Patrick’s pub trawls: Patrick McCaig visits The Duke of York, Iddesleigh

Patrick McCaig

Patrick McCaig - Credit: Archant

In his regular series of columns for Devon Life, PATRICK McCAIG of The Otter Brewery takes us on a trawl of some of his favourite pubs

'The warmth of the fire coming from a classically over indulgent inglenook draws me in towards an en

'The warmth of the fire coming from a classically over indulgent inglenook draws me in towards an enchanting bar of yesteryear' - Credit: Archant

The Duke of York, Iddesleigh

We must have more variety of countryside and towns in Devon than most other counties. From the banks of the River Dart last month to the small hamlet of Iddesleigh this month, I feel lucky to live in Devon and even luckier to be reviewing our county’s finest pubs.

Iddesleigh is one of a number of villages between the moors where time seems to have stood still. The beauty of these places is the houses, pubs and farms look much as they would have done four or five centuries ago. The character and charm remains traditional, yet underneath this fabric there is a modern way of thinking that allows businesses to survive. Today I am visiting The Duke of York run by John Pittam and his longstanding bar manager Trevor.

Up the steps and pushing through the front door of this 15th century cob and stone thatched building, the warmth of the fire coming from a classically over indulgent inglenook draws me in towards an enchanting bar of yesteryear. The bar itself has never been altered and has that luxurious space behind it that could only be afforded in the olden days – a time capsule where cask ale comes straight from the barrel.

An army of locals give the impression they have come in from frozen fields to re-kindle their boilers with scrumpy and ale before returning to work alongside their heavy horses. In reality, it is the usual bunch of locals, chewing the modern day fat and doing what should be done in pubs right across our land.

Cleary, I had not done my research when I learned the Duke is associated with Michael Morpurgo’s book War Horse. I’m sure most people know but I was rather glad I didn’t, in that it allowed me to discover first hand the charm of this place that influenced the author. The Duke’s famous literary connections continue with a rich lineage of Poet Laureates associated with the pub – Scottish poet Sean Rafferty was a former landlord and Ted Hughes an enthusiastic local. The beginnings of the Penguin paperback also start here.

The Duke of York, Iddesleigh

The Duke of York, Iddesleigh - Credit: Archant

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So having some great conversations with landlord and locals alike, I discover a descendent of the Mann family (Mann’s Brewery) is standing at the bar. Little did he realise his family developed the yeast we use to this day in the brewing of all our Otter beers. Small world! This conversation gave me the 30 minutes that was required to deliver the best steak and kidney pudding I have ever had.

This is a rural and farming community and as such you will never be short of hearty grub on your plate. What better way to enjoy it than in front of the fire with some local beer and cider? There is a slightly more refined evening option available in the dining room – I however was very happy with my lot!

As I drove down the valley towards Dartmoor, I felt an urge to turn around - I could hear The Duke of York calling me back. It is good to find a place that delivers so much more than good beer and food and I’m sure the Duke will be there for many more generations to come.

The details

Real Ale:

Otter Bitter, Otter Brewery

Broadside, Adnams Brewery

Local guests

Local Cider:

Winkleigh Crisp and Winkleigh Medium, Winkleigh Cider

Contact details:

The Duke of York, Iddesleigh, Winkleigh, Devon, EX19 8BG.

Tel: 01837 810253


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