Ground Up Cookery School

Foodie Heaven in Devon – a week in the world of food and drink

Are you a food lover? Devon has so much to offer you – from gin and wine to cheese and wild foraging. We have put together a food-and-drink-lover’s itinerary for a week based from Melrose Cottage.

Day 1 – Wild Food Foraging and Cookery at the Ground up Cookery School

We love Ground up Cookery School – a cookery school where the passion and enthusiasm of the owners ooze from its every pore! The school has a stylish, cosy teaching base located a short drive from Melrose Cottage, with great views across the Devon Countryside. There are a whole host of courses to choose from, but my favourite is the Wild Food Foraging and Cookery Course. You will be able to combine being outside in the beautiful Devon countryside, with your passion for food as the course involves going on a walking tour in the stunning Dartmoor National Park to identify seasonal species like fruit, nuts, leaves, roots and funghi. Having foraged your own ingredients, you return to the school’s kitchen to create delicious recipes incorporating your wild ingredients.

Guests enjoying the fruits of their labour at Ground Up Cookery School

Day 2 – Vineyard Tour

Did you know that in Devon we have more smaller vineyards (under 1 hectare) than any other area in the UK? The coastal climate and moors provide an excellent “terroir” (as the French would say) and increase our growing season. You will be spoiled for choice for wineries near Melrose Cottage.

Alder Vineyard is a family run operation based just outside Okehampton- Alder Farm has been in the family for generations – combining their love for English wine and the outdoors, co-founders Sarah and Mike Hodgetts, decided to take on the ultimate challenge of growing grapevines at the foot of Dartmoor. They planted their first vines over ten years ago, and have now grown to provide a delightful winery, kitchen and shop. You will not regret booking a tour of the vines followed by lunch!

Pebblebed Vineyards started in 1999 as a community project when a group of 11  families worked together to plant the first half acre of vines in a picturesque location. The vineyard produces some of the best English sparkling wine, as well as high quality white, rose and red. You can book a tour of the vineyard in the glorious Devon countryside, or if you would rather just do some drinking, visit the tasting cellar in the vaulted riverside warehouse to sample wine, local tapas and pizza – who could ask for more!?

Ten Acres is another local Devon wine gem, but with a unique twist! The owners and founders, Toby and Esther bring a rich history of having a Hungarian winemaking background to their vines grown on the edge of Dartmoor. A wartime airfield in Winkleigh is the site for Ten Acres Vineyard’s 2,500+ vines. Ten Acres also does all of its own pressing, fermenting and bottling in their own wine-making cellar.

Who doesn’t love seeing the wine tasting glasses lined up?!

Day 3 – Cheese Tour

If you are a cheese lover, like me, you will be excited to try this unique behind the scenes experience, which is like no other. Quicke’s is a local dairy and cheesemaker renowned for its world-class clothbound cheddar cheese. The Quicke family has owned Home Farm since the 16th Century, nurturing it for almost 500 years. The family business makes cheese by hand in the old fashioned way, slowly matured for a deep and complex flavour.  They have won British and international awards, and in addition to traditional cheddar also make many other dairy products like oak smoked cheddar, elderflower cheese, goat’s milk cheese,  double devonshire, a collection of whey butters and much more!

Book a cheese tour to find out more about the rich history of the Quicke family, watch the expert cheese makers craft cheese truckles by hand, learn more about the mould garden (!) and how clothbound cheddar is aged and graded. Then the part you have surely been waiting for, a tutored tasting where you will enjoy the complexity and diversity of the Quicke’s range. Following that, go on a guided tour of the farm and perhaps meet some cows, then head down to The Beer Engine for a two-course seasonal lunch show-casing Quicke’s cheese.

Day 4 – Gin Experience

Day 4 is all about another local artisan product – hand crafted Gotland Gin, based at a smallholding amongst the rolling hills of West Devon.

You can book a Gin Experience at Gotland Gin, which starts with an introduction to Gotland Gin in the cute outdoor bar. You will learn all about how Gotland Gin started and the story behind the gin, named after a breed of sheep originally from Gotland, off the coast of Sweden. After that, you will head into the Gotland Gin nano-distillery to see how the unique drink is produced. You then have the opportunity to meet the flock of Gotland sheep, which give the gin its name. Then to finish of the experience, relax in the bar whilst you sample some of the award winning gin and taste, smell and learn more about the botanicals that create the very smooth and refreshing spirit.


Day 5 – Cream Teas and date night at Berto’s

You might need a break from all that booze, so how about a relaxing day sampling the food Devon is best known for, cream teas, and a relaxing date night in a cute, authentic pizzeria in Moretonhampstead.

How about a lie in and a chilled morning reading a book on the delightful balcony at Melrose Cottage. Then a cream teas in the afternoon. We have a whole article on this site dedicated to local places to try a cream teas, but our favourite is a short walk from Melrose Cottage at Victorian Pantry Tearooms, Okehampton. Set in a picturesque cobbled courtyard in the centre of Okehampton, this petite, historic Victorian tearoom serves delicious traditional Devonshire cream teas. If you pick a sunny day, there is plentiful outdoor seating in the courtyard to savour your cream teas. The Museum of Dartmoor Life is just across the courtyard if you want to learn something on the way back!

We love Berto’s for a cosy date night, it truly is a little slice of Italy on Dartmoor – an authentic little Italian corner of Moretonhampstead.  You will not regret visiting this picturesque village nestled in Dartmoor National Park, a short drive from Melrose Cottage. Berto’s is a small restaurant with amazing pizza, a cozy atmosphere, friendly staff and you can BYO alcohol!

Day 6 – Explore a Devonshire Cidery

The South West is just as famous for its cider as it is for its cream tea! You can learn all about how cider is made from blossom to bottle and do some cider tasting too. Try out the family-run local destination The Cider Vat (15 minutes drive from Melrose Cottage), where you can experience a guided tour of the cidery with master cider maker Alison along with a detailed explanation of how cider is made. Or you could try a tour and tasting at Sandford Orchards (35 minutes drive from Melrose Cottage). Here you will take a behind the scenes look at the oldest working cider mill in the country and see how the award winning Sandford Orchards Cider is made. Round off the experience with cider tasting and pizza.

Day 7 – Okehampton Market, Edible Plants and the journey home

You are bound to be sad to leave your relaxing retreat at Melrose Cottage today, but before you go – why not head to Okehampton Market (which runs on Tuesday and Saturday mornings). We are particular fans of Okeside Cottage Cakes – a supplier to Melrose Cottage, who specialise in vegan, gluten free and dairy free baking. Why not pre-order an afternoon tea hamper for a picnic on the journey home? Another market favourite of ours is Dartmoor Beef and Lamb – suppliers of naturally slow grown beef and lamb, grazed on Dartmoor.

Once you’re packed and ready to go, why not drive back home via the Edible Garden Nursery, one of the leading culinary herb and edible plant nurseries in the UK.

We hope you will be back to visit Melrose Cottage again soon!