Ottery St Mary, Devon
‘Ottery’ as they call it is rather a sweet little town, largely uncommercial so the shops, pubs and cafes are nearly all independently run and there’s barely any sign of big names chains anywhere, other than a Sainsbury’s supermarket. The church is very nice and actually rather ornate for a small town; it’s a sort of smaller version of Exeter cathedral in some respects, even having a 14th century anatomical clock and a minstrels gallery.
From Ottery you can stroll along the River Otter (now you know where the town gets its name) to the Tumbling Weir and if you like a good walk, on to Tipton St John where you can stop for a pub lunch before strolling back; all very nice when the sun is out, and you might be fortunate enough to spot a kingfisher.
If you’re hungry whilst you’re here, well, Rusty Pig definitely, and they say the cafe at Cold Harbour Farm Shop is good. The little tea shop – Seasons Tea Rooms is somewhat old-fashioned but if you take it for what it is you can get a decent bite to eat there; don’t worry about the net curtains, it’s all part of the charm.
Ottery has two big claims to fame; one is that the romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born here in 1772, the other is the famous Tar Barrels event held on November 5th each year; when after dark, people run through the streets with lighted tar barrels on their shoulders. What some might think equally bizarre is the annual Pixie Day held on the nearest Saturday to Midsummer’s Eve, when children parade through the town dressed as the little folk. At least that has its roots in folklore; Tar Barrels, no one knows for sure.
All information correct at the time of writing