The Masons Arms, Knowstone

I am constantly amazed by Michelin’s ability to find the country’s best restaurants even when hidden away in an unlikely corner of the English countryside. The Masons Arms is a quaint pub in Knowstone, Devon, and is recognised by Michelin as one of the UK’s best pubs for foodies. The pub is run by a friendly couple who are passionate about good food and service.

This charming 13th century pub will transport you; as a Londoner I felt completely removed from the busy city life. I particularly loved the old-fashioned thatched roof. The dining room is cosy and comfortable offering lovely views of the verdant surrounding countryside. Before opening his own eatery, chef and owner Mark Dodson was head chef at Michel Roux’s renowned Waterside Inn in Bray. At Masons Arms he produces hearty, tasty food, which is what most of the visitors desire after a bracing walk in the area.

An a la carte menu is available at lunch and dinner and features a range of dishes championing British ingredients with a creative, often Asian twist. We sampled the reasonable lunch menu which allows guests to indulge in three courses (£25) or two courses (£20) at a cut of the normal price.

After a round of delicious crusty bread our starters arrived. Cream of cauliflower soup was a simple and comforting dish, lusciously smooth soup with subtle seasoning and finely flaked and toasted almonds on top. Duck liver parfait was a richer option with a luxurious and complex flavour accompanied with wonderful pear chutney and granary toast. The chef also delivered a plate of Seared peppered tuna with Oriental salad to our table, an eclectic and intriguing dish full of punchy ingredients with the highest quality fish steak.

Main courses were generously sized, especially for lunchtime. Classic Roulade of pork belly was sweet and indulgent, perhaps a little too sweet. A tender piece of pork was perched on a bed of braised red cabbage, apple compote and roasted vegetables. It was the ideal dish for a lazy weekend lunch. I chose to taste the vegetarian option (which would have been suitable for vegans too), a very pretty plate of Baked aubergine with roasted vegetables and balsamic reduction. It was artistically presented and tasted good but could have benefitted from a contrasting texture, perhaps some cheese or carbohydrate within the recipe would have been nice.

Dessert was my favourite course, a delicate and creamy Tonka bean creme brûlée with sharp, exotic passion fruit sorbet and a board of irresistible local West Country cheeses and chutneys.

Masons Arms is a popular local haunt perfect for satisfying Sunday lunches. Though more pricey, I would recommend opting for the a la carte menu which offers much more choice and finesse, and more exciting culinary variety and creative flair.

More information and book a table here.

Yearlstone Vineyard, Devon

I am used to wandering round glorious sun-drenched vineyards in France but I didn’t know what to expect when I was told we were visiting a vineyard in Devon. We turned off the main road onto a steep lane and reached a cabin-like building surrounded by lush greenery, blissfully isolated and tranquil.

Yearlstone Vineyard was started in 1976 by pioneering English viticulturist Gillian Pearkes. Gillian planted a variety of vines, collected on her worldwide travels and experimented with vine growing techniques for the English climate. In 1993, Roger and Juliet White bought the vineyard and began building on the site. Using traditional materials they built a house, a shop and office, the equipment and indoor space to make the wine completely onsite and most recently a café and outdoor terrace.

Sitting on the shaded terrace overlooking the endless vines, I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic setting in the British countryside. I felt ignorant for assuming UK’s vineyards were inferior to those in France and elsewhere. As it turns out: “Yearlstone vineyard is located on a steep southerly slope on a hillside above the river Exe at the picturesque village of Bickleigh… 200 feet above sea level and has natural protection from the west, north and east. The soil is a silty clay loam over fragmented Devon red sandstone with excellent drainage and is perfect for vines – red soils are the most sought after for vineyards all around the world. In all, Yearlstone’s position is perfect for growing vines and ripening grapes.”

The Deli Shack cafe at Yearlstone offers wholesome and delicious sharing platters and meals, perfect for enjoying alongside a glass of their wine; we tasted a variety: a soft and floral dry white, a light fruity red and a delicate dry rose which we opted for. To eat, we shared a huge platter of artisan meat and cheese, olives, pickled onions and crusty bread. For main course we tried most of the menu: salad with goat’s cheese, creamy smoked salmon linguine, Spanish style chicken with tomato, peppers and beans, and Taleggio and asparagus tart. The dishes were simple and healthy with a focus on fresh seasonal ingredients.

As well as the vineyard, there is a mature orchard at Yearlstone with many apple trees, from which cider is made. If you are visiting Devon, Yearlstone Vineyard definitely deserves a place on your itinerary. Sitting amongst the beautiful vineyards sipping Yearlstone’s wonderful wine made me feel proud to be British.

More information here:

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with First Great Western trains.

Advance single fares from London Paddington to Tiverton Parkway are available from £12.50 each way. For the best value tickets and fares buy before you board at or 08457 000125.

Things to do in Tiverton

Tiverton lies in a lovely area of Devon, easily reached from London Paddington with the speedy First Great Western Trains and ideal for a family weekend away.  Here are five of the top things to do and see for the perfect Tiverton trip:

Knightshayes Court – National Trust

A Gothic mansion from the Victorian era, this National Trust property has some of the best gardens in Devon with over a thousand unique plant species. The rich décor of the mansion itself makes it worth a trip in the cold winter months as well. Nice tearooms in the old stables and orangery. Kids visiting with an adult have free entry.

Tiverton Canal Co

The last horse-drawn barge in the south-west, you can float along the Grand Western Canal in style. There’s also plenty of other things to do on the canal, including boats and kayaks for hire, and the Ducks Ditty Café Bar where you can stop for a quick snack and hot drink. There’s a newly opened visitor centre at the canal basin too.

Bickleigh Mill

This scenic spot on the River Exe features three floors of shopping to satisfy your retail cravings. There is also a lovely bistro in the renovated Old Mill House which offers anything from a snack to a 4-course celebratory dinner and a great Sunday roast. The outdoor waterside gardens are lovely during the summer, and the stream flowing through the centre of the building is a point of curiosity.

Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life

This family friendly museum has much to offer. Packed full of objects and artefacts from the past to present day, and with lots of child-oriented exhibits, it is well worth a visit. Longlisted by the Daily Telegraph for Family Museum of the Year in 2012.

Yearlstone Vineyard

A huge selection of coffee blends as well as homegrown wines makes Yearlstone’s café a great stop any time of day. Currently hosting an art exhibition by a local artist too. You can pick up a leaflet with a guided walk through the (hilly!) vineyard. Amazing views down the River Exe when the mist rises.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with First Great Western trains.

Advance single fares from London Paddington to Tiverton Parkway are available from £12.50 each way. For the best value tickets and fares buy before you board at or 08457 000125.