Life is busy; hence I haven’t had much time to blog for months and months but at last we’ve taken a well-earned break down the A303 to Cornwall.
We stay in the beautiful village of Boscastle. You may be familiar with this gorgeous bolthole . To some the name may ring a bell as sadly in August 2004, the village was devastated by a flood which destroyed properties wiping out resident’s homes and businesses.
We were in Boscastle when it flooded and watched with horror the destruction mother nature can unleash. In Cornwall it is easy to see how powerless we are in the face of the elements.
The Cornish however are resilient and Boscastle and nearby Crackington Haven which also flooded recovered in time and are now every bit as beautiful as before the flood.
So, what is there for Beer and Cider lovers in the vicinity?? Well plenty!
Boscastle has three excellent pubs all serving a good selection of Cornish beers. It’s worth familiarising yourself with the various event schedules of each to really make the most of this paradise which is where we are going to start.
Boscastle starts at the top of a hill and tumbles all the way down the beautiful Valency Valley into the harbour, iconic with its two breakwaters and headland. At the top of the hill, near Paradise Road -never was a name quite so apt, in the High Street is The Napoleon Inn.
A 16th Century inn with walls at least 12 inches thick it’s worth noting the Napoleon or Nap as we know it, has two bars. Entering by the side entrance the Officers Lounge is the first door on your left and straight ahead is the smaller Funs Bar which has seating and Sky TV – useful if you want to catch up with the football. Generally speaking, the locals use the Funs Bar and tourists the Officers Lounge where a huge open fire welcomes you and beers from Cornish St Austell brewery are served straight from the barrel.
On our first visit I had the Trelawney Ale, mild carbonation,toffee notes and a woody finish.
You can also get wonderful food at the Nap, as a result it can be busy so it may be a good idea to reserve a table. On our second visit I went for the Crab and Prawn Linguine with Garlic bread. I’d had this a few months previously and really enjoyed it. On that occasion I also had a starter of Mackerel caught some seventy or so miles away in Newlyn which was sublime.
With the Linguine I had a pint of the beautifully fresh St Austell Tribute Pale Ale. Perfectly served; floral and lip-smackinglyrefreshing ! The Tribute paired well with the pasta and seafood.
Live music is on every Friday night and local singers The Boscastle Buoys meet here every Tuesday.
The Nap is a cosy pub, which oozes history from every corner. If you are staying down in the harbour, it’s a bit of a trek up thesteep hill – maybe 10 minutes through pretty streets past cosy cottages. It is worth every step however as the Nap is a great place to kick back in front of the fire with a good pint and a wonderful meal.
Heading down the hill, just as you enter the harbour is the Wellington Hotel.
A 17th Century Coaching inn , The Wellington – or Welly as it’s known locally has a spacious pub serving Skinners beers as well as comfortable accommodation and a separate restaurant if you fancy a bit of fine dining.
We have stayed here a few times and chose it as the rooms are lovely. The Welly is reputed to be haunted although luckily, I’ve seen no evidence of this. There are two luxurious rooms in the turret, and the Welly is dog friendly. They serve a breakfast that is a welcome sight if a few beers have been enjoyed the night before and will set you up for the day. Full Cornish , Veggie Fry Up, Hot Smoked Salmon with Scrambled eggs or Kippers are some of the choices.
In the bar, there is a great food menu with daily specials and classics such as Fish and Chips and Sausages and Mash which I would highly recommend being a generous helping of three delicious sausages and lashings of gravy. You can also opt for dishes from the restaurant’s menu.
The Cornish beers on offer were St Austell Tribute, Sharp’s Sea Fury Special Ale and one of my favourites Skinner’s Lushingtons, a refreshing Pale Ale. On keg were Harbour Brewery’s Pilsner and Sharp’s Atlantic Pale Ale.
The Welly was badly hit by the flood in 2004. As the flood took hold of the village, I went into the Welly to use the loo. As I was talking to the barman the then landlord told us in no uncertain terms to evacuate the bar as the building was unsafe. Subsequently the interior of the building was severely damaged. When rebuilt, what had been the floor above the bar was reconfigured as a mezzanine area now called The Minstrels bar. There is a plaque hanging here showing the point where the water reached.
The Welly has a clean and cosy feel to it. The bar food is excellent and the whole operation is extremely professionally run. There are weekly folk nights each Wednesday when anyone is welcome to join in so feel free to rock up with your Ukulele , Bodhran, Didgeridoo or vocal cords.
Around the corner from the Welly, opposite the visitor’s car park is the Cobweb Inn.
Stepping through the door onto the slate flagstones of the Cobweb feels like coming home. It’s the stuff of dreams – well mine at least. Whether it’s when I am sitting at my desk in London, struggling to get served in a generic pub in the metropolis, or trundling on the cross trainer at the gym, I often find myself wishing I was in the Cobweb.
The building which was formerly a warehouse is as unpretentious as they come. Hundreds of old beer bottles hang from the ceiling. Other decorations include amusing brass signs, old photos of the staff and various pub sports teams and a bar price list from 1971 which makes for interesting reading – 10p for a pint of bitter!
This pub doesn’t have to try hard. The staff are fantastic, and the beers are perfectly served with a good range available. On offer were Skinners Lushingtons, local Tintagel Brewery’s Cornwall’s Pride, a malty session and their Harbour Special at 4.8 abv a richer ale with toffee notes. Also, on was St Austell’s Tribute.
For a cracking night out come on a Saturday when there is normally a live band and lots of enthusiastic dancing.
Adrian the landlord welcomes us like old friends no matter how occasionally we manage to visit. The Cobweb is a real family pub with a separate family room, games and outside seating with heaters.
Good generously portioned bar meals are available including vegan options and a Sunday Carvery. There is also a great restaurant upstairs. We saw the New Year in here, having an excellent meal before heading down to the bar where the live music was still going.
A visit to Boscastle would not be complete without a visit to the Cobweb, in fact I would say a visit to North Cornwall would be incomplete without visiting at least the Cobweb but even better spending time in Boscastle and enjoying all three pubs.
Now we feel so at home in Boscastle that it’s easy for us to forget that Cornwall extends beyond it but extend it does and here are a few recommendations beyond Boscastle.
One of the joys of visiting Cornwall is discovering new places such as a lovely beach or a good pub. One day driving to our favourite beach at Crackington Haven we saw a sign saying simply ‘Cider’. Partial to the odd drop we followed the sign alonga country lane where we found the Crackington Cider Company.
The Crackington Cider Company is a wonderful set up. Run by a couple who started the whole operation from scratch. From planting the apple orchard amid the beautiful Cornish countryside to building the cidery.
There currently are four ciders in the range all of which are still.
Available in bottles are a fresh tasting, easy drinking Dry which would be fantastic with pulled pork. A Medium which is moreish and would complement a strong Farmhouse Cheddar Style Cheese, and a sweet that works well as an alternative to sweet wine. Finally, there is the Farmhouse Cider, midway between the dry and the medium and available in flagons.
There are plans to release a table cider, a cider aged in whiskey casks and a mulled cider later in the year.
The Crackington Cider Company are living the dream producing a fantastic cider in an idyllic setting. Clearly love and care have gone into this. The branding is fabulous, and the cider shop a welcoming place to visit and try the ciders.
We were really pleased to discover the Cobweb had just started selling the Crackington Cider and fear we may have diminishedtheir supplies somewhat.
Away from the beach, a drive out towards the moors and a visit to the Rising Sun at Altarnun is a good way to spend a couple of hours.
We have been popping into the Rising Sun for several years. It has smartened up a little since we first started coming but thankfully has maintained it’s character.
The warren of rooms are all very clean and it is still a super cosy retreat from the windswept moors.
The service is very friendly and there is another wonderful and extensive menu including Cornish Mussels, ‘Penpont Brewery Reared’ Bangers and Mash with sage and onion gravy, and Cornish Crab Sandwiches or Salads .
I had Smoked Haddock,Clam and Potato Chowder which warmed me up perfectly after scuttling in from the car park in typically Cornish horizontal rain.
I followed the chowder with a half of local brewery Penpont’s St. Nonna’s. The Bartender told me this is brewed just a mile up the road from the pub and she gave me a sample to try – always good!
St Nonna’s is 3.7% amber beer, easy to drink with light malt notes. Aside from this there were three other beers on; Tintagel Brewery’s Harbour Special, Skinners Lushingtons and from Welsh Brewery Boss Brewing Company, Blaze, an English PaleAle. On tap also was the Crackington Cider Company’s Medium cider.
It’s worth mentioning the Rising Sun has a camp site, so if canvas is your thing and you are a member of the Camping and Caravan Club here would be a great place to hitch up your tent.
Now head in another direction along the breath-taking Widemouth Bay to Bude.
Despite not being exactly the quintessential picturesque Cornish fishing village, Bude has charm. Amazing surfing beaches, some great independent shops and North Cornwall’s first Micro Pub The Barrel.
Opened two years ago we popped into the Barrel on a Thursday afternoon and met owner , the gregarious Ian.
Ian gave us a warm welcome talking us through the beers on offer which were House beer Mentone Gold, Firebrands West Coast IPA, Harbour Brewery’s Cornish Bitter and Forge Brewery’s Black Gold Porter which I had a half of ; lovely treacle notes and a finish of tobacco . There were also beers on keg and in bottles as well as Crackington Cider.
The Barrel is just perfect! Ian makes a great host keen to get his punters chatting amongst themselves. He invited us to change the record on the turntable –real Vinyl! We put on ‘Northern Soul Floor Fillers’
The Barrel has a no mobile phones policy – if yours rings expect to pay a £1 fine which goes to a local charity. They also offer CAMRA discount.
I particularly liked the back section of the pub which is the back of an old cottage and has great black and white framed photos on the walls of local brewers and cider makers.
We left vowing next time we’d book a taxi from Boscastle maybe making the most of the Sunday afternoon session where there islive music and beer till the barrel is dry!
Finally, if you are a bit of a brewery groupie, the not too far away Tintagel Brewery is worth a visit. Brewery tours where you meet the brewer and get to try beers from their range are held on a regular basis. There is a very smart restaurant and a shop in the purpose-built site where you can buy bottled beers to take home. I particularly like Caliburn. Named after the sword belonging to King Arthur, Caliburn is a dark warming ale with an abv of 5.8%. Take some home to warm the cockles!
Now once upon a time Boscastle had 22 pubs. I think I would need at least a month to fully appreciate all 22 so maybe it’s for the best that nowadays there are just the three. But as I hope to have shown there is plenty to keep you occupied in the area.
Enjoy and as the Cornish say Yeghes da!