Staycation – Oxenham Arms at South Zeal

Staycation – Oxenham Arms at South Zeal

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.

The back view at the Oxenham Arms

The back view at the Oxenham Arms is the northern edge of Dartmoor

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.

Oxenham Arms - Salmon and Heritage Tomato Salad

Oxenham Arms – Citrus cured Salmon and Heritage Tomato Salad with sourdough bread

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.

Oxenham Arms menhir in the snug

Oxenham Arms – the 5,000 year old menhir in the snug

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.

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This article was written by

Nigel has been publishing magazines since 1995 (some 20+ years now). Passionate about our countryside and heritage, the magazines reflect this interest. Nigel's the Editor of the DEVONSHIRE magazine which he established in 2009 and founder of the innovative HUBCAST event promotion platform which launched in 2011