The Rock Inn, Haytor
Haytor with its iconic silhouette is a real crowd puller in these parts; one of the many instantly recognisable jewels that Dartmoor has to offer. The path up is certainly well trodden – I’m sure a good few hangovers will have been laid to rest here on New Year’s Day!
Wander a little distance from this famous stack of granite and you’ll discover a number of now disused quarries on its northern slopes. Perhaps surprisingly, it was from here that the stone was excavated to build the original London Bridge. Stranger still, that same bridge now sits fully reconstructed in Arizona – one of the weirder, more extravagant purchases made by our American cousins!
Nestled in the centre of a series of quarrymen’s cottages, this solid Dartmoor inn is steeped in history and has been a welcome sight in these parts for 200 years. It was originally built by George Templar as he sought to extract and transport the high quality granite from the quarries to Stover Canal and then onto Teignmouth Docks for export. Step inside today away from a howling gale and you’ll find antique tables with candles, a lovingly restored Grandfather clock, crackling log fire and the warm embrace of excellent hospitality waiting for you.
Desperate to work his way back to Devon from Kent, Chris Graves bought the pub in 1983 after taking a gamble and leaving behind a career in teaching Hotel Management and the role of College Dean. In the years since, awards have come in from the AA, The Good Pub Guide and various others so it ultimately proved to be an excellent decision. Wife Susan, son Oliver, General Manager Dan and Head Chef Josh complete the main team and each play to the other’s strengths.
This was always going to be a destination pub – given the lack of chimney pots here on the edge of the moor it had to be. Whilst not listed, the building is clearly an old structure which brings with it its own unique set of challenges. Legend has it that Belinda (a serving wench from yesteryear) continues to haunt the pub and has been heard ‘sweeping’ the stairs…. I think I’d risk that for a night in a four poster and views out across the moor!
Once summer comes around you’ll love the beer garden opposite – it’s the perfect spot for a pint of Tarka Four on a balmy afternoon as the peace of the countryside gently envelops you. Right now though it’s mid-winter and we’re sat across from the candle-lit restaurant in the main bar. Off the central corridor there are also several hidden snugs, a light filled conservatory and a tucked away lounge for residents to keep the party going as late as they like.
Food here is top notch. Parsnip and apple soup warmed us to the core whilst the pan-fried Devon bream with bisque risotto and the confit Creedy Carver duck leg ticked all the right boxes as the elements unleashed their worst. Beef and lamb from the Dartmoor Farmers cooperative brings the landscape outside in – chefs couldn’t ask for a better natural larder.
Once ensconced in the warm glow of the cosy, welcoming bar you’ll find it hard to leave again – this is an excellent winter pub full of character built around a simple formula of putting the customer first. Best stay over then, the weather’s on the turn again!
The Rock Inn, Haytor Vale, Dartmoor. TQ13 9XP
Tel: 01364 661305