I’ve now driven the A30 enough times en route to Falmouth to start to be able to chunk it into manageable bites, and its a pleasant journey apart from Bodmin’s roadworks. If I run out of things to write I’ll tell you about the beer desert that is Launceston.
Just before Okehampton is a glorious range of hills at the northern tip of Dartmoor, with steep walks, one of the best National Trust properties at Castle Drogo, and a string of good facilities.
There’s seven Beer Guide pubs in as many neighbouring villages here, including the former National Pub of the Year, the Tom Cobbley in Spreyton. That would have made a great stop for our Monday lunch but they need the occasional break here. Monday closures are increasingly the norm for our country pubs.
South Zeal is at the foot of the a windy road you don’t want to be on in winter, and I suspect by Easter will be uncomfortably busy as well. It really is a close to perfect Devon village, with chimney smoke, running streams and uphill walks in all directions.
The Oxenham Arms looks like the leading hotel in this cluster of villages. If you could afford to stay here I suspect you could have a great day visiting all seven pubs in a day, but I bet most guests just sit in front of the fire and enjoy the facilities.
It’s a wonderful place to relax. A family were enjoying a good looking meal next to this fire, though a more traditional dining room will no doubt be busy come Easter.
If I told you that the excellent barman was on the phone ordering Prosecco you might expect the worst, but this felt very pubby and there was plenty of discussion with customers about the local beer range. My house beer was solid but unspectacular (NBSS 3), and a bargain £1.50 a half.
Apart from the best pub cat candidate, enjoying the best seat in the house,you can also enjoy a cornucopia of tat.
The Wurzels will never be acceptable entertainment though.
Just across the road, the equally ancient Kings Arms is a different sort of gem.
A plainer interior suggests a drinkers pub, and the Black Tor Try This drank like a good flat Bass (NBSS 4). Complimenting the Oxenham well, it seemed to offer slightly more traditional food, as well as a campsite that will no doubt appeal at some point this year.
Not quite Sheffield Beer Valley, but with two more Beer Guide pubs half a mile away, and three others within an afternoon’s hike, this is an appealing pub weekend as long as your car has proper brakes.
More detail on the area here