I needed a nice relaxing two week vacation after working hard (or in my case, working hard at hardly working). So a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to England with a few friends. We stayed at The Moors House in South Zeal, Devon, in a 5 Bedroom, 5 Bath Thatched Cottage. South Zeal is a tiny village adjacent to Dartmoor National Park, with spectacular views of the countryside
I drove six hours from Heathrow to South Zeal and by the time I got to the Cottage, it was time to drop off the luggage & find a nice pub. Fortunately for us an Inn was within a 15 minute walking distance from the Cottage. We walked down there and were rewarded with an unexpected find – the Oxenham Arms Inn. The Oxenham is a former 12th Century Medieval Monastery and Manor house, built around the Menhir. The Menhir or Standing Stone, which has been dated to be about 5,000 years old, older than Stonehenge, is believed to have had some sort of religious significance, it was approximately 21 feet in height and was made of solid granite, which was quite a feat back in those days.
The Oxenham Arms (or the “Ox” as it is called) is the oldest Heritage Inn in Devon and Cornwall. The owners, Simon and Lyn Powell, were tired of the hectic hustle and bustle of London and wanted a simpler life, so they purchased the Inn in 2012 and totally renovated it, opening it up in June of that year. They had four local beers on tap, which I tried, but more importantly they had over 40 bottles of whiskey (as I said an unexpected find). I like a nice local beer, a fine wine & whiskey (single malt & peaty), so I was pleasantly surprised that this Inn had it all. I started off with a sampler of the four local beers (I skipped the Guiness, Stella Artois; etc): Best Bitter from Ringwood Brewery; Pedigree from Marston Brewery; Fiddlers Elbow from Wychwood Brewer and Old Wallop, also from Ringwood Brewery. These beers were from Devon and Cornwall and definitely satiated my appetite.
From there it was time to try the whiskey. John Davis “John of the Ox” is the Whiskey Maven of the Oxenham Arms and it was he and his capable staff that helped guide me in my selections. At the end of each day, I would wend my way down to the “Ox” & have one of the many whiskies: Penderyn – a Welsh Whiskey; Poit Dhubh or Black Pot; Jura; Strathisla – a 12 yr malt; Clynelish – a 14 yr smoky whiskey, to name a few. John’s list was definitely my “Standing Stone” and held an almost religious significance to me. Oh, and the most important member of the “Ox” team is Merlin the pub cat, who oversees everything.
The last night in South Zeal, we decided to have dinner at the Ox, I had Chagford Lamb, a local Devon specialty and I wasn’t disappointed. Yes, it was indeed an unexpected find and well worth the six hour drive.