Devon has long been known as a county of good food. Much of its meat is home-reared in small-scale and ‘happy’ conditions; and the seafood is exceptional, with Exmouth mussels sold throughout the UK and the ‘crab’ said to be at its biggest and juiciest along Devon’s coast. For a while East Devon lagged South Devon but now there’s a rapidly growing enthusiasm and expertise in food; with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his River Cottage making it home. Also, top chef Michael Caines, who has had such a positive impact on Devon’s food scene, is now planning a luxury hotel and restaurant in Lympstone on the Exe Estuary.
Most seaside towns and villages have their own fish stores, selling whatever the day’s catch has provided: straight from the sea and glisteningly fresh. The region is very proud of its fine restaurants and farm shops, and hosts several food fairs including the huge one in Exeter each April.
A Devon cream tea is as integral a part of a visit to this region as rain. True clotted cream is made only in Devon and Cornwall, Clotted cream is served with fresh scones, which should be warm from the oven rather than the microwave; purists prefer plain scones but others, myself included, love the fruit ones. In Devon we spread the cream on the scone hrst, instead of butter, and add strawberry of raspberry jam on top; in Cornwall it’s the opposite: jam first, then clotted cream. Either way it’s utterly delicious and very filling. The Victorian Prime Minister William Gladstone was right when he called clotted cream ‘the food of the gods’.
There is a wealth of outdoor pursuits available: running and cycling clubs, canoeing and kayaking, kitesurfing. Lyme Bay is also one of the best places in the UK for sailing. And the image of Seaton is of a retirement town! Here are some of the ways to burn off your excess energy.
Cyclists are spoilt for choice. The quiet lanes of East Devon and the Blackdown Hills are perfect for cycling, and there are some dedicated cycle paths described in the relevant chapters. Standing out among these is the Exe Estuary Trail it provides 26 miles of largely traffic-free cycling down both sides of the estuary from Exeter to Exmouth and Dawlish, with a ferry crossing between Exmouth and Starcross if necessary.