Saturday the 7th of March 11:00am and to celebrate my Wife’s birthday a group of us pile off to go on the Tarka Line Rail Ale Trail.
For the un-initiated this involved getting on and off trains at various middle of no-where train stations and then going into pubs to drink booze.
The Tarka Line trail kicks off in Exeter, so we start proceedings in “The Mill on the Exe”, where I select a decent local ale called Tribute. I decide to record the day with a photo of the gang before everyone is too heavily influenced by ale consumption!
Ross knows the way to the next pub, and isn’t afraid to show us.
Another of Ross’ apparently limitless talents is the ability to form intricate designs in the remnants of the head of his pint. This time, it’s a birdy.
Next up we wander down the road to Exeter St Davids station where we catch the train to our second destination.
Stop one is Eggesford, and the Fox and Hounds for a spot of lunch.
I lead off with a pint of Otter Bitter, and follow up with another Tribute. Mmmmm. Ale.
The food at The Fox and Hounds is very good, and is quite good value for money also. The twelve of us put a decent bit of grub in our bellies in anticipation of further ale consumption, although a few of the girls have switched to wine already. Wimps!
Two hours pass very quickly and it’s back to the station to catch another train. We decide to end our outward journey here as we’ve got limited time and have pre-selected a couple of pubs that we don’t want to miss. So it’s on a train to head back towards Exeter.
Next stop, Morchard Road.
Now it’s time for another group photo. Ross shows off his shy side in this one.
Disaster! We find that Morchard Road serves a small collection of buildings which constitutes a couple of houses, a garage that is closed and our target pub, the Devonshire Dumpling. Which is also closed… Worse still, it’s an hour and a half until the next train is due…
A rapid phone call to the pub convinces them to open up just for us and we all pile in. The staff tell us that they are more an eating pub than a drinking pub, and that they don’t open during the afternoon. As this is slightly at odds with the Tarka Line information leaflet, we politely point out they might want to update their entry.
More ale consumption follows.
After our alloted hour and thirty minutes we stumble back to the station to wait for a train.
The next stop is Yeoford station.
Immediately next to the station is a building, we glance through the window and see a guy behind a bar (complete with optics) cleaning glasses. So we can be forgiven for trying to get in, only for the chap to tell us it’s his house, and not a pub! Oops.
Luckily the next pub is only over the bridge, it’s The Mare and Foal.
I’ll confess that the service in The Mare and Foal wasn’t as good as the other pubs we’d visited. It is a lovely pub and does serve some good beer, but we’d come to expect high standards during the day and for me the Mare and Foal didn’t meet those standards.
We did get to have a good few games of pool though.
By now it’s dark out and we’ve got to head back to Exeter for our final stop. The train rolls into the station and we all tumble aboard.
Our final stop is the Great Western Hotel just next to Exeter St. Davids station. We sink another pint and our day on the trail of ale draws to a close.
The verdict – highly recommended, an excellent way to pass an afternoon. I would actually say that it’s better to spend two or more days doing this, and take in more of the stops and pubs available to you. Limited to one afternoon we only managed five of the pubs and it would have been great to fit a few more in!