Driving South West? Here’s your perfect pitstop
Local day trips are back and it feels goooooood! Here's Muddy's pick of the best places for a pitstop near the south-west's major routes.
We have included places to stop for food, kid friendly stops for the littles to stretch their legs, dog walks, pubs for lunch and dinner, places to break the journey overnight as well as farmshops and cafes. As ever, if we’ve missed off your favourite, let us know in the comments.
The Udder Farmshop, East Stour, off A303 near Gillingham
Breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas, Sunday roasts or just coffee and delicious cakes at The Udder Farm Shop, one of the biggest and best farm shops in Dorset, about 20 mins from the A303, down the A3081. The licensed cafe/restaurant has views across the Blackmore Vale and Duncliffe Woods, with seating outside and a kids’ play area. The farm shop is stonking, too. Open seven days a week.
The Grosvenor Arms, Shaftesbury, off A303
Stop off or stopover at The Grosvenor Arms in the historic hilltop town of Shaftesbury, about 20 mins off the A303, via the A350. There’s an elegant restaurant headed up by executive chef Tom Blake, formerly of River Cottage, a bar, cafe/pizzeria, conservatory and courtyard on the ground floor, with 16 boutique rooms (where dogs are welcome) above. Open every day from Mon 17 May.
The White Post, Rimpton, off the A303, off the Sparkford roundabout, near Yeovil
This award-winning (Top 50 Gastropub) is literally on the Dorset/Somerset borders: you can sit at the bar and be drinking in Dorset while your companion is drinking in Somerset. Just 10 mins from the A303’s Sparkford roundabout, The White Post is a foodie pub where provenance is key, and chef Brett Sutton makes full use of the region’s bountiful produce. From Mon 17 May, open Thurs to Sundays for truly excellent lunches, Sunday roasts, dinners, takeaways – and, if the timing’s right, spectacular sunsets.
The Kitchen at Kimbers and Kimbers’ Farmshop, Charlton Musgrove, off the A303, near Wincanton
Super, super local, Modern British breakfasts, lunches, coffee and cakes at The Kitchen at Kimbers, a South Somerset cafe with South American colour at the family-run Kimbers’ Farmshop near Wincanton. Read our review. Seating outside from Mon 12 April. Pick up organic and locally produced supplies from the farm shop. Browse vintage stuff in the Trading Barn from Mon 17 May. If you’ve the time or inclination, internationally acclaimed art gallery Hauser & Wirth is 10 mins up the road.
TEALS, off the A303, at North/South Cadbury junction
Brand new Somerset farmshop and cafe, Teals, is so close to the A303 you can see it from the north-bound side. Teals is all about local and sustainability, from the building itself to everything in it. Grab freshly made baguettes, soup, salads and more to go; cafe seating outside from Mon 12 April. Take the chance to shop their gorgeous selection of foodstuffs, toiletries and gifts; have a stroll in the fields and 100-year-old apple orchard alongside.
Jordans Courtyard, Horton Cross, off the A303, near Ilminster
Super conveniently, the gorgeous hamstone Jordans Courtyard is only about three minutes from the A303. Come for breakfast, lunch or just coffee and cake in their cafe, with seating inside a converted barn (for when we can) and outside on the sunny terrace with parasols from Mon 12 April. From Mon 17 May, browse assorted shops and even treat yourself to a massage or a yoga session if you book ahead.
The Candelight Inn, Bishopswood, off the A303, near Chard
Stop off for lunch or dinner at the 17th century pub The Candlelight Inn in the village of Bishopswood, deep down in one of the valleys of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, not far from the Devon/Somerset border and just a couple of minutes (literally) off the A303 near Chard. Expect cut above pub classics with a twist, West Country steaks and modern British, local ales, ciders and their own gin – inside the cosy pub (after Mon 17 May), in a marquee or their pretty beer garden. Read our review. If you feel like stretching your legs there’s a lovely 2-mile circular walk from the pub. Open from Thurs 15 April.
The Orange Elephant Ice Cream Parlour, Kennford, off M5/A38 near Exeter (EX6 7TW)
One for hot summer days when everyone’s screaming for ice-cream. The family-run Taverner farm and ice-cream parlour is a locals’ fave, open from Easter to November. Grab your sprinkle-covered cornet or Sundae – all made fresh on site from the family’s cattle – and herd the kids to the Summer Play Meadow over the road where they can swing, slide and get messy in a large sand pit, and from July get lost in the Maize Maze. Take the turning after the orange elephant on the side of the road. (Plans to open mid-April.)
Darts Farm, near Exeter, five minutes from Junction 30, M5 (EX3 0QH)
Swerve the services at Sowton and head to Darts Farm. It’s just off the motorway but feels rural, with something for everyone. For kids, there’s an outdoor play area with a mini fort and rope assault course, there are walks for the pooch, plus a large food hall complete with deli, butchers, and bakery, all selling curated local fare. Retail therapy options abound, including Fired Earth and the Orange Tree gift shop should you need to pick up a pressie en route. You can brunch in the airy indoor cafe, or tuck into fish and chips from the outside hatch and perch on a picnic table.
Wildwood Escot, Ottery St Mary, off A38 near Honiton (EX11 1LU)
Hotfoot it here if you have a car full of outdoorsy kids and want to let them let off steam for an hour or two. You can see a wolf up close, lynx and arctic fox, as well as red squirrels. There’s a programme of daily events where you sit down with your picnic and watch cute otters being fed and awesome falconry displays. If that’s not enough for them, run around a maze and whizz down a 40m zip wire and walk in the forests. Open from mid-April.
Ashburton, off the A38
Yes, we’re recommending a whole town, because we love it and want to move there (it’s one of Muddy’s Best Places to Live in Devon, you know). It flanks the A38, so the teeniest of detours, and is stuffed with indie stores and a play park for kids to let off steam. Head to the end of town for a takeaway coffee from Cafe Latino, and the local deli for home-made savouries and the most marshmallowy, chocolatey with the best biscuit we have tasted. The antique shops are far from fusty-dusty, but cool and full of cool homeware that might have you dumping the kids, er I mean the suitcases, in favour of a bargain vintage buy.
Ilsington Country House Hotel, near Newton Abbot, off A38 (TQ13 9RR)
Going off-grid on Dartmoor National Park to see the wild ponies and granite tors? Stop off for a cream tea, indoors or out, at this relaxing country hotel with views over to Dartmoor’s most popular tor, Haytor. It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere but you’re only 4 miles through the winding hedgerows from the A38. And should you fancy a spa day, (or hey why not a sleepover?), there’s a small city-style spa with sauna and steam room.
Tre, Pol & Pen, Launceston, off A30 (PL15 9NN)
Modern farm shop and kitchen with a deli and butchers on site too – stock up on your essentials (only open Thurs – Sat at the moment) as well as finding top quality local food to eat in or takeaway from the restaurant when it re-opens in May.
Woods Cafe, Cardinham Woods, Near Bodmin, off A30 (PL30 4AL)
In the ancient forests at Cardinham you’ll find Muddy fave, Woods Cafe. Operating take-away only at the mo, there’s a play park and miles of trails for walking (or cycling) with or without dogs and kids. Feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, actually within 10 mins of the A30 near Bodmin. (See also Lanhydrock if you’re a National Trust member, it’s just round the corner, and Respryn Bridge is another favourite for the dog walkers).
Da Bara Bakery, Indian Queens, off A30 (TR9 6FZ)
Da Bara opened a new cafe adjacent to their relocated bakery at the end of 2019, handily just off the A30 at Indian Queens business park – operating as a retail and takeaway business only at the mo. Don’t miss their very excellent cinnamon buns, as well as all kinds of sourdough bread, sausage rolls, cakes and general baked goodies.
The Plume of Feathers, Mitchell, off A30 (TR8 5AX)
A great gastropub, nestled in the Cornish countryside, is a particularly exciting find, and this on is literally moments off the A30 (fun fact, it’s so close the A30 used to run straight through the village). Hearty but elegant dining away from the bustle, with a friendly local vibe and designer bedrooms, should you want to roll straight to bed after dinner. Re-opens 17 May.
Tehidy Country Park, North Cliffs off A30 near Camborne (TR14 0HA)
Tehidy has over 9 miles of paths and 250 acres of peaceful woods and lakes to explore, together with a café and a picnic area. It’s also home to Muddy fave, the Rogue Theatre (above) who stage wild and wonderful family friendly theatre productions – time your journey right later in the summer when the theatre re-opens and your children will be entranced.
First published August 2020, updated March 2021