Booking a couple of nights at Cloud Farm Campsite in the gorgeous Lorna Doone Valley on the border between Somerset and Devon was an impromptu act. For a start, we haven’t yet built up our camping gear since returning to Britain from Portugal. Booking a land pod meant that was less of a problem. What was more of an issue was we didn’t possess the equipment to cook on site, and there was, as we discovered after we’d booked, a shortage of places to eat dinner.
Where to eat near Cloud Farm Campsite
Lynmouth was a 20-minute drive away, a bit far at the end of a day exploring the surrounding countryside on foot. And there isn’t that much choice in Lynmouth after the daytrippers have departed. The Culbone Stables Inn was closer, but it had shut down. The Staghunters was closer still but, due to staff shortages, there was no table at the inn. Just about every other option closed early evening, too early for us. This left one option, The Blue Ball Inn at Countisbury.
Thankfully, the Blue Ball Inn was everything we hoped for from a country pub. It’s a 13th-century coaching inn on the edge of the moors and close to the coast. Inside the décor is ubiquitous country pub – stone fireplaces, low ceiling with dark beams, seating that looks like church pews but (take note) which wobbles precariously if you plonk yourself down too enthusiastically.
It’s a St Austell’s pub, so that instantly tells you it has decent ale. I’m no ale aficionado, being a relatively recent convert, but St Austell Tribute slips down the gullet very easily. They also have an extensive ‘No & Low’ drinks menu, which is handy as, unless staying at the inn, getting there involves a drive (there’s a big car park, so no fretting over parking).
The food at the Blue Ball Inn
The menu features a mix of typical crowd-pleasing pub grub, dishes using local(ish) produce, and a decent selection of fish and seafood options, which is what appealed to us. Vegetarian/vegan options are more limited.
On our first night, we shared a plate of salt and pepper squid (small but very tasty) followed by River Teign mussels in a white wine, shallots, cream, and brandy sauce, and also one of the inn’s signature dishes, a steak and ale pie with chunky chips, carrots, and broccoli. The mussels were plump and full of creamy flavour, the pie was fine but nothing special. For me, the steak was a wee bit burnt around the edges, as if it had been reheated once too often. But it was hearty and greatly appreciated, especially combined with the pub’s pleasing ambience. It was certainly enjoyable enough to have us booking again for the following night.
In many ways, The Blue Ball Inn is typical of a lot of English country pubs – it’s exactly the sort of place you want to relax in after a day hoofing it around the countryside and the food, while not outstanding, is varied, hearty, and appeases those hunger pangs.
Our tip: There isn’t a lot of choice of places to eat dinner in the area, so book ahead to make sure of a table.
The Blue Ball Inn, Countisbury, Lynmouth; blueballinn.com; average cost of main course £18.