Regional report

Why own a pub in Devon?

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

A match made in Devon: tourism is a key component to business in Devon
A match made in Devon: tourism is a key component to business in Devon
Although reliant on tourism, if pub bosses are astute, there’s plenty of business available to make a rich living in Devon

Devon in numbers

  • Devon is divided into 10 areas: East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, West Devon, Plymouth and Torbay
  • There were 280,667 people in full-time employment and 127,805 in part-time employment (ONS stats 2011)
  • There were 98,415 people self-employed with the highest number – 13,116 – being in Plymouth, followed by 13,048 in East Devon and 11,825 in Teignbridge (ONS stats 2011)
  • It has 1,183 pubs and employs 15,326 people (Source: British Beer & Pub Association)
  • Alcohol licensing statistics for the number of premises selling alcohol in the region in 2018 reached 4,607

Devon – it’s the county of clotted cream, fudge, tearooms and scrumpy cider. According to figures from the British Beer & Pub Association it also boasts 1,183 pubs that employ more than 15,000 people.

It is a county with two beautiful coastlines, two national parks and ­ five official areas of outstanding natural beauty as well as the historic cities of Exeter and Plymouth. It also boasts beaches, areas for walkers, pubs with rooms for staycations and is a popular UK holiday destination.

Devon (1)

On the market in Devon

Exmoor Manor Hotel & Beggars Roost Inn, Barbrook, Lynton, north Devon

Exmoor Manor

Price:​ £795,000

Tenure:​ Freehold

Turnover:​ £336,000 (inc VAT)

Wet:dry:accom split:​ 50:25:25

Agent:​ Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

The country inn and hotel is in the coastal village of Barbrook and on the edge of Exmoor National Park. It offers a lounge bar/dining area (circa 40 covers), dining room (20c), function room (80c), breakfast room (25c) and seven en-suite letting bedrooms.


The Bell Inn, Monkleigh, near Bideford

Bell Inn

Price:​ £340,000

Tenure:​ Freehold

Turnover:​ £167,713

Agent:​ Stonesmith 01392 201262

This well-presented thatched village freehouse occupies a prominent landmark trading position in a popular north Devon village. The pub has a bar and dining area, trade gardens with views of the far-reaching panoramic countryside and four-bedroom, family-sized owner’s accommodation.


Old Church House & Hotel Near Newton Abbot

Plough Inn

Price:​ £795,000

Tenure:​ Freehold

Turnover:​ £369,607

Agent:​ Bettesworths 01803 212021

This historic 13th century coaching inn and hotel is set in the picturesque district of south Devon with the benefit of 11 letting en-suite rooms. The venue has a restaurant, residents’ lounge, snug, main bar, brewhouse and bakery, fully equipped commercial kitchen, as well as a trade garden and car park.

Summer loving

The area sees a boom in visitors during the summer months. According to the Visit Devon Business Plan 2017-2018 tourism is the ​largest revenue generator for the county, with 90% of visitors being domestic while more than 465,000 trips were made by international visitors alone in 2015.

This resulted in a total expenditure of almost £164m, with an average spend per visit of £352. The report also said that about 25% of the workforce in the county relies on tourism in some way.

To cater for residents and those visiting the area, the pub trade has a variety of operations from pubs with rooms, to food driven venues to community locals – with many being seasonal businesses.

St Austell Brewery has 33 sites in Devon with seven of these properties being managed houses and the remainder being tenanted operations.

The pubs are situated in a wide variety of locations, including drive-to destinations, community and high street. St Austell says it has plans to expand in the region with a clear acquisition strategy based on geography, competitors and demographics.

St Austell Brewery retail director Steve Worrall says: “Countryside inns, such as the Masons Arms in Branscombe, are popular destinations for staycations. Our pubs in cities and town centres, such as the Samuel Jones in Exeter or the Ship Inn on Plymouth Barbican, have great custom throughout the year thanks to high footfall in conjunction with our market-leading offer.”

He admits the pub trade can be seasonal, particularly during holiday periods, but can also bene­fit from good weather.

“As a business, we look to combat this by building on the diversity of our pub portfolio, to have a collection that thrives year-round and attracts locals and visitors alike,” he says.

“This includes having managed houses with accommodation based in iconic coastal locations, such as the Hope & Anchor in Kingsbridge, and tenanted pubs throughout Devon’s villages, towns and cities.”

Worrall says the growth in staycations and in-bound tourism has also helped broaden its appeal.

“We have found accommodation in our pubs is popular all year round. Rural and coastal breaks in the West Country are particularly on trend – whether tourists or local, guests are looking for the relaxed informality of pubs, that deliver great authentic experiences.”


Bettesworths managing director Matt Bettesworth agrees that much of the trading can be seasonal, particularly on the coast.

But, with the seasonality, many operators “cut their cloth” and reduce opening times when it is off -peak.

“When Easter comes round, they ramp up and it’s a case of opening as much as possible and making the most of the warmer seasons,” he says.

The region is mainly populated by independent operators including chefs who choose to relocate.

And the numbers of visitors coming to the south-west is rising, he says, making it a good option for pub buyers.

“We are still attracting people that want to relocate to this part of the world,” he says. “Finance is still difficult to secure for freeholds and we are selling more leaseholds because they are more affordable.”

He says there are a number of hot spots for sites such as the coastal towns of Salcombe and Dartmouth that are inundated with buyers.

“­The majority of pubs are food-led but there are still pubs doing speciality craft ales and a range of gin and tonics that still work as well,” he says.

Devon (2)

Staycations likely to increase

However, while the country is in the throes of Brexit, he believes this could have a positive impact on the area.

“In the long run, Brexit could actually help tourism and vacations and that is good for Devon because it means more visitors to the area,” he says.

“You can argue that, with Brexit, more people are staying at home. It is potentially a good summer ahead if the weather is good.”

Stonesmith director Mike Phillips argues that despite the continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the pub market in Devon remains positive.

He says there is an appetite from lenders to invest in the licensed sector.

“Value for money ‘lifestyle’ opportunities are available for those looking to relocate to the region, and there is definitely an appetite from buyers for successful independent freehouses and inns, particularly in village and rural locations,” he says.

“Consequently, we are con‑ dent that the pub market in Devon will remain robust and desirable for many years to come.”

Done deals

The Black Horse, Chorleywood, Hertfordshire


Price:​ £150,000

Tenure:​ Leasehold

Turnover:​ £575,000-plus (inc VAT)

Wet:dry split:​ 70:30

Rent:​ £49,000

Landlord:​ Charles Wells

Agent:​ Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

This 19th century pub is situated in the a­ffluent and highly sought-after prime location of Chorleywood. The property features a traditional public bar, snug, restaurant and paved beer garden. The agent claims it had an “incredible abundance” of serious interest from prospective purchasers.


The Plough Inn, Marsham, Norfolk

Plough Inn (1)

Guide Price:​ £675,000

Tenure:​ Freehold

Turnover:​ £410,000

Wet:dry:accom split:​ 50:20:30

Agent:​ Davey Co 0333 200 8788

Occupying a prominent site between Norwich and Cromer, this inn is well presented with trading areas including a lounge bar, 70-cover restaurant and privately enclosed outside trading area with extensive car parking. There are an additional 11 en-suite letting bedrooms. It has a net profit of around £115,000 per annum. The business had been in the same hands for the past 11 years.

To find out more about pubs for sale, lease and tenancy visit our property site​.

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