This is a genuine local Devon pub – the perfect antidote to manufactured shabby-chic. The scuffs and scratches on the bar stools at North Tawton’s Railway Inn are testament to their long use, and the worn menu covers tell you people have been choosing to eat here for years.
Try here for lunches Friday-Sunday, or an evening meal any night but Thursdays. The Railway Inn is about 10 miles from Wheatland Farm.
Outside, the Railway Inn isn’t much to look at, and its location, away from the town and admidst agricultural sheds isn’t inspiring either. The first time we went, we actually turned back, thinking any pub this run-of-the-mill looking isn’t going to care about its food. But friends told us not to judge by the cover.
Inside, the Railway Inn is old fashioned, welcoming, comfortable and friendly. When we were there, regulars were coming in for lunch, and the landlord was quickly out from behind the bar to help someone with limited mobility with his coat and stick.
It will be mostly locals at the bar, and if you stand out as too much of a tourist you risk attracting a rather thick trowelling of Devon banter – but you’ll be welcomed non the less for it. Watching the gentleman with the walking stick come in, we guessed we might have taken his handy corner seat. Our offer to move was gratefully accepted, but no-one had been about to raise it with us with even so much as a look.
The menu and specials board has plenty of choice, and this is far better food than pre-delivered pub meals. In our view, it beat the Copper Keys pub, which is in the middle of North Tawton, hands down. The salads, for example, are colourful and varied – but probably won’t have the latest fad supergrains in them. The decor has a genuine sense of time to it – the black and white photos on the wall are of the old North Tawton Station. There’s an old ship’s piano in the corner, and the fire surround looks like it’s about to disintergrate, probably from many evenings of supporting brimming pint glasses.
We really enjoyed lunch – lots of good flavours, fast friendly service. If we say your food is likely to come on plates rather than slates you start getting the picture. If we add that coffee is a rather 1980s affair with those (single use) plastic filters on top of a catering cup, you’re pretty much there (for better local coffee go to Kirsty’s).
Access: Parking is easy outside, and there’s level access to the bar and restaurant through normal sized doorways. There’s a (ladies) toilet just by the door (didn’t explore the gents’ which is presumably similar) – but it’s too narrow for a wheelchair. Slightly more genuine character than the nearby New Inn at Sampford Courtney, but less accessible because of the loos.
Questions and to book a table: 01837 82789
Location, getting there and nearby: The Railway Inn is about 7 miles by crow, 9 by car and 10.5 by bike from Wheatland Farm. It might even be feasible, just about, by the 5B bus for Friday lunch – but that involves walking at both ends too. The Railway Inn is at EX20 2BE . You take a right at the first dip on the A3124 road from North Tawton to Widdon Down. If the journey is part of the fun, you can bike there on Devon lanes (ask us to talk you through the route). Lunch here (Friday – Sunday) could combine with rides or walks around North Tawton. Maybe stop by North Tawton churchyard to see the Yew tree famous in Sylvia Plath’s poetry.