If your idea of a perfect pub is a barn-like beach shack with surf boards hanging off the ceilings, breezy terraces, TV screens and loud music, then look away now. Our personal favourites (listed here) tend to be old school: the salty veterans of fishing and mining, lots of knotty oak and on the dark side (we mean the lighting). On the ales front, we tend to go for ‘real’ rather than ‘craft’. Most of these are by the sea (or on the water) – and one of them is in Devon. Apologies in advance for the lack of pictures (coming soon) and the overuse of the words ‘low beams’, ‘log fires’ and ‘atmosphere.’
Blue Peter, Polperro
One of south Cornwall’s finest pubs, the Blue Peter Inn is a traditional fishermen’s inn right on the quay in Polperro. A great mix of low beams, real ale and old salts, ‘the Blue’ serves Polperro Pride, as well as variety of guest ales and live music. Grab a snug with views of the harbour and read the wit on the walls: ‘I wouldn’t have married Mr Right, if I’d known his first name was Always’.
Photo courtesy of the Blue Peter Inn: bluepeterinn.com
Cobweb Inn, Boscastle
With its brooding harbour and tales of smuggling, Boscastle is the place for atmospheric old pubs, our favourite being the Cobweb, a big stone building, tucked under a cliff, just opposite the village’s riverside carpark. Full of dusty antiques, dark beams, creepy spider-theme nicks nacks and a motley crew of drinkers, it’s not a place you’d go on a sunny day, but on a wet or wintry evening, the lights low, the fires aglow, it’s perfect. As well as Cornish ales, the Cobweb does reasonable food, and live music most Saturday nights (Covid permitting).
Blue Anchor, Helston
A big favourite with the CAMRA crowd, thanks to its own strong Spingo Ales (IPA, Middle, Bragget and Special) brewed in one of the oldest ale-house breweries in the country (you’ll find it at the bottom of Coininghall Street). The ‘Old Blue’, as it’s known, was a monastic rest home, before becoming a tavern in the 15thcentury. The quaint thatched pub is a genuine, atmospheric local, featuring an old-fashioned barrel alley with a bar either side, dark wood, history, a beer garden out the back, open fires in the winter, an 18thcentury skittle alley, and a behind-the-bar brewery which you can visit. More info here.
Tinners Arms, Zennor
Dating from 1271, DH Lawrence’s former local is all low beams, dark wood and tin-mining history (Geevor, Lelant and Botallack mines are all nearby). There is a warm fire in the winter and in the summer, you can sit out in the pleasant sea-view garden and enjoy a pint of Tinners or Sharp’s Special (the latter labled Zennor Mermaid). The pub is a good pit-stop (geddit) on the many walking routes that traverse this wildly beautiful stretch of Cornwall’s Penwith coast. Very good chips too. And we once had a row about which one of us was going to order the last steak pie special.
Blisland Inn, Bodmin Moor
There are some great little village pubs tucked away on the moors; one of the best being the Blisland Inn. The affable landlord Gary Marshall insists that his award-winning establishment (a former national CAMRA pub of the year), is a pub with food, not a restaurant with a bar – and asks that you eat outside or in a back room in the evening, so as not to get in the way of the beer drinkers. Regulars included King Buddha’s Blisland Special and Sharps Blisland Bulldog, and there always half a dozen guest ales. Also, good pub food, ale takeaways, a family room and walls decorated with thousands of beer mats.
Photo courtesy of the The Blisland Inn.
Rod and Line, Tideford
A few yards off the A38, this unpretentious village pub is popular with the Port Eliot lit fest set, often has a big log fire in a low-beamed bar and serves St Austell’s beers, wines by the glass and decent grub(blackboard specials might include Cornish crab, Looe shellfish, scallops and steaks). There’s a terrace with a few outdoor tables, a play area for kids across the road, and some quality live music (John Martyn has played there we hear).
Chain Locker, Falmouth
Some of the locals were not overjoyed when the owner, St Austell Brewery, started doing up this 17thcentury sailors’ inn (think oak beams, flagstones and dark nooks) but although they jazzed it up a bit (and gave the place a deep clean) they managed to hang onto much of its old-seadog character. Down in the quayside bar you get Skinner’s, Sharp’s and St Austell’s served inside or out; upstairs in a fresh, new loft-style restaurant you get seafood and chilled wine served withpale timbers, coloured glass, sunshine and views of the River Fal. The rooms are nice, too. Check it out here.
Chain Locker Bar: Photo courtesy of St Austell Brewery
Pandora Inn, Mylor Bridge
A 13th century thatched job set on the creek at Restonguet, the Pandora was named after HMS Pandora, the 18thcentury naval ship sent to Tahiti to capture the mutineers of Captain Bligh’s Bounty. Food is generally the main attraction here but it’s also big on atmosphere and Cornish ales (mainly St Austell’s – Proper Job, Tribute, Trelawney and Korev). Inside it’s log fires, timbers and nautical memorabilia – hard to believe that a fire gutted the first floor back in 2011 (the building was restored in line with its Grade II listing). A defining characteristic, is the long pontoon which juts into the water providing seating and moorings; best way to get here is by boat (you can take a water taxi from Falmouth).
The Royal Inn, Horsebridge
To be honest, this little beauty is in Devon but that’s a minor technicality. From the Cornish side of the Tamar, you just slip across the medieval packhorse bridge (built over this tranquil stretch of the river in 1437) and you’re there. Despite its name, the Royal is a no-frills sort of place: all stone, stained wood, granite, whitewash and brownish paint, it looks like it hasn’t been touched in years, and it has seen a lot of years (Charles I dropped in at some point during the Civil War). Enjoy history, daily specials (fresh fish, pheasant, curry), and riverside tables all washed down with Tintagel Gold, Otter Ales, St Austell Proper Job and regular guest ales.