Nestled deep within a densely wooded valley at the confluence of two of Exmoor’s rivers you’ll find Watersmeet Tea Gardens – and what a discovery it is, too.
Surrounded by towering oak, beech and ash trees, tranquillity is the name of the game at this wonderful haven within a short distance of Lynmouth, the North Devon coastal town dubbed “Little Switzerland” by English poet Robert Southey.
Watersmeet House has been a stop-off for walkers and passers-by for over a century, so providing for thirsty and hungry visitors is second nature. I love tea gardens and cafés with history and this peaceful spot has that in abundance.
Built in the 1830s as a fishing lodge, the then owner – Reverend Walter Stevenson Halliday – was an admirer of the Romantic poets who frequented the region which explains why he had a Wordsworth poem about the Lake District inscribed above the door; and it’s still visible today.
Believe it or not, many locals regarded the lodge as an eyesore when it was first built and over the years it has had many uses, including being a labourer’s cottage. Thankfully, in the early 1930s, the National Trust bought the property from the Halliday family and so began its life as one of Exmoor’s most alluring tea gardens.
If, like us, you fancy walking to the tea garden from Lynmouth, it’s a very pleasant riverside stroll of just under two miles. If you prefer to park close to the tea garden, there is a car park close to the house; all you need to do is walk down the slope and cross a wooden bridge.
Despite living just along the coast from the tearooms and being a fairly regular visitor to Lynmouth, my family and I have never ventured to Watersmeet House. I can’t explain why, but I can certainly confirm that we’ll be making up for it with frequent trips in the future, so enjoyable was our recent visit a few Sundays ago.
Of course, Covid-19 meant certain alterations to the normal procedures but this didn’t diminish the overall enjoyment of the occasion. While the water rushed by on its way to the open sea, we tucked in to cake and a cream tea washed down with a welcome cuppa. The food was delicious and it was good to see dairy-free milk (soya and oat) available, too.
The staff were friendly and certainly provided service with a smile – something which, in our minds, is so important yet has occasionally been missing in other eateries and cafés we’ve frequented.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the time spent at Watersmeet Tea Garden and would recommend it to anyone.
Visited: August 2020