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When people mention Devon holidays, the first thing they tend to think of are the beaches and the rolling countryside. However, there is another aspect to Devon that has been gathering steam over the last few years. The West Country has firmly established itself as one of the prime gastronomic hotspots in the UK. So if you’re looking for excellent, fresh ingredients or superb places to eat in Devon, the only problem you’ll have is deciding where to start!
The secret of Devon’s culinary success is in the landscape. The region is served by clean, temperate waters that offer some of the best seafood and fish in the British Isles, while the lush, fertile soil produces some of the best vegetables and provides excellent nutrition for grazing animals. Devon farmers take their responsibility to the environment very seriously and there are an ever-increasing number of organic and ‘green’ farms supplying local restaurants. In turn, these establishments are able to gain accreditation and awards from bodies such as the Soil Association, certifying that the ingredients they use are organic and as fresh as possible. In addition, Devon’s warm climate gives specialist farmers the chance to farm some more unusual produce. Check out the South Devon Chilli Farm for a taste-bud-tingling experience!
It’s not just unusual fruit and vegetables that are getting good press, either. Unusual meats are being farmed here too, such as venison and ostrich, alongside traditional breeds such as Red Devon Cattle. And where there are cattle, there’s milk; Devon is justly famous for its clotted cream and refreshing ice-creams, but it is steadily gaining recognition for a range of traditional and unusual cheeses too - make some time to hunt out some ‘Blue Vinny.’
All this food will need washing down with something, so don’t forget to check out the local ales, wines and, of course, the cider. Devon is famous for its eye-wateringly strong 'scrumpy' or rough cider, but there is a more refined side to West Country tipples too. Sharpham Wine and Cheese Company in Totnes produces some of England's finest wines that have consistently won both national and international awards, including UKVA Most Outstanding Wine 2010 for their Estate Selection. And with dozens of micro-breweries across the county, real ale lovers are in CAMBRA heaven, with plenty of local brews to choose from. For something a little stronger, visit the Plymouth Gin distillery, or if you’re teetotal there’s plenty of freshly produced (non-alcoholic) organic apple juice to try.
If you’re looking for food-related things to do in Devon, why not pay a visit to one of the many food festivals that take place across the region? These take place throughout the calendar and you could find yourself sampling all things crabby at the South Devon Crab Festival in August, or seeking out some gourmet gifts at RHS Rosemoor’s Christmas Food Fair. Alternatively, if you’re only planning to visit Devon for a short stay, you can source the best in fresh, organic ingredients and produce from the local farmers’ markets that take place practically every weekend.
With an abundance of sublime ingredients, it’s small wonder that there are so many award-winning restaurants in the West Country. More and more big-name chefs are setting up in the area, inspired by the quality of the raw materials they can work with, to create truly memorable meals. If you’re anywhere near Exeter, set some time aside to treat yourself to a stunning meal at Michael Caine’s restaurant. Alternatively, you can find great, traditional food served in many of the pubs and inns that are littered across the county.