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10 things to do in Ottery St Mary

For sublime countryside, uber-local food and bonkers traditions, head for Ottery St Mary in Devon

Written by
Becky Dickinson

Pack your walking boots and head for the trees. The ancient East Devon town of Ottery St Mary, which was the birthplace of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is surrounded by swathes of emerald forest, providing endless stomping (or cycling) ground. Get your steps up while enjoying the poetic views, then head back to shop, eat and drink like a local. There’s a proud, almost defiant, sense of sustainability here and barely a brand name in town.

RECOMMENDED: Check out our guide to nearby Exeter 

A perfect day in Ottery St Mary

First up

Take a stroll alongside the River Otter and check out the Tumbling Weir – a swirling whirlpool that resembles a giant plug hole. Admire the cathedral-esque church that looms over the town, then meander along the skinny streets dotted with small, independent shops, cafés and restaurants.

Stop for lunch

Rusty Pig alone is good enough reason to visit Ottery St Mary. You need to book ahead for this destination restaurant, which serves incredible food in hipster surroundings. There’s no menu, the food is prepared on the day depending on what’s in season – most of it comes from within a 10 mile radius. With communal tables and a centre stage kitchen, you can chat to the chefs while they work their culinary magic.


Splash the cash

Oxford Street this isn’t. But if you’re in the mood for a rummage, Kirsten’s Curiosities is the place. A cross between a tiny Portobello and an undercover car boot sale, you’ll find everything from vintage typewriters and tea sets, to ancient hardbacks, old-lady brooches and retro film posters. Beware the bell over the door – it’s loud!

Drink like a local

Stop for a pint in the Volunteer Inn, a proper pub with a good selection of beers and a warm welcome. For caffeine, pop into the Silver Otter Café which offers cracking cakes as well as work and training for people with learning disabilities.  


Soak up the vibes

For a buzzard’s eye view of the local scenery, take a walk up Fire Beacon Hill (park at White Cross if you don’t want to walk from Ottery.) Then follow the arrows through mushroom-scented woodland until you reach the heathery top with stunning views out to sea.

If you only do one thing

You haven’t done Bonfire Night until you’ve witnessed some of Devon’s craziest citizens streaking through the streets of Ottery St Mary carrying blazing barrels of tar on their shoulders. The annual tradition draws thousands, though only locals are allowed to take part. Grab yourself a spectator spot before Health and Safety put a stop to it.  


And if you stay the night, wake up here

Nod off in absolute silence in one of Mazzard Farm’s beautifully converted cottages. On arrival, you’ll find a cream tea waiting for you in the kitchen. Then fire up the log burner, sit outside on the courtyard, or stretch out in the hammock beneath the apple trees. The wi-fi appears to run on steam power, but you won’t be needing that. Rifle through the ample selection of books, or treat yourself to an in-cottage spa treatment. There are pigs, chickens, ducks and goats, plus woodland trails to explore. You can even bring your own, erm, horse – taking the phrase ‘pets welcome’ to a whole new level. Cottages sleep from 1 to 24 people. From £209 for a two night stay. 

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