It was with sadness that Devonshire magazine heard about the…
The Oxenham Arms is a veritable historic gem, with a 5,000 year old menhir situated in the snug and laying claim to such illustrious visitors as Drake, Dickens, Nelson to name just a few.
It’s easy to overstate the importance of historic sites in Devon, and as a county, Devon has more than its fair share of these. In terms of old Devonshire inns, many over the past few decades have been destroyed by the ‘gastro’ craze, having interiors radically altered to cater for this burgeoning market. Thankfully the Oxenham Arms has survived it all and stands out as a shining beacon to all that’s great about old inns. Situated in the South Zeal, originally the building was a monastery that then became Burgoyne Manor for around 100 years, before being purchased by the Oxenham brothers in the late 1400s and subsequently being renamed Oxenham Manor. In 1477 the manor and monastery were leased out and the manor became The Oxenham Arms, which 540 years later still exists today.
Visitors include Sir Francis Drake, Admiral Nelson, Charles Dickens, as well as Prince Charles, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie in the present day. They’ve all supped in the bar and stayed in the guest rooms!
If you’re looking for somewhere really interesting to stay, I’d challenge you to come up with anywhere more unique. The village of South Zeal serves as a great base for venturing out to the many interesting sites in this part of Devon. It’s on the northern foothills of Dartmoor and looking out from the back garden, the moors loom up in front of you. It’s true walking country here and the variety of walk available is excellent, there are river walks, moorland walks, village walks, indeed all manner, with many historic attractions along the way such as the Tudor Church House just 1/2 mile down the road at South Tawton, or the excellent Finch Foundry at Sticklepath all reachable by foot from the Oxenham Arms, (see river Taw walk overleaf), or you could take a trip in the car up the road to Okehampton to see the castle or even a bit further to Lydford Gorge. The countryside’s fantastic and at the end of the day, you return to experience a truly unique old inn.
In terms of accommodation, it’s all provided at a very high level, beautiful oak four-poster beds with extremely comfortable mattresses and bedding. Everything’s spotlessly clean and well thought out, so your stay will be comfortable and relaxing.
In terms of their food offering, the menu provides a good range of options for the guest and food is of an excellent quality, both interesting and diverse. There are the favourites such as pie and mash (the pie being homemade and delicious), or you can opt for one of the more exotic menu options. Local food provenance is excellent and in all honesty you should be very happy with your evening dining experience.