available. dudwellschool.com

Cookery at the Grange

The Grange offers residential cookery courses set in rural Somerset. The locally-sourced ingredients, experienced staff, and well-equipped kitchens make it an excellent holiday for foodies of all levels. Three courses are available: 'The Essential Cookery Course' is geared at those who aspire to cook professionally, whereas 'Food with Flair' and 'The One Week Wonder' are more relaxed. There's at least one teacher per five students, so chefs-in-training get plenty of individual attention. Accommodation is comfortable, and you can also enjoy the the products of your hard work for lunch and dinner! cookeryatthegrange.co.uk

Stream Combe Cookery

Streamcombe Farm, located two miles away from Dulverton in Exmoor, offers a wide range of one-day cookery courses, which range in subject from game to bread making. Bespoke courses are also available; Streamcombe Farm would be a great place to hold a team building day or party with a twist. If you fancy staying the night, the farm also offers luxury B&B accommodation at a reduced rate for course participants. Accomplished chef Ian is an excellent instructor, emphasising the importance of seasonal, locally-produced ingredients. streamcombecookery.co.uk

Clavelshay Barn

If food photography is your bag, where better to hone your skills than Clavelshay Barn, a sustainable and award winning farm and restaurant on the edge of the Quantocks, which runs food photography workshops on site. Talented local photographer Neil White takes groups through a 'food story', following dishes from creation to completion, focussing on how best to capture the ingredients on camera and how to polish the final images. Lunch at the restaurant is included. clavelshaybarn.co.uk/workshops/foraging-workshop/


For more information on characterful places to stay, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Somerset & Exmoor


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