The historic market town of South Molton in North Devon is famously known as 'the gateway to Exmoor'. Ideally located to explore the national park, known for its fabulous scenery and access to wildlife including furry Exmoor ponies, wild red deer and buzzard hawks, it is also only 20 miles away from the breathtaking North Devon Coast with its fabulous selection of sandy beaches and showstopping waves.
South Molton is home to the world's largest exhibition of honey bees as well as a lively pannier market and heritage museum. Have a read of our local's guide to South Molton to find out what else is on offer in this lively town.
About the town:
The town still retains much of its olde-worlde charm, with elegant Georgian buildings dotted around independent shops. Every Thursday and Saturday between 9am and 2pm, the town hosts the Country Pannier Market, selling a huge range of local produce and original gifts across 70 local businesses. Pick up collectables and high-end antiques or brighten up your home with some pretty locally-grown flowers.
To find out more about the town, head to the award-winning South Molton Museum in the 18th century Guildhall, which reflects the interesting history of the market town and surrounding area. There's a permanent display of exhibits including archaeological finds, textiles and maps as well as an ever-changing programme of displays. You can discover more of the town's heritage outside with a visit to the brooding medieval St Mary Magdalene Church, where its unusual 15th century Green Man carving is one of 12 to spot as you tour the building.
The main attraction in the town has to be Quince Honey Farm, where visitors flock from all over the world to see the largest exhibition of honey bees in existence. Join a guided tour of the fabulous BeeWorld attraction, watch a beekeeping demo and even try your hand at rolling a beeswax candle! An indoor and outdoor play area makes the farm a great afternoon out for younger children and The Quince Cafe is just the place to relax with a special honey cream tea before heading home. Please check before visiting however as the honey farm is in the process of relocating a mile or so down the road to make it even bigger and better. It's due to re-open on 6th April 2019.
If that isn't enough for your sweet tooth, carry on to Melchior Chocolates where artisan chocolatier Carlo Melchior's team will show you how it's done at their chocolate factory. Adventurous types can burn off the calories by heading to the outskirts of the town to partake in some indoor rock climbing at Rock and Rapid Adventures before heading back home to curl up in front of the fire, ready for the next day's activities.
As the town is situated right on the edge of the moors, you are never far away from a fantastic walk with a view. Serious walkers can experience the coast-to-coast Two Moors Way, walking across the two moors and everything in between, while all levels of walker can pick up The South West Coast Path. Around 630 miles of rugged cliffs overlooking hidden coves and sandy beaches, it invites you to pick it up at various points along the coast. The tourist information at South Molton has a great selection of books and leaflets if you need some inspiration on new areas to discover and the friendly staff are also on hand to share with you their favourite walks.
If you prefer to see the panoramic vistas from aboard a trusty steed, take a trek across the moors from one of the riding stables in the area - West Anstey Farm Stables is open all year and will take you on a fabulous ride across Exmoor. Keen cyclists can bring their bikes (or hire one) to join the growing network of cycle paths across Exmoor National Park and North Devon.
Just 15 miles down the road near Barnstaple you'll find the gorgeous Wistlandpound Reservoir. Located on the edge of Exmoor, it offers an excellent day out for families with marvellous woodland walks where you can get right up close to all sorts of nature including waterfowl and mallards. An excellent choice for those with pushchairs and wheelchairs, it has accessible paths around the reservoir so that everybody can enjoy this superb area.
Fishing is very popular around South Molton, with lakes and reservoirs for both coarse and still water trout as well as rivers for wild trout and salmon. Sea fishing on the coast is a treat for those who don't normally have the coast on tap.
Just 20 miles from the North Devon Coast, you are within driving distance to some superb beach resorts. Ilfracombe and Combe Martin to the north make great family days out, and the surfer's paradise of Croyde awaits adventurers with its huge stretches of sand and azure waters. For something a little more remote, head to Broad Strand Beach near Combe Martin which wouldn't look out of place in the tropics. The secluded sand, shingle and rock beach has been voted one of Britain's best 40 beaches by The Telegraph and is a real find. Just don't tell anybody else!
To the west, you are a 25-mile drive from one of the area's most family-friendly beaches at Westward Ho! The only town in the UK to have an exclamation mark in its name, it has miles of golden sands to build sandcastles as well as a plethora of rock pools at low tide. Those in the know head to the excellent green looking over the sea, just the spot to try some salty fish and chips before popping into the sweet shop to pick up some sticks of Devon rock as a souvenir.
The food and drink:
Food is a popular subject in South Molton. From traditional inns to pretty tea rooms, there is something for all tastes. The Coaching Inn is a family run pub with home-cooked food and a marvellous carvery every Thursday and Sunday. Great for families, it also has easy ground floor access and being over 300 years old, a story or two to tell.
5 miles out of the town in Chittlehampton, the child and dog-friendly Bell Inn is a traditional North Devon pub with mouthwatering locally-sourced dishes including juicy steaks supplied from a nearby farm, excellent seafood and homemade pies - not to forget the great real ales on offer. Particularly lovely in summer, you can sit back on the decking area or in the beer garden and enjoy the lovely Devonshire scenery.
Just a couple of miles north in Filleigh, The Stags Head Inn is a beautiful thatched pub on the edge of a lake, just what you dream of when you come on holiday to Devon. Their kitchen uses only the finest ingredients, with an a la carte menu as well as child-friendly dishes and vegetarian options. It does get booked up though, so reserve a table in advance, especially if you want to treat yourself at the weekend.
You can't leave Devon without trying a famous Devon cream tea. The area around South Molton is peppered with quaint tea rooms in pretty villages, bursting with different flavoured teas and scrumptious homemade cakes. All you have to do is decide whether it's cream or jam on first (top tip: cream on first when in Devon!)
Pop into the dog-friendly The Corn Dolly Tea Shop in South Molton - this lovely little tea room has received a Tea Guild Award of Excellence every year since 2006 so it should top your list. Try the Gamekeeper's Tea and the Queen's Ransom, which will have your taste buds tingling with various game pates on toast and crunchy toasted crumpets topped with Stilton. Those with a sweet tooth will adore the 10-inch four layer cakes and homemade treacle tarts served with scoops of clotted cream. For little ones, the Humpty Dumpty boiled egg and soldiers and Tigger Tea are popular choices.
South Molton is home to some delightful holiday cottages: nothing less than you'd expect being in such a spectacular area. Ideally located in an area of dark skies, the countryside around South Molton is the ideal spot to stargaze; come and sit under the twinkling stars in the bubbling hot tub at North Gate Granary, a delightful contemporary property for two set in gorgeous grounds.
For larger parties, The Old Mill is a lovingly converted 400-year-old former working mill which sleeps up to six guests. Just 2 miles out of South Molton, you are nestled in a picturesque and peaceful riverside location yet just minutes away from the action. Unwind in the covered hot tub with the babbling stream below, a really enchanting location.
Or escape to the country at Snapdown Farm Caravans, just 6.5 miles from South Molton. With access to over 100 acres of woods and meadows, teeming with flowers and wildlife, you couldn't find a more restful place. Situated on a lovely peaceful farm at the bottom of a private lane, you'll be far away enough from the crowds to truly relax but within driving distance of the town. This is proper caravanning old-style: here you won't have bars and music - just birds, squirrels and the odd stag nibbling away at a tree. Bliss.