It’s not just its multi award-winning market, South Molton has plenty to boast about - and it’s the perfect base from which to access both moor and sea, writes Chrissy Harris

North Devon isn’t all big beaches and big waves, you know. Yes, the coastline up here is pretty spectacular, but before you reach the sand dunes, there are some great places to explore inland. South Molton is one of them. The historic market town appears on the sat nav just when you’re really starting to tire of the M5 and the A361 and the seemingly never-ending quest to reach the lovely but hard to reach top half of this county.

There have been many times when I’ve thought: ‘Oh, good grief. I’m only at South Molton’. Followed by: ‘It’s really nice here…’.

The town’s market has a far-reaching reputation and has just won a national award - Best Community Market in Great Britain. The main event is Thursday to Saturday, 8.30am until 1pm when there are more than 70 stalls offering artisan food and drink, gifts and services. Other regular crowd pleasers include a salvage fair, country market and flea market. A couple of trendy interior designers I know have made it their go-to spot for great finds.

Great British Life: You have to visit the market. (c) North Devon CouncilYou have to visit the market. (c) North Devon Council

You also can’t come to South Molton without visiting Quince Honey Farm. Like a bee to a flower, it draws you in and brings you up close to these incredible insects. You can see how honey is made and produced, go on a factory tour, visit the nectar gardens, plus there’s a great indoor play area and gardens for the kids to enjoy.

South Molton also enjoys Exmoor gateway status. It’s perfectly placed to make the most of the unique landscape by day and then the stars at night. Exmoor is an internationally renowned Dark Sky Reserve and well worth staying up late for.

Back in more urban surroundings, take the time to see the beauty of South Molton’s wealth of historic buildings. Fine examples of Medieval, Elizabethan and Georgian architecture provide a fascinating insight into the past life of one of the foremost wool producing towns in the country. There’s a non-strenuous, two-hour heritage trail to follow if you want to know more.

They’re also proud of their gardens and green spaces here. South Molton in Bloom was started in 2021 by self-confessed ‘bored, retired housewife’ Sue Harrison who had recently moved to the town and decided to brighten it up. After attracting more volunteers, South Molton went on to become Britain in Bloom South West Gold winners in 2022.

Yes, they’re a nice bunch in South Molton - and being added to all the time. More people are realising that this honest market town has a countryside feel, is not crazily touristy in the summer and is well-placed for a moors or sea-fix whenever you want. Perhaps I should save myself the journey and just move here.

Great British Life: Enjoy a bite to eat at Stumbles bistro. (c) Stumbles bistroEnjoy a bite to eat at Stumbles bistro. (c) Stumbles bistro


You won’t want for proper pubs in these parts. There are loads of them dotted in and around the town. The Coaching Inn (Queen Street) is more than 300 years old and offers home cooked pub food. The inn’s famous carvery is served every Thursday and Sunday from 11.30am.

Out of town is The Mill Inn at Bish Mill. Local produce is part of life. Veg is from nearby farmers, meat from a butcher in town and eggs are from a free-range farm, just up the road.

The Mason’s Arms at Knowstone is a 13th century pub with an award-winning restaurant.

For non-pub action, Stumbles bistro (East Street) is informal dining with quality home cooked, seasonal food and a carefully selected wine list.

Mediterranean-inspired Zest does breakfast, lunch and takeaway pizzas.

The Corn Dolly Tea Shop (South Street) has been doing its sweet (and savoury) thing here since 1986. Choose - if you can – from a delicious range of homemade scones, teacakes, traditional Bakewell tarts, chocolate chunk brownies, as well as quiche, salads and sandwiches, loose leaf teas and own blend coffee.

Ooh, and sweet-toothed types should definitely call in to the award-winning Melchior Chocolates (Station Road). Drool over handmade truffles, pralines and more, made by Swiss chocolatier and South Molton local Carlo Melchior.

Great British Life: Stay at The George, a beautiful, 18th century townhouse. (c) Guy HarropStay at The George, a beautiful, 18th century townhouse. (c) Guy Harrop


The Coaching Inn (Queen Street) has perfectly pleasant rooms at good prices. The George (Broad Street) is a beautiful, 18th century townhouse in a handy location. There are 12 boutique-style bedrooms, some with views over the town square. Northam House is another Georgian gem and offers a relaxed B&B experience (and it’s right next to the Corn Dolly tearooms). There’s a nice garden for guests to enjoy, too.

Farther out, Poadmarsh Farm holiday cottages (Ash Mill) are on a working sheep farm. Guests can have a go at bottle feeding the newborn lambs in springtime.

Or else try Highebullen Hotel, part of a 125-acre estate in Chittlehamholt. It has luxury lodges and holiday cottages on site. The hotel itself is being refurbished and is due to open in the summer.

The sky’s definitely not the limit at The Poltimore Inn (North Molton). The pub is home to the region’s only publicly accessible stargazing observatory. Guests can stay at one of the lodges here and make the most of the intergalactic views.

Great British Life: Admire the architecture of the Town Hall. (c) Visit DevonAdmire the architecture of the Town Hall. (c) Visit Devon

Did you know?

Gnarly moves
Skate Molton is a community interest company (CIC) set up for boarders of all ages. The volunteer-led team runs popular sessions and events at the town’s skate park and in the pannier market.

Gorgeous Georgians
South Molton’s splendid Grade I-listed town hall building, completed in 1743, is in the square next to the market. On the ground floor, there is a small museum showing the social history of the town and its evolution through the centuries. 

Moor to sea
You are never far away from a fantastic walk with a view. Serious walkers can experience the coast-to-coast Two Moors Way, walking across Exmoor and Dartmoor and everything in between.