6 of the best Devon ice creams

Two hands holding up ice creams with a beach in the background.

What could be better than a Hocking's ice cream eaten by the beach? - Credit: Andy Cooper

Devon has some awesome ice cream makers – and here are 6 of the best, writes CATHERINE COURTENAY 

Devon has a large number of ice cream makers, no doubt due to its dairy farming heritage and a good place to start on the ice cream trail is in North Devon.

1. The area’s best kept secret is, without any doubt at all…a Hocking’s ice cream. Hocking’s is only sold from a handful of ice cream vans during the summer months. Regular visitors to the Bideford and Appledore area, (it’s made in Appledore) make a beeline for the vans to get an ice cream that’s still made to the same recipe, and by the same family, as when it first appeared 1936.  

Different Hocking’s family members make the ice cream and then go out on the vans to sell it. Meeting the public is all part of the enjoyment of being an ice cream maker - even if it means doing your business accounts out on the van. I’m told you may sometimes find Geoff Hocking parked in the beautiful setting of Northam Burrows, doing his paperwork during a snatched quiet moment. 

And don’t expect a multitude of flavours either. There are some, ‘under the counter’ and available in freezer packs, a particularly good coffee and a cherry – which has quite a following; but all you need is one or two scoops of the original. Once tasted, never forgotten. What David Hocking created in the 1930s is still a winner today.  

When asked what his favourite Hocking’s flavour is (a silly question really) Geoff replies: “Of course my favourite flavour is definitely our original vanilla ice cream!” 

Tubs of Devon ice cream in a row.

Alongside the Just Jersey ice cream, Taw River Dairy sells a variety of other flavours. - Credit: Taw River Dairy

2. Heading down to the edge of Dartmoor, near Sampford Courtenay, there’s Taw River Dairy, which sells its own milk and makes some very special ice cream. Meeting young farmer Sam Bullingham when he’d just started out on his venture in 2018 was both illuminating and inspiring. His approach flies in the face of modern dairy farming and it’s the milk produced here that makes the ice cream so special. 

The herd of Jerseys are 100 per cent pasture fed and the cows rear their own calves, milk is taken just once a day and only after the youngsters have had their fill. Sam has always been passionate about protecting wildlife, farming sustainably and with the highest animal welfare.  

He’s planted hedgerows and grows a medley of herbs and grasses in the meadows. It all affects the flavour of the milk, which in turn makes a super creamy and gorgeous ice cream. What’s more, the ice cream packaging is now all 100 per cent biodegradable, including the labels. 

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Alongside the Just Jersey ice cream, there are traditional flavours such as chocolate and cappuccino and more adventurous varieties including peanut and chocolate and peach and passionfruit. 

A scoop of ice cream sitting on green leaves.

Salcombe Dairy ice cream does not use any colourings as all the award-winning ice cream is 100 per cent natural. - Credit: Salcombe Dairy

3. Another ice cream experience not to be missed is Salcombe Dairy. This is another maker with a long legacy, going back to when the business was started by Peter Howard in Island Street in 1979. It was sold to Nick and Ginny Boscawen who continue to run it today with Dan and Lucia Bly. 

Lucia and Dan took me on a tour of their ice cream making ‘factory’ in Island Street. The care over ingredients was paramount, and it certainly shows in the resulting ice creams. 

You can watch the ice cream being made through a window at the factory shop, or there are outlets in Dartmouth and a seasonal cabin on Kingsbridge Quay. 

Salcombe Dairy ice cream is stocked by other retailers across the county and into southern England – but not Cornwall - a Devon ice cream in Cornwall is not a good idea, apparently. However, you can order ice cream online for home delivery. It arrives wrapped in dry ice and recycled denim. 

New flavours are always being devised, says Lucia. “We’re currently developing a white chocolate matcha, which is green! We don’t use any colourings as all our award-winning ice cream is 100 per cent natural, so it’s great to have a naturally green ice cream.” 

Three ice cream cones standing up on a platter.

Otter Valley Dairy has been serving up fantastic gelato-style ice cream since 2010. - Credit: Matt Austin

4. In East Devon, not far from Honiton at Monkton, is the headquarters of Otter Valley Dairy, which has been serving up fantastic gelato-style ice cream since 2010. The business has sprung from a family farm going back four generations. They use their own milk to create small batches of slow-churned ice cream, following techniques acquired from Italian gelato masters.  

What was once a small, but enormously popular shed serving ice creams in a layby just off the A30 is now the Otter Valley Field Kitchen, with plenty of space to relax, have lunch and enjoy views over the valley, while eating lots of ice cream – the seabuckthorn is my personal favourite. 

Aerial view of ice creams and peaches on a platter.

Granny Gothards makes ice cream which is now sold to chefs and restaurants across the world. - Credit: Faydit Photography

5. Granny Gothards began in 2006 in Somerset but has since expanded and moved to Willand. It uses milk from Oak Park Dairy near Cullompton, cream from Gundenham Dairy and Clarence Court eggs to make its ice cream which is now sold to chefs and restaurants across the world.  

The quality of ingredients is key and the creativity of the team is revealed in a staggering 195 plus flavours, including all the classics as well as the likes of chestnut, rosemary, coconut and charcoal or salted liquorice. 

A woman holding an ice cream cone up to the camera.

Dartmouth Ice Cream makes all of its delicious flavours of ice creams and sorbets at the on-site dairy in the heart of Dartmouth. - Credit: Dartmouth Ice Cream

6. A small family run business, Dartmouth Ice Cream is delighted to uphold the long tradition of almost a century, making all of their delicious flavours of ice creams and sorbets down at the on-site dairy in the heart of Dartmouth. 

Its flagship store, ‘The Good Intent’, is based by the famous Lower Ferry slipway next to the River Dart, cemented in the history of Dartmouth having been open since 1928. 

The only ice-cream made in Dartmouth, they now have a recipe book of over 50 ice creams and sorbets. Alongside award-winning flavours, you’ll also find homemade fudge, take-away cream tea, hampers and more – with a focus on celebrating Devon produce, from Heron Valley drinks to Devon Tea. You’ll find 22 delicious varieties at the flagship store, with a new seasonal flavour featured every month offering even more choice.