Ditch the bucket and spade and leave the choc ices to the kids, there’s nothing like a good old pub overlooking the sea where the ale flows and the conversation goes. The scent of the sea, the crash of the waves, and a pint in your hand, truly this is the very essence of the British summer scene. Here are 10 favourites but I’m sure you’ll have your very own.
Gordon Brown famously came to Southwold for his summer hols a couple of years ago, but what’s the betting he didn’t set foot within this homely and bustling popular local. Owner by local brewing heroes Adnams it’s the best place to drink their beers with the North Sea grey and moody just across the road. In the winter the sign swings with the wind and a pint of Adnams’ barley wine Tally Ho is a necessary winter warmer. In the summer, have a couple of pints of Regetta and wander onto the beach and wonder at the price of the beach huts. This is the sort of pub that encourages you to move to Southwold — if you can afford it…
The Anchor, Walberswick, Suffolk
Walberswick is everyone’s idea of a classic country village and the Anchor also offers its own distinctive style. A prime example of the 1920s Tudorbethan style, its two-roomed bar is bright and comfortable, while a sea-facing terrace offers up space for al fresco eating and drinking. At the bar, plump for Adnams’ real ales superbly cellared by the legendary Mark Dorber (latterly of the White Horse, Parson’s Green) plus a goodly selection of bottled beers from the great brewing nations of the world. The food is pretty inspiring as well. Afterwards, take a strenuous walk along the nearby shore, watchful of the North Sea as it stretches out to the horizon.
Back in the days when British pub opening hours had a hint of the Marquis de Sade about them (two hours for Sunday lunchtime, come on you’re havin’ a laugh…), the hostelries of the Isle of Man (along with rural town pubs on market day) had a much more liberal regime — which is why as a callow 10-year-old I remember the packet steamer returning from Douglas to Llandudno full of drunkards. Now we are all drunkards, but that’s by the by. If you find yourself travelling around Man (lovely countryside and lots of Scousers), then try and drop in on this comfy harbour side pub with dark wood fittings, traditional pub carpet, and nicotine coloured ceiling plus the feel of an old-fashioned station buffet, which it used to be. Situated opposite the House of Mannan Museum, it is an ideal place to spend time in the company of Okells’ tangy, spicy, bittersweet Bitter.
"There’s nothing like a good old pub overlooking the sea where the ales flows and the conversation goes."
The Ship Inn, Low Newton by the Sea, Northumberland
Sandcastles at Dawn anyone? That’s a glass of beer brewed on the premises rather than some arcane challenge by the way (well you never know in this part of northern England, after all they’ve got Cumbrian wrestling in the county next door). The Ship Inn is a popular brewpub in a small former fishing village, a picture perfect National Trust-owned place complete with village green. And if you don’t want the aforementioned Sandcastles, then Dolly Day Dream should surely suffice amidst the comfortably minimalist interior or outside overlooking the green and the sea beyond. And if you’re the rambling sort then time your perambulation with a stop here, you’ll not want to leave.
The Old Inn, Gairloch, Wester Ross
This is a cosy and comfortable former coaching inn in the West Highland harbour town of Gairloch. It offers a wonderful selection of single malt whiskies as well as local cask beers, including locally brewed ones from the likes of the Dundonnell brewery and the leviathan-like strong ale Cullin Beast. And when the season is right you can indulge in a spot of whale watching with regular sailings leaving the harbour. Leave your harpoon at home though.
The Coastguard, St Margarets Bay, Dover
It’s said that the Coastguard is so close to France that mobile phone networks decamp across the Channel as soon as you rock up. Well it does have its back to the White Cliffs of Dover and faces the English Channel as it crashes on the shingle yards away. On a gorgeous day view cross-Channel ferries from the outside terrace, but once winter kicks in retreat to the compact bar and contemplate the ales. Four real ales and a handsome selection of foreign bottled beers are available so there’s no excuse for indulging in a spot of alcoholic refreshment.
The Driftwood Spars, Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes, Cornwall
Queen supposedly played here before they were famous, while Rod Stewart’s Maggie May was supposed to be written about a local girl. Music continues to have a say in the life of this lively pub that was originally built in the 17th century. However, given that is a couple of minutes from Trevaunance Cove where surfers gather and catch waves, this is also the place to grab a home-brewed glass of something cool after you’re spent the day playing board games.
Gloriously evocative quayside inn apparently named after the HMS Pandora, the ship sent out to bring back the Bounty’s mutinous crew from Tahiti. Mind you, it sounds as if Captain Pugwash was at the helm as he supposedly lost the ship. When the navy had finished doing whatever they used to do with miscreants in those days (rum, bum and baccy anyone?), he retired to Restronguet Creek and renamed the local inn after his own hapless vessel. Or did he? Like a lot of things in Cornwall it could be one gigantic fib. Still, it’s a good story and the Pandora’s stunning position in a lonely quayside overlooking a creek that flows into the Carrick Roads north of Falmouth encourages forgiveness of all sins. This low-slung assemblage of old cob walls with a thatch on top is just the place to get stuck into St Austell’s Proper Job and make sure that the missus is driving.
"Back in the day, British pub opening hours had a hint of the Marquis de Sade about them - two hours for Sunday lunchtime, you’re havin’ a laugh."
The Hunters Inn, Heddon Valley, North Devon
I’m cheating here because the coast is about a mile away, but this is such a character of a pub that it would be a shame to miss it out over a brief technicality. Besides a river runs right past it on the way to the sea — so there. The Hunters has a certain ramshackle charm — it was originally a cottage and it has been built and built on until it’s developed into a gloriously curious hotel and bar where all manner of things happen: beer festivals, photography competitions and even the appearance of a ukulele orchestra, while some of the clientele would have the young Kingsley Amis (c. Lucky Jim) sneering about the ‘arts and craft crowd’. But who cares — this eclectic gem is just the place to enjoy an ale or two before taking yourself down to the sea.
Pentre Arms Hotel, Llangrannog, Ceredigion, West Wales
The first time I went to Llangrannog I was 10 so was not really the best person to judge the quality of the pub life. I had left the shorts behind when I next went (and reckon I saw a big cat on the southern headland) and this time the Pentre Arms was waiting. Right down on the seafront, the Pentre is a traditional stone-built place which offers a haven from the stormy seas out in the bay — surfing is big in this part of the world as well so you might want to buff up and pretend you’re on Bondi Beach.
The Bankes Arms, Studland Bay, Isle of Purbeck, Dorset
Grab yourself a glass and step right out in front of this ancient Purbeck Stone inn and you’ll be face to face with views of Studland Bay and in the distance the Isle of Wight. Beer is brewed here too, from the Isle of Purbeck Brewery, with a grand total of nine cask beers on offer. It’s at the start of the Jurassic Coast as well, so those with a yen for yomping through this glorious part of the world might like to make the Bankes their base.
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