Soak Up The Small Town Charm Of Kingsbridge In South Devon

18 January 2022

Sitting prettily at the end of the Kingsbridge Estuary near the South Devon coast, the small town of Kingsbridge has been one of the surprise hits of the region over the past couple of years. 

Not exactly brilliantly served in terms of transport - no train station, the odd bus or two - visitors have tended to stumble across it while driving through on the way to the nearby coastline. 

Now, though, the cat’s out of the bag, and Kingsbridge is basking in the glow of this new appreciation.

The Harbour

A full-stop at the end of the estuary, Kingsbridge is a 20-minute drive from some of the loveliest beaches in South Devon.

However, it’s worth spending time meandering around the town and especially near the old harbour’s edge.

Mooch by the water munching chips from Kingsbridge’s best chippy The Cod Father as swans and paddle-boarders drift by on the turning tides.  

Or wander towards The Crabshell Inn for a tempura crab meat burger and a look at the locals’ boats moored nearby.

There’s a considerable car park that runs along one side of the harbour with plenty of spaces, and pretty much everything that’s special about the town is within a 30-minute stroll.

Harbour House

The Harbour House (or, to give it its official title, the Harbour House Centre for Arts and Yoga) is a mini arts centre.

Here, you’ll find art gallery, vegetarian café, garden, and spaces for wellness and wellbeing workshops - not just yoga but creative writing, tai chi, singing, meditation, and life drawing.

The café’s veggie food bursts with flavour and really is exceptional, just be aware that the place is only open from 10 am until 3 pm daily.  

All of this is rolled up in a rather lovely Georgian building just a step or two away from the estuary’s waters.

The Old Bakery

For such a small town, Kingsbridge punches well above its weight when it comes to food, and The Old Bakery certainly adds to its swing.

Its name comes from the building it’s situated in and, while the title might not exactly reflect the restaurant’s key themes, the building itself is worth boasting about.

Toasty and cosy in winter, cool and breezy in the summer, The Old Bakery offers twists on the Mediterranean and Persian dishes, all served in a tapas style (but on bigger plates).

There’s a wide-ranging drinks list, and the menu includes vegan and gluten-free options. The Old Bakery is popular with those in the know, so we recommend you book ahead.

Side note: the restaurant is closed on Mondays.

The Harbour Bookshop

Established in the 1950s, the Harbour Bookshop encompasses all the elements that defines the perfect independent bookstore.

Ace customer service, experienced, knowledgeable staff, and a well-thought-out selection of stock, including signed editions, historical texts, and local guidebooks. 

The shop also attracts a surprising number of visiting authors who rock up to give readings and sign copies of their new books.

Notable subjects include the likes of Ann Cleeves, Emily St. John Mandel, and Lucinda Riley.

Wild Artichoke

Another crucial addition to Kingsbridge’s eating-out options, the Wild Artichokes restaurant specializes in comfort eating and conviviality.  One of the co-owners is Jane Baxter, UK TV chef and author of a couple of fancy, fast food chain Leon’s cookbooks, and it’s Jane who is behind Wild Artichokes’ fixed price menus and generous portions. Her food is made for sharing and makes use of seasonal and locally-produced ingredients; clams from Slapton Sands, crab from Start Bay, all served with handmade pasta and lashings of wild garlic. Wild Artichokes is relaxed and friendly, although it’s not cheap, and perhaps works best as a venue for special treats and celebrations. Booking essential. Takeaway dishes also available.

Red Propeller Gallery

Managing to swerve the often inevitable penchant of way too many local art galleries for showcasing cookie-cutter sea and landscape paintings, the Red Propeller Gallery owners Sarah and David Anslow profile original, multi-media artworks that explore the line between urban and contemporary art.  Strong and vibrant, the pieces on display are all for sale, and there’s an interest-free credit scheme in place for those who wish to pay for their purchases in instalments. The gallery was founded in 2006, and the Anslows gained notoriety a year later when they sold a Banksy mural and threw the Bristol house on which it was painted in for free. Impressive.

Boutique Shopping

Snaking up from the harbour, Kingsbridge’s main drag is Fore Street, a winding road that’s sprinkled with boutiques, craft shops and gift stores. Keep eyes peeled for Pig Finca (jewellery, clothes and ethnic oddments), Save A Packet (over 200 loose food and household items – bring your own containers), the Green & Wild zero waste shop (environmentally friendly and plastic-free goods), Barrel & Still drinks shop (interesting wines, beers, ciders and spirits from smaller producers around the world), the Nonsuch toy shop, a smattering of antique stores and more.

Kingsbridge Farmers and Craft Producers Market

Markets have been a lifeblood for Kingsbridge since the town was granted its first market licence in the thirteenth century. By the nineteenth century the Kingsbridge markets were a key part of Devon’s coastal trade, selling wools and sailcloth from nearby mills and leather from local tanneries, as well as hosting regular cattle markets. Nowadays the markets still take place in the town’s designated market square on the quay near the harbour, although the emphasis has switched to a different kind of local produce (cheese, honey, pastries), decent coffee and handmade goods. There’s also a tourist information office in the square that dishes out guides, maps and regional information. The Kingsbridge markets take place on the first and third Saturday of every month.

Kings Cinema

A comfy cinema that has an independent, arthouse feel to it, Kings Cinema is actually part of the Merlin chain that serves large areas of Wales and the South West.  This means that the schedules tend towards mainstream blockbusters with a sprinkling of leftfield flicks and streaming content from the National Theatre Live’s output alongside. The cinema is home to three screens, and is housed in a handsome, late nineteenth-century building - complete with clocktower - that was once the local town hall. 

Some snaps from author, Simon