Is there any more authentic setting for a meal or just a relaxing pint than a traditional inn? Forget the giant TV screens, banging music and pretentious décor: our old school pubs are different breed. These places rarely shout from the rooftops, but perhaps that’s because the locals already know all about their great heritage, home-cooked food and fantastic ales. And with most of our fantastic self-catering lets within an easy walk from a welcoming pub, you can be forgiven for enjoying an extra glass of something.
So where are the best Devon and Dorset pubs to be found? Little beats word of mouth when you’re visiting, so never be afraid to ask the locals. However, to get you off on the right foot and show you some genuine highlights, here are a handful of traditional Jurassic Coast pubs that come highly recommended, both in terms of ambiance and great food and drink:
The Harbour Inn (Axmouth EX12 4AF): You simply couldn’t find a venue that fits the billing of “classic old world pub” better than this superb setting. With thatched roof, wooden floors and a real fire, this grade 2 listed building dates back to the 12th Century, making it one of the oldest pubs in Devon. The Harbour Inn is a mixture of pub classics and modern dishes should satisfy all tastes, as will a selection of cracking ales. A must visit, even if it’s just to enjoy a great pint and soak in the atmosphere.
The Fountain Head (Branscombe):Sitting at the far western end of England’s longest village, this 14th Century boozer is a pretty and nostalgic, but also packs a real punch with its excellent menu, which includes terrific locally-sourced food from seafood specials to cracking lamb. The local Brannoc ale is pretty good too and tastes even better if you’re stopping off after a hearty walk. Sitting outside The Fountain Head and looking out over ancient oak trees and craggy Devon countryside you really couldn’t be anywhere else in the world.
The Volunteer Inn (Lyme Regis): Another gem, this Dorset pub is well known for an excellent and ever evolving range of real ales. That said, it also has a solid wine list and an affordable food menu that makes the best use of fresh and seasonal sources from the area. How about a succulent local steak, delicious mussels or freshly caught mackerel, washed down with a perfectly poured drop of something you fancy?
The Blue Ball (Sidford): Located in a cute village setting just a couple of miles from Sidmouth, this traditional Devon Inn is pretty as a picture. But it isn’t just the thatched roof, hanging baskets and old world feel that draws the locals: quality home cooked food, a great wine list and a bumper assortment of top notch local and guest ales, cask conditioned and sure to hit the spot.
Wherever you decide to stop by for taste of the region, we’re sure you’ll love the ambience, not to mention the ale! Traditional and craft beers in Devon and Dorset are booming at present. Which one will be your favourite this summer? Nothing beats a local tip off, so here are our Top 5 Westcountry Ales:
1. JAIL ALE (Dartmoor Brewery): Full flavoured, bitter yet well-balanced, this is a criminally tasty Devon ale. Find a pub where it’s well kept and you’d struggle to find a tastier pint in the westcountry. Cold lager drinkers beware: whether on tap or bottled, this is also a beer that many real ale aficionados would seriously recommend drinking at room temperature to really bring out the flavour.
2. HARBOUR LIGHT ALE (Harbour Brewery): Hoppy, fruity and downright delicious, this is a fabulously light and tasty brew. The hint of citrus and bitter hop finish is rather reminiscent of current IPAs, but this one will appeal to a much wider audience than the craft beer hardcore. At 3.7% it is also a perfect summer session ale.
3. CREATION PALE ALE (Penpont Brewery): Another customer that is high in taste and extremely refreshing in spite of a heavy hoppage. Fruity, clean and with a well balanced bitterness, it’s little surprise that the current breed of IPAs are giving flowery, flat beers a battering. Absolutely superb.
4. FURSTY FERRET (Badger Brewery): This Dorset beer company make several cracking ales. This cheeky drop is an excellent example of what the brewery do best- the malty, bitter sweetness of the best traditional ale, with a fresh twist. In this case, it’s the hint of orange that gives it a delicious, subtle edge.
5. FERRYMAN (Exeter Brewery): For those who like a traditional bitter, this is a delightful taste of Devon and one of the best local examples using classic methods and local ingredients. Well balanced with local hops and perfect balance. Another ale that shouldn’t be served too cold.
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