Destination Inspiration: Axminster, Devon

Plan your escape (or mini-break) to the country. A fossil’s throw from Devon’s Jurassic Coast, the market town of Axminster is our go-to for a smattering of independent shops, fresh-air walks and good food courtesy of River Cottage.


Axminster, Devon

Why now?

For children of the 80s and 90s, Escape to the Country may have once seemed like a naff TV programme that grown-ups used to monopolise the telly. Now, however, it encapsulates the dream of the claustrophobic city-dweller seeking a bit of smog-free tranquility.

Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is responsible for putting this twee market town on the map - the six-acre River Cottage is but a short drive from the town centre. Book onto one of its cookery and craft courses (the farmhouse is only reached by tractor) or wiggle into your wellies to take a tour of the grounds. Paris and Nicole's Simple Life, this is not.

In the town centre, expect thatched cottages, tea rooms and a high street packed full of independents. Get stellar recommendations for your next read at Archway Books or rummage through trinkets and treasures in The Old Chapel Antiques & Craft Centre. Sunday mornings call for a cycle to Millers Farm Shop. The farms have been in the family for three generations and, when possible, its owners nip across to France to bring back a selection of edible goodies to accompany local fare. Avignon or Axminster? Regardless, it's a cornucopia of fresh produce under one roof and has a wine selection that rivals cellars in Bordeaux.

We didn't come all this way not to stretch our legs. From here, you're within easy reach of the South West Coast Path, or beat WFH fatigue with a stroll along the Axe Valley rivers, where you'll likely spot otters and kingfishers.

Don't miss

An excursion to Lyme Regis for fossil hunting in salty-fresh air and top-notch sea-to-fork restaurants.

Where to stay

The River Cottage Farmhouse, natch.

Where to go for dinner

Ok, so it's not like we're a Hugh stan (ok, maybe a little) but we can't deny that the River Cottage Kitchen is one of Axminster's biggest draws. Separate from cottage and located in the centre of the town, expect a more low-key menu than up at HQ. Think comforting soups, overflowing bloomer sandwiches and just-delivered-from-the-butchers bangers served with buttery mash.

Equally as passionate about its farm-to-fork ethos, book at table at The Tytherleigh Arms. Order the wild-mushroom risotto before tucking into the smorgasbord of chutney and cheese - we guarantee the chutney alone will have you storming into the kitchen, demanding for a jar to take home.

And for a drink…

O'Hagan's Meadery for a mead-tasting experience. Book a taxi; the wine slips down as easily as honey and you'll want to get boozy. Continue the soirée back at your pad with the armfuls of tastes you'll take home. Like this? Stop by Lyme Bay Winery for its fruity plonk.

Who to take with you

Your friend that continuously moans about missing the countryside while refusing to give up their cosy Clapham flat.

When to go

Coincide visits with market day, which takes place every Thursday. It's here you'll find trestle tables stacked with everything from homemade tiffin slices to shepherds pies and sausage rolls.

Essentials to pack

Leave the dungarees at home, this Isabel Marant wool-tweed cap screams farmyard chic.

How to get there

You can reach Axminster in less than three hours from London Waterloo. Alternatively, if you want to pootle around the surrounding area by car, it's roughly a four-hour drive.

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