Experience The Creative Way Of Life In Dartington

18 January 2022

Technically a village – although it feels bigger – Dartington is roughly equal distance between Exeter and Plymouth and sits on the River Dart that goes down to the South Devon coast. 

Traditionally, the area’s action has emanated from the Dartington Hall estate that made its name in the 1920s as the home of one of Britain’s first experimental communes.

Champions of alternative lifestyles and philosophies, the commune hosted the likes of Michael Chekov, Aldous Huxley, and Indian polymath Rabindranath Tagore.

It thrived on a freethinking, arts and culture-driven environment that gave Dartington the creative reputation it still holds today.

Barn Cinema

Part of the Dartington Hall complex, the Barn is a proper arthouse cinema with a stated remit of communicating ideas, starting discussions, and exchanging stories from across the globe.  

The cinema has 150 seats and a single screen inside a 14th-century barn and was converted into a performance space in the 1930s by noted Bauhaus architect, Walter Gropius.

Film screenings started just after World War II. Along with the films, the Barn hosts Q&A sessions, talks, and workshops.

There’s also a programming initiative where members can have a say on regular community-chosen events.

The Green Table

Just around the corner from the Barn Cinema, the Green Table is a bustling, light-filled café serving decent-sized portions of food made using locally-sourced produce.  

As befits Dartington’s history, there are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes on offer. 

There’s also a children’s menu, outdoor seating that looks across the estate’s garden and takeaways are available, including a selection of frozen meals that are outstanding value.

Open every day from 9 am until 4 pm. Take it from us: try the cakes.

New Lion Brewery

A 100% community-owned craft brewery, the New Lion’s growth has been funded entirely by beer lovers and locals alike, with the brewery selling the beers and ales it creates via its onsite taproom and bottle shop.

The fact that it’s situated in a somewhat trading estate is shrugged off by the team who put on some very good events that cover live music, vinyl-only DJ sets, tastings, and bike fixing sessions.

Acts like DJ Yoda have rocked up to play, as well as punk legend TV Smith, along with various other crowd-pleasers. 

The brewery is also home to the Bigmouth Comedy Club.

The Cott Inn

Devon has no shortage of old pubs and The Cott Inn is near the top of the list when it comes to age and atmosphere. 

First licensed in the 1320s, The Cott is the second oldest inn in the UK, and it’s retained much of its old-world charm, complete with thatched roofing and a crackling, inglenook fireplace. 

The inn markets itself as a gastropub and the food on offer teeters away from the usual pub fare of burgers and fish and chips.

Instead, you’ll find tasty dishes like confit of duck and seafood chowder on the menu.

There’s also a huge beer garden with a pizza oven and a separate kitchen garden providing ingredients for the inn’s menus. It’s a big pub and always bustling.    

The Almond Thief

Bread, done properly, is truly a wondrous thing, as anyone who tried baking sourdough loaves during lockdown will attest. 

And The Almond Thief bakery bakes some of the most fabulous bread you’re likely to taste.

The company is a craft bakery that, along with their much-trumpeted sourdough, make a spectrum of lovely pastries.

Amounts can be a tad limited, so arriving early at their Dartington workspace and store is a good idea.

The Almond Thief is open from Thursday until Sunday, 9 am to 1 pm.

Ben’s Farm Shop

The Watson family is a constant presence across South Devon.

Probably better known for their Riverford Farm products, they’re also early pioneers in the veg box market.

Customers receive a weekly box of organic, sympathetically grown vegetables at a time when sustainability was a growing concept.  

Ben Watson is part of the clan, and it’s his name that’s above the door of several shops selling very good, fresh farm and organic produce.

The Staverton branch is on the outskirts of Dartington but worth the visit.

The Woodland Presents

This is the sort of thing that Dartington does very well: create a clever, original idea and give it a chance to develop, mature, and change minds.

The Woodland Presents is a non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to forestry and the care and appreciation of trees. 

To this end, they own an area of woodland near Dartington and use it to hold events like music gigs, lectures, pop-up restaurants, film screenings, and silent discos.

You can’t just turn up there unless there’s something on, though, so it’s best to check their website and social media pages to see what they’ve got planned. 

South Devon Railway

This is very special.

South Devon Railway is an original steam railway line that runs along the River Dart valley, with Dartington around mid-way through its route.

The line, its management, and all its stock are under the care of a registered charity and allow you to travel through the valley in original carriages pulled by vintage steam locomotives. 

Taking around one hour and fifteen minutes, the 14-mile round train trip really is a spectacular way to see the countryside around Dartington.

Adult return tickets are £16 and there are various concessions and family ticket options available.

The Cider Press Centre

The Cider Press Centre is a collection of shops and cafés located near the middle of Dartington.

Taking its name from the slightly sad-looking old cider press that sits near one of its car parks, it’s a rather cool shopping centre with a strong emphasis on arts and crafts.

We highly recommend the coffee in its Bayards Kitchen café (there’s also a nice outside space by the brook to sit if it’s sunny) and the centre has a store selling the famous Dartington Crystal glassware.

The buildings and the setting are lovely, and there’s lots of car park space.