Elly Pear’s guide to embracing the slow life in Devon

Elly Curshen Profile Image

Elly Curshen

5 min read

Elly Curshen, better known as Elly Pear, is a chef, author and passionate campaigner against food waste. She leads a busy life, and in her downtime she loves to slow things down, take a moment to pause, and seek out superb local, seasonal food. After a recent trip to Devon, she sent us some of her favourite delicious discoveries...

Tagged with:

No rushing around. That was the promise I made myself before planning the trip. Just three nights away with my mate, Soph, exploring Devon, getting some fresh air, eating delicious food, and resting. 

Our accommodation at The Orangery in Buckfastleigh sorted, armed with a list of recommendations as long as my arm, we were off. Just over an hour after leaving Bristol, we were passing the Welcome to Devon sign on the M5. 

I’d converted all the recommendations I’d gathered into a Google Map and had spent hours plotting our plans. Luckily Soph is very laid back and was happy being designated driver while I entirely took over the planning! 

It’s really very easy to spend your time and money with small, independent businesses in this part of the world, and I love it for that, and so many more reasons.  

We meandered all over the part of Devon that sits to the south and southeast of Dartmoor National Park, spending time in towns, villages and on beaches, in woodland and coves, travelling on foot, by car and even steam train. It was the perfect mini break and I want to share some of my favourite finds with you… 


Emilia, Ashburton

Our first stop was Ashburton and we headed straight to Emilia for lunch. Owned by the team behind Duck Soup in Soho, it’s a small space, a converted bank, with one main communal table and a handful of extra seats. It’s simple, seasonal food; five or so small plates, five larger plates and three simple puddings. We ordered white sprouting broccoli with potatoes, wild garlic and almonds and a delicate Salt Pollock dish with fennel, cucumber, pickled chilli and mint. Came away with lots of inspiration and ideas. A beautiful lunch. Make sure you book.  

Riverford Field Kitchen

Changes have been made at Riverford’s restaurant near Buckfastleigh. Pre Covid, it was all about big communal tables, serving up lunch and dinner in a supper clubstyle setup, with big sharing platters of seasonal, organic food. The food is still incredible, generous, seasonal and organic and seatings are at fixed times (Saturday brunch at 0930, lunch Mon to Sat 1230, Sunday lunch 1200 or 1530 and supper Wed to Sat 1900) but you’ll no longer be sharing with strangers! Definitely book in advance, it’s very popular. Allow time before or after lunch to explore the farm too. Penny, the Field Kitchen’s head gardener, will most likely be found in the poly tunnel, tending to the crops. Look out for the huge herb beds surrounding the restaurant terrace and see what new varieties you can discover. 

Hope Cove House

A sometimes hair-raising drive down winding country roads is entirely worth it when the road ends at Hope Cove. Book lunch at Hope Cove house and look out over the water. If it’s cold and wet, warm up on the sofas by their fire and if it’s sunny, a dip in the sea before lunch seems essential, right? Again, expect a small, season led and perfectly formed menu. Book ahead. 

The Bull Inn, Totnes

Clever and delicious cooking and I can almost guarantee you’ll try something you’ve not tasted before. The focus is fully on seasonality and vegetables (although there are meat and fish dishes on the daily changing menu). Look out for the blackboards explaining their ‘No-Bull rules to trade by, dine by and work by’. An inspiring place in so many ways. In the summer, tables and vintage Italian chairs spill out onto the adjacent square for drinks, lunch and supper in the fresh air. 

Casual eats/cafes

If you’re looking for a lighter or more casual lunch, a quick snack or a cup of coffee, there are countless and varied options. We loved Café Latino in Ashburton, Tamarind Tree in Totnes, and Beach House on South Milton Sands. 

Local coffee roastery Owens in Ivybridge produce 100% organic and fairtrade coffee, served/sold in many local businesses. I bought some in a shop in Totnes to bring home, but you can also visit the roastery (Mon-Fri 9-5, Sat 10-4), which has a shop and a café onsite. 

After dark

Slowing down doesn’t need to mean staying in every night. The Barrel House, Totnes holds regular gigs. We caught a great, inclusive and very well attended open mic night there before a glass of wine at nearby Ben’s Wine & Tapas. 

There are two really special, independent cinemas in the area, worlds away from a Multiplex. The Barn Cinema in Dartington is housed in a stunning venue – a converted 14th century barn set in a medieval courtyard. Totnes Cinema (run as a social enterprise) has seating arranged cabaret style and shows films every day, except Monday. 


Devon boasts at least 130 beaches (on the north and south coasts). The sun mostly eluded us on this trip but we still visited and can recommend Bantham (popular with surfers and paddle boarders), South Milton Sands and Hope Cove. Friends in the area highly rate Mothecombe, Wonwell Beach and Babbacombe. A little further east, I love Budleigh Salterton beach.  

Shops and boutiques

There are some great boutiques, vintage shops and charity shops in the area. For second hand, I especially recommend checking out Number 30 in Ashburton for a very well curated selection of second-hand womenswear and Revive vintage, Totnes (a vintage clothing treasure chest, packed to the rafters). 

The Craftmongers in Ashburton is definitely one more place to add to your list. A fascinating shop, curating beautiful local craft and ‘personally sourced international treasures’. 

Food shops and local produce

If you are self-catering, make a note of these top spots for stocking up;  

Jaded Palates in Ashburton and Wine & Greene in Totnes for great selections of interesting wines.  

Hylesten Bakery in Buckfastleigh (mostly wholesale, so check ahead before visiting), Briar Bakery in Ashburton and The Almond Thief in Dartington will all keep you well fed with incredible baked goods. 

The Happy Apple mini supermarket in Totnes is hidden away down an alley but is well worth a look. It is very well stocked with a great selection of products, including lots of organic and local items. 

Earth Food Love in Totnes was the UK’s first organic zero waste shop. Buying exactly and only what you need avoids waste at all times but is especially important when self-catering. 

Take a cool bag and ice packs with you and swing by Creamo’s Ice cream in Ashburton (open Fri and Sat 10-5 and Sun 11-5) to pick up a tub of their craft ice cream to enjoy back at your accommodation. Take-home tubs are available in both dairy and vegan options with almost 20 flavours on offer. You’ll want to try as many flavours as possible and I love that they offer an ‘ice cream flight’. Why have one flavour when you can have five, as they say?? 



Gentle activity options abound. If you don’t fancy the beach, perhaps a few slow laps at Buckfastleigh Open Air pool? It opens for the season in late May. Check their Facebook page for updates. A walk through Hembury Woods (car park – riverside – top of the hill (site of an Iron Age hill fort) and back to the car park) will take about an hour. There’s also a beautiful spot for wild swimming so take your swim shoes and cossie! 

If you’d like an activity that mostly involves sitting down, I cannot recommend the South Devon railway enough. We boarded the steam train at Buckfastleigh, rode it to Totnes, had lunch at The Bull and caught the steam train back again. Heaven and so much fun for young and old and everything in between. There is a butterfly farm and an otter sanctuary at the Buckfastleigh end, too. 

Where to stay...

The Orangery

Buckfastleigh, Devon

  • From £95 p/n
  • Self-catering
  • 2 rooms for 3

Orchard House & Cider Barn

Totnes, Devon

  • From £228 p/n
  • Self-catering
  • 6 rooms for 6

The Recording Studios

Salcombe, Devon

  • From £155 p/n
  • Self-catering
  • 4 rooms for 12

Explore all our places to stay in Devon >

Want more travel inspiration? Get our email updates direct to your inbox >

Sign up >

Elly Curshen

Elly Curshen, better known as Elly Pear (after her Bristol café, The Pear Cafe 2006-2018) is passionate about reducing food waste, encouraging people to cook from scratch and try new things. Her bright, inventive, meat free cooking is influenced by world cuisine but always with an eye on the local greengrocers. She has written three books (including a Sunday Times Bestseller and an Amazon #1 bestseller) and is a weekly columnist for Waitrose Weekend paper. She regularly shares travel tips and great finds on her Instagram page @ellypear. 
View more articles by this author

You might also like

Creating joy in every room: designing an eclectic Devon B&B

Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

5 min read

  • Community
  • Devon

Pocket guide to Devon

Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

5 min read

  • Devon