The Ring of Bells, North Bovey
Ding-dong! Muddy tucks in at this pretty Dartmoor village inn with oodles of kerb appeal and a warm welcome.
Honestly, standing outside the Ring of Bells Inn on a Sunday, looking supremely pretty in the winter sunshine, it’s difficult to believe that, just a few years ago this 13th century watering hole was completely ravaged by fire, its charred remains leaving a village bereft of a focal point, somewhere to eat, drink and debate the issues of the day. But, that’s the sad backstory of this historic Dartmoor inn, in the village of North Bovey, now well and truly back in business, to the relief of its patrons far and wide.
Under the ownership of landlord Richard, the Ring of Bells has been carefully and sympathetically restored, not only bringing it back to its former beauty, but unearthing even more undiscovered charm. The result is a cosy, atmospheric place, where locals and visitors rub happily together, excuse the cliche, eating, drinking and being merry.
This is a pub that effortlessly ticks all the boxes for those seeking a traditional English country inn. It has serious curb appeal, its thatched roof and whitewashed walls blending in with the rest of the village.
Inside, low ceilings, cavernous fireplaces and cosy rooms brimming with character invite couples, families and groups to gather, while at one end the bar props up the locals who are clearly happy to have their ‘local’ back open for business.
The pub has been smartened and brightened up, while retaining its history, with every beam, wall and archway that could be, saved.
We visited on a Sunday night when the restaurant was pleasantly busy with a group celebration at one end and the locals gave us a warm welcome, a far cry from some village pubs that turn deathly quiet and send the tumbleweed blowing by, when someone who’s not local opens the creaky door – we’ve all been there, right? In fact, as me and Mr M were spending the night in the village and met a few villagers during our wanders, I have to say that North Bovey has to be one of the friendliest villages we’ve been to. As one local told us, it’s not an easy place to get to, so if you make the effort to come, you’re very welcome. How lovely is that?
SCOFF & QUAFF
Being a pub, it’ll be no surprise to learn that you’ll be well-watered if you’re popping in for drinks after a day out walking. Mr Muddy gives the thumbs up for the selection of real ales and certainly seemed to have no problem knocking back the pints *cough*.
As for the food, the offering is just what you want from a village inn. There’s nothing fancy or pretentious; what there is, is a menu full of British classics, roasts on a Sunday and dishes that showcase the locally sourced produce. You’ll find Dartmoor steak and River Exe mussels on the menu and plenty of veggie options.
Being a quiet Sunday evening after the rush on roasts, we kept things simple and opted for a burger and a turkey and cranberry pie (a popular choice that evening), which were both tasty and generous – classic comfort food.
Puds were scrummy, too. Mr M is never one to overlook a sticky toffee pud, while I can’t resist a hearty apple and rhubarb crumble. Just look at that nutty topping.
Yes, definitely. While there are quiet corners to retreat to if you are allergic to children, it feels like a pub that was made for relaxed family gatherings over a roast dinner and, on warmer days, the courtyard outside would be a lovely spot for the younger ones to toddle around.
If you fancy making a night of it, the pub also has 5 rooms, two of which we had a sneaky peek inside. Accessed via a quirky spiral staircase in the main building (others you get to outside), they’re comfortable-looking, in-keeping with the character of the pub and a very good size, allowing them to accommodate families. Bathrooms are clean and modern and everything feels nice and new (Richard is desperate to get some pictures up on the walls, next!), while there are some lovely features, like exposed fireplaces and window seats, affording views of the village church. Two of the rooms are particularly handy if you’re travelling as a family, as they’re together in their own area of the building.
OUT & ABOUT
North Bovey isn’t really a village that you just happen upon during your travels, but it is perfectly placed for exploring the delights of Dartmoor, just bring a map and walking boots! There are lots of circular walks and you can also take a scenic stroll through the woods to nearby Bovey Castle for a treat. The bustling village of Moretonhampstead can be reached on foot, too and the pub can recommend lots more, with guides that can be downloaded. Whichever direction you head, you’ll discover babbling streams, ancient landmarks and wild, rugged beauty. It’s a very special part of the world.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: couples, walkers, families, group gatherings, anyone really. If you’re keen to discover Dartmoor, then this is a definite one to put on the itinerary.
Not for: Unless you’re local, or staying in the village, you’ll need a designated driver. North Bovey isn’t the easiest place to reach and you won’t find it by accident. If you prefer your pubs to be populated with fruit and quiz machines, then you’ll be disappointed.
The damage: Starters are around the £6-£8.50 mark; mains are largely around £12-£14 and desserts are £6.50-£8.50. If you’re popping in for lunch mid-walk, sandwiches are £6-£7.
The Ring of Bells Inn, The Village, North Bovey, Newton Abbot, TQ13 8RB. Tel: 01647 440375. ringofbells.net