With 2018’s dreamy spell of sunshine, the UK’s burgeoning food scene, a raft of fabulous festivals nationwide, and a renewed appreciation for the great British countryside, it’s little surprise that more Brits than ever are holidaying at home. And nothing gives you a flavour for an area better than the food itself.
The UK’s motorways and A-roads whip us past gorgeous vistas and fantastic villages often merely glimpsed through the crash barrier. Many of them have delicious cafes, cosy pubs and honest, local food to match, sparing the intrepid from the grim inhumanity of motorway service stations.
We think slowing the journey down a little and making time for exploration of those bywaters is simply a better, more princely way to travel, injecting some adventure back into road trips and supporting local businesses in the process. We wrote the Extra Mile to uncover some of the best spots, mapping out places within 15-minutes of the motorway where you can get a warmer welcome and finger-licking food.
If you, like us, think there’s a lot to be said for a mini-exploration, we’ve picked out a few places on the route to the River Cottage festival from London, Cornwall and the Midlands (apologies if you’re coming from further afield, but drop us a line and we’ll happily suggest some pit stops!) where you can experience the superiority of the path less travelled and the taste of proper, local food.
From the East
Farm shop, cookery school and café rolled into one, Newlyn’s makes a tasty stop on the way down the M3. The family still farm 500 acres of the surrounding land, rearing cows, pigs and sheep alongside their crops, which means the bacon in the butties (one of a smorgasbord of goodies in the shop and café) is home-cured and delicious.
With lovely views over the fields from the back courtyard, a stylish homely dining room and tasty food ‘measured in metres, not miles’, the Queens Arms is a hearty country pub. Make time to explore the nearby footpaths or the Cadbury Castle iron age hill fort nearby, said to be the location of King Arthur’s Camelot.
Outstanding baking (much cooked on the Rayburn) coupled with the warm welcome at Living Pretty make this village tea room a real treat. Feast on an afternoon tea or tasty lunch and pick up a jar of their famous Jumbleberry Jam to take home with you.
From the North
You won’t regret breaking the journey for this treasure trove of a farm shop. Nestled at the edge of the Cotswolds and sporting a fantastic new oak-framed extension, its farm shop is filled with local goodies, while the cheery café serves home made meals and generous slices of home baking. Kids will love visiting the Bantam chickens strutting about outside.
Housed in a 15th century former almshouse in the pretty medieval village of Axbridge, this tea room radiates charm. Made-to-order sandwiches are served alongside wickedly good baking, and four-legged visitors might even get sausages cooked for them, so warm is the welcome.
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A classic village pub with a modern twist, it’s worth stopping in to the Culm Valley in for their modern British dishes and convivial atmosphere. Enjoy the quirky dining room with its taxidermy and dodo ornaments, or if the sun is shining, lounge about on the tables by the river outside. Bliss.
From the South
Miss Molly’s simple but phenomenal food is made in the kitchen from scratch and served in the adorable vintage tea room at cutesy tables surrounded by the antique bric-a-brac also on sale. Enjoy crusty sandwiches and warm scones as well as seasonal variations such as homemade elderflower cordial.
Just off the A30, the unassuming Springer Spaniel in the hamlet of Treburley continues to draw foodies to its comfortable dining room. Try the scotch egg and Cornish tapas, but make sure you save room for their sensational desserts.
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Look no further than Royal Oak Farm for an authentic cream tea. Set in the Devonshire hills, jam is made from the farms fields and served on pretty crockery on the lawn or, if the weather comes in, in the farm’s wonderfully cosy living room. A real treasure.