Clare Hunt has peeped through the shrubbery to discover some local pubs with great beer gardens
There’s not much to beat a cold drink and some food enjoyed outdoors in the summer sunshine.
Found at the heart of the village of Sandford in a sixteenth-century coaching inn, the Lamb has all the vital ingredients for an outstanding country pub. Inside, you’ll find beamed ceilings, open fires and invitingly squishy sofas. Or take your Devon ale or gin outside to the sheltered suntrap of a garden. There are three levels to choose from, with the top section welcoming dogs. Excellent food from the daily-changing menu means there’s every reason to linger.
Whiling away an afternoon by the Exeter Ship Canal is all too simple at the Double Locks. You can choose a sunny spot right by the water or take shade under the trees as you sip a local cider or beer from the outdoor bar. There’s a full menu to be tempted by, or grab a barbecue favourite from the grills that sizzle throughout the summer. Regular music and foodie festivals offer more reasons to head to the waterside.
There’s a classic country-garden feel to the glorious outdoor spaces at the Elephant’s Nest. Expect picket fences and banks of lavender, all set against the rolling hills of Dartmoor. Well-kept local brews and a properly considered list of wines are on hand to refresh. If you’re feeling peckish, there’s a tempting menu featuring comforting favourites with imaginative touches.
There’s no shortage of old-world charm at the Nobody Inn, with its dark-stained beams and imposing inglenook fireplace. Grab a drink from the extremely well-stocked bar before heading to the relaxed garden to fill your lungs with fresh air and browse the menu. Regularly changing dishes are hearty, satisfying and seasonal. Be sure to save room for a cheese platter.
When getting back to nature is on the agenda (with a glass of crisp white in hand, maybe) the Rugglestone Inn makes an excellent choice. There’s an actual babbling brook running through the garden, which is surrounded by open country but sheltered from any Dartmoor breeze. Inside the wisteria-clad pub, you’ll find ales served direct from the barrel, and a menu offering a good selection of dishes sure to satisfy after a brisk moorland yomp.
Refined but relaxed country-chic interiors and delicious food that’s elegantly presented make the Cott Inn in Dartington a popular destination. The atmospheric garden means the ambience continues outside – twinkling lights set the tone, and there’s an outdoor bar with a covered eating area where you can sit back and enjoy regular live music. The indulgent menu celebrates the best local produce and doesn’t forget veggie and gluten-free choices.
A proper pub without pretension, the Turf makes the most of its unique canal-end location. Driving there is out of the question, so you’ll have to make it under your own steam, by foot, bike or boat. The garden has views across the Exe estuary, and you can choose a tree-shaded spot or head for the water’s edge. The seasonal menu has lots of handmade and homegrown touches; when the sun comes out, so does the outdoor bar and ever-popular barbecue.
The Fisherman’s Cot is all exposed timbers and thatched roofs; it’s gloriously positioned in the East Devon countryside on the banks of the River Exe. Outdoor tables have views of a stone-built bridge and rushing waters. Quite the perfect spot for enjoying a cocktail or your choice from the extensive gin menu. Bar snacks (including pork crackling or pigs in blankets) are on hand, but you’re also likely to be tempted by the grills and burgers served with indulgent trimmings.
Yealmpton’s Rose and Crown might have a middle-of-a-Devon-village setting but its garden has a distinctly Mediterranean vibe. It’s a tucked-away sanctuary, sheltered by walls and swathed in greenery. Traditional pub food mixes with more modern dishes meaning there’s something to suit all tastes. Vegan, veggie and gluten-free options are all well signposted on the menu. Regional beers are on tap and there’s a concise but well-considered wine list to choose from.
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