Just south of Exmoor, Bampton is a handsome town packed with Georgian architecture, much of it listed. It’s also a lively place, with a wealth of independent shops, pubs and restaurants.
And, if you’re staying in October, you’ll be treated to the annual Bampton Charter Fair, during which Exmoor ponies are traded and the town lays on fun and entertainment for all ages.
What is there to do in and around Bampton?
When you’ve explored the town’s pretty streets and shops, you’ll find Bampton is perfectly located for the wild, unspoilt moorland and woods of Exmoor, as well as the gentler pleasures of mid Devon.
In the latter camp, there’s the sedate joy of a day spent on the Great Western Canal, just south in Tiverton. The canal, which was opened in 1814 to transport limestone, still meanders for eleven miles through soft, undulating Devon countryside.
You can explore the canal itself by rowing boat, Canadian canoe and motor boat, all of which can be hired at the Canal Basin in Tiverton. Alternatively, step back in time by taking a trip aboard the last horse-drawn barge in the West Country. The towpath is also a right of way in its entirety and there are a number of circular walks on offer which take advantage of the 24 bridges along the canal’s route. And when it’s time to stop for coffee, there’s nowhere better that Duck’s Ditty floating café-bar. It’s permanently moored on the canal and serves artisan coffee as well as a range of delicious cakes and savoury snacks.
For more heart-pounding excitement, head north into Exmoor. Whether it’s road-biking on the upland stretches, mountain biking along rivers and through ancient woodland, or walking one of the magnificent routes (the Coleridge Way is particularly well-marked, as is the South West Coast Path), this national park is a great place to get a lungful of country and sea air, and drink in some magnificent views along the way. A short distance from Bampton, Wimbleball Lake is a wonderful introduction to the delights of Exmoor. With 374 acres of water, this is a magnet for sports enthusiasts, but you can always find space to indulge your passion, whether it’s sailing, canoeing, rowing, windsurfing, biking round the lake or simply going for a long walk with your pooch!
Where can you eat and drink in Bampton?
There’s plenty of choice for foodies in Bampton, but two eateries deserve special mention.
The 15th Century Swan Inn is a fine local pub which has recently been given a handsome, contemporary makeover. There are scrubbed tables and chairs, a solid oak bar, beams overhead, a roaring woodburner on cooler nights and leather sofas to sink into. Menus celebrate the best of local produce, with dishes like fillet of Brixham cod, or slow-cooked sticky pork belly. Equal attention is paid to keeping the roster of real ales, while the wine list is well sourced and extensive.
The much-loved Toucan Café-Bistro is popular for good reasons. It’s unstuffy, consistently brilliant and always welcoming. You can pop in for freshly ground coffee and home-made cake in the morning, enjoy a light lunch like roasted tomato soup with basil oil, or a slap-up dinner of chicken wrapped in Parma ham with mushroom and bacon stuffing. A little gem.