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Top places to live in Devon South Molton

Craving an outdoorsy life but don't want to be driving miles to get to the nearest shops and supermarket? South Molton and its surrounding villages could be for you, especially if you can't decide between beach, walks and moors. It's got it all on the doorstep. Part of our Top 200 Places to Live series.

WHY?

It’s a classic market town on the edge of Exmoor National Park dating black to Saxon times. The area is rural and unspoilt but the town’s got a lovely market square with beautifully preserved Assembly Rooms – home to a popular twice-weekly Pannier Market – plus a Sainsbury’s supermarket, cottage hospital and a swimming pool.

Yes, you’re going to be in the car more here with your nearest town Barnstaple 12 miles away and the cathedral city of Exeter, 33 miles down the North Devon link road, but if you’re after great value for money, an outdoorsy lifestyle, with horse riding, walking, cycling, golf and fishing, and 90 miles of stunning south west coast path, South Molton and its surrounding villages, including Chittlehampton, could well be your place.

EAT

There isn’t what you call a thriving nighttime economy but by day (and when the fairs are on) the town square has plenty to offer foodies, including The Cheese Larder (amazing home-made brownies), a modern Med cafe and eatery, Zest, plus the award-winning Mason Arms is just 9 miles away at Knowstone. You can do a chocolate-making workshop with the Swiss-trained Carlo of Melchior Chocolates (and buy yummy handmade chocs). For a traditional cream tea, there’s the long-established Corn Dolly Tea Rooms (which has just moved to a new premises) and The George, a hotel and coffee bar by day serving ace cream teas.

For good-quality local pub grub, locals rate The Bell Inn at Chittlehampton – Sunday lunch is a hot ticket – and The Jack Russell at Swimbridge, which is looking good since their pre-pandemic refurb, and The Grove, a traditional village pub in the heart of nearby Kings Nympton where the locals go for Tuesday night fish and chips and a slap-up Sunday roast.

SHOP

It’s bustling, especially when the twice-weekly pannier market is on (excellent local produce), with a good range of shops around the unspoilt market square, including a butchers and bakery. And Muddy readers voted Daisy Park the Best Gift Shop in Devon, stockist of Emma Bridgwater, Chilly’s Bottles, Pip Heritage, basically far too many present ideas you’ll want to keep for yourself.

Here’s known for being a destination for vintage finds, with a plethora of stores and regular markets. We adore Jill’s curation at Source for the Goose and her tastefully up-cycled furniture and homeware (and she’s a stockist for Annie Sloan chalk paints. Next door is Fenella Sadler Vintage for yesteryear clothing and accessories, dating back to Edwardian times and Approximate Odds for topnotch antique furniture, mirrors and homeware. If you like Source for the Goose, be sure to check out Atlas too. Plus, there’s a regular flea market and bi-monthly salvage fair where you can rummage for vintage clothes, kitchenalia and retro finds.

Other goodies include Paula and Julie (no website but great clothes!) and the organic emporium, Griffins Yard, where you can grab a good coffee and stock up on eco health and homewares.

NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

For kids, there’s the buzz of Quince Honey Farm with its hives and honey and the black leopards at Exmoor Zoo, while you may prefer a gander at the National Trust’s Arlington Court, with its gardens and fascinating carriage museum.

If you want to recce the area – or if you just fancy a relaxing stay with Exmoor stomps on your doostep – we recommend Heasley House. It’s laidback posh and dog-friendly, with amazing food and a family feel.

Plus, if you can’t live without a beach, the North Devon coast is just 20 miles away for sand, sea and rugged walks.

AVERAGE HOUSE PRICE

Good value for money, and more bang for your buck than nearby Croyde. Expect to pay £295k and upwards for a new detached 4-bed but more like £600k and up for a period property with land for a family. Good local estate agents include Webbers and Stags.

HOT PROPERTY

This six-bedroom Grade II listed Georgian semi-detached home is on the market with Webbers for £600,00

SCHOOLS

The Muddy-reviewed West Buckland, a high-performing co-ed day and boarding school for 3 -1 8 year-olds, short-listed for Boarding School of the Year in 2020 by Independent School Magazine which has excellent links with the community. It has fourteen bus routes covering the area up to the coast, including from North Molton 3 miles away. Kingsley School at Bideford (Muddy review here) small, single campus co-ed Boarding and Day school for kids aged 3-18 with a bus running daily from North Molton. The academically strong and sporty Blundells 19 miles away at Tiverton has a daily bus route which picks up from South Molton.

BEST KEPT SECRET

Bamfylde, the fictional independent school in R.F. Delderfield’s 70s novel To Serve them All My Days was based on the novelist’s own school of West Buckland.

COMMUTE

The A361 North Devon link road bypasses the town for access to Barnstaple to the west and Tiverton and M5 at Junction 27 to the east where Tiverton Parkway Station provides a rail link to London Paddington, 2 hours 20 mins away.

View the full Top 200 Places to Live

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