It’s one heck of a tough bill (or should I say bull?) to live up to isn’t it?
After all, the words organic, radical and ethical are not served or consumed lightly these days.
With more and more of us keen to ask questions about where our travel products, food and services come from, as well as the conditions they’re produced under, such a bold claim of a tagline really does invite quite a lot of scrutiny!
But I’m delighted to say that the Bull Inn in Totnes is not only aware of this, but seems invite it too, so confident is it in its credentials.
Charging ahead when it comes to green getaways, the Bull Inn truly does seem to live up to its defiant and dignified tagline.
Tucked away in a delightful corner of Devon, this sensational pub come restaurant come guesthouse really does place environmental and social concerns at its heart and, from the wine to the bed linen, it’s a business that sources, styles, sautés, staffs and serves in the most sustainable way possible.
Feel-good, guilt-free travel doesn’t get any better!
So read on to learn how my chilly autumn adventure down to the Bull Inn in Devon warmed up my head, heart and hunger in equal measure…
My trip to the Bull Inn was gifted but, as always, all views are my own.
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Fitting the Totnes Tradition
For those who aren’t in the know already, then a quick heads up – Totnes in Devon is synonymous with radicalism… in a good way!
A liberal, progressive and alternative enclave, in an otherwise largely rural and right-wing part of the country, Totnes shines out as a destination of difference.
The first Transition Town in the UK in 2006, Totnes heralded what is now a global grassroots network of communities, driven by the desire to increase self-sufficiency and reduce the damaging effects of climate crises and economic instability, particularly around the issues of food production and energy usage.
As such, Totnes is a mecca for left of centres, creatives, counter-culturists, environmentalists, artists, activists and alternatives… in otherwise all the good ones!
As a spot where countryside rubs up against curious culture, it’s the sort of place that many (myself included) fantasise might finally draw them away from liberal London, as a vision of a more pastoral middle-age beckons!
Anyway you get the idea, Totnes is right up my street.
And within this milieu of eco-orientation sits the wonderful Bull Inn.
It fact, the Bull Inn doesn’t just sit within it, but somehow teeters at the top of it located, as it is, right at the head of the quaintly cobble-curved Narrows.
A Totnes street that boasts an impressive 50 independent shops (from cute cafés and clothes shops to zero waste collectives) right at the end of it, set at the edge of historic Rotherfold Square, is the Bull Inn.
Historic Boozer Come Good
A historic boozer come good, the Bull Inn has stood on this site since at least 1898 and is now a Grade II listed building.
Falling into disrepair, it was taken over by a passionate and seasoned organic pub owner Geetie Singh-Watson in 2018, and set about transforming itself into an organic pub governed by a Trade of Principles, which extend from simple ideas like fair play and veg first, through to more complex concerns like rigorously questioning supply chains and trading only with like-minded providers.
It might sound like pie-in-the-sky thinking, but these guys actually weigh in on it.
For a start, they’re not trying to hide these principles away and you can find lists of their governing terms on both their website and across the pub, etched on to elevated blackboards.
The menus too are on huge blackboards and, rather than being printed and thrown away, are chalked out daily by diligent staff who must build up some serious arm muscles lumbering them around the restaurant to each table as they do!
But to be honest, it makes for a wonderful, warm experience.
Not only does a handwritten blackboard menu add a touch of the personal, but the physicality of it really does remind us of the process that lies behind every product, a process that exists whether we see it or not, a process with an environmental cost.
In the Bull Inn, we’re very much invited in to see this process, to witness it – the level of transparency draws us in, makes an impact.
And there is a lot of impact to make, because from the delicious organic veg food served in the restaurant downstairs (which was, rather predictably, some of the most delicious food I’ve eaten in a long time!), through to the organic loose teas in the rooms upstairs and the sustainably-sourced bed linen from the independent provider down the street, it’s hard to pick apart the feeling The Bull Inn team just might have thought of it all.
Or at least, they’ve thought about it all.
In a world so often full either of averted gazes, greenwashing or self-righteous moralising, the Bull Inn’s down to earth and understated approach to just casually having thought about it all, really is rather refreshing!
Special but no Snooty
When I spoke to Phillipa, managing director of the Bull Inn who had kindly invited me to stay, it was clear the aims for the place had, from the start, always been about bringing a sense of specialness without the snootiness, a feeling of decadence without any unnecessary sense of decorum.
And I think it’s an aim the Bull Inn have very much achieved.
My beautiful double room, which overlooked historic Totnes. was filled with quirky touches and simultaneously emanated both a cosy farmhouse and luxury country home feel.
From the antique desk and chest, to the heritage fireplace, rich curtain fabrics and gold tapped bath – my room boasted the sort of exquisite comfort you just want to sink into… especially on a chilly autumnal country getaway!
Hearty breakfasts downstairs, full of laughing locals and sturdy sourdough, where followed by brisk bracing walks across south Devon, before I’d slide back in the late afternoon, just as the light was falling, to enjoy a warm bath and a organic peppermint tea.
Freshened, warmed and hydrated, I’d then head downstairs to be greeted by steaming plates of seasonal vegetarian dinner delights, full on flavour and washed down with an organic wine or locally produced unfiltered beer.
It was the sort of short getaway, I wanted to go on forever.
Not because it felt unreal, but rather because it felt so genuine, so authentic.
Staying at the Bull Inn was sort of trip that seemed so easy, enjoyable and ethical, not to mention, economical, that it really left me wondering exactly other travel businesses in the UK aren’t jumping on the ethical bandwagon more too?
After all, if the Bull Inn can fill a whole restaurant and hotel on a Tuesday night in October when most of the UK’s other establishments are struggling to fill a few seats, they must be doing something right!
Book you stay at the fantastic Bull Inn in Totnes here.
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Top Travel Tips for Devon
When to Visit?
I love visiting Devon during the spring and autumn months – they give ideal hiking conditions, as well as cosy fireside and red wine combinations, away from the summer crowds!
How to Travel There?
Use Trainline to find the best train prices from across the UK to Totnes.
Totnes has its own station, which is just a 10 minute walk from the Bull Inn.
How Long to Spend There?
3 days in Totnes makes the perfect getaway.
If you want to explore Devon more broadly, then consider a week for walking, beaches and more.
How to Get Around Devon?
While you can use the train and local buses, it really makes sense to have a car to give you more freedom and ability to explore in Devon.
For UK car hire, I always recommend Discover Cars.
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Looking for the perfect autumn getaway from London, Bristol, Oxford or beyond?
Then follow your head and your heart, and hotfoot it to the Bull Inn in Totnes!
It’s guilt-free, green-friendly travel at its best!