It’s not a day in Cornwall without nipping to the pub for a swift pint of cider as the sun sets on the surf. Luckily, there are a wealth of beach bars, cliff-top pubs, and harbour-side bistros with stunning views, local tipples and great service to choose from. Here’s our pick of an excellent bunch, from north coast to south, fancy to dive; Cornwall has a bar for every taste.
The Ship Inn has a reputation for holding some pretty wild parties, but most of the time, it’s a rather reputable establishment. Hanging precariously over the harbour wall, the pub-grub which comes out of the kitchen is outstanding, and is a great place to watch a storm come in on a winter night by the fire. As the main haunt of Masked Ball and Love Riot creators, expect a certain level of debauchery at all times, but don’t let this put you off; The Ship Inn is cosy, the staff are friendly, beer good, and there are always proper Cornish men propping up the bar, grumbling in an indecipherably thick accent.
You’ll have to hustle for a place at the bar in the Blue Peter, but once you have been served, take your pint outside to one of the tiered beer gardens, which sit higher than the roofs of the town, for views of the sea. There is frequent live music here too, meaning that this small but mighty barroom often gets filled with the sweet sounds of strummed guitars, stomping feet, whoops and hollahs.
There are views, and then there are the views from the Lewinnick Lodge which stretch out across Fistral Beach and the surf. Not only is the scenery here great, but so is the food, the staff, the beer and the wine. Do we need to go on?
If there was ever a pub where you can feel the presence of bygone pirates conspiring, it’s the Sloop Inn. Low-ceilinged, dark and shady, but with a sunny and loud beer garden which tumbles into the tourists on St Ives harbour, this is a watering hole to snuggle in on winter nights, and revel in the sunshine in the summer. The beer is local, the food is cheap and it is always a barrel of laughs.
This weird and wonderful local pub in the heart of inland Cornwall is an experience all in itself. There are a range of cubby holes and small rooms which will just about squeeze you and your chums in, rocking chairs rolling in front of roaring fires and a riotous atmosphere which spills out into the streets. It’s rude to go to the Blue Anchor and not try their famed ale, Spingo, but be warned, too much and you’ll be Spingo’d, legless, and asking for your mum to come and save you while you hug the toilet. You have been warned.
A classy establishment looking over Mount’s Bay, the Old Coastguard is a place to sip fine wine under Cornish Palms in the Cornish sunshine. The food at the Coasties is wonderfully refined, and the menu is filled with local ingredients cooked to utter perfection. They stock beer made up the road and sell it at a premium price, but the location and atmosphere are worth paying extra for.
The only bar which is actually on the beach in the whole of the UK, The Watering Hole is a firm favourite amongst both locals and tourists. Sit with your feet buried in the sand as the sun goes down in a blaze of glory into the sea, and you will soon feel the stresses of every day melting away. If you can catch a band at the Watering Hole, get your dancing shoes on and be prepared to party with the sweaty hordes until the early hours. A post-gig swim to cool off is highly recommended.
Oh, Blue Bar, you beauty! Tucked away next to Porthtowan Beach, with no phone signal to think about or 4G to look for, drinking a beer here is like taking a retreat from being forever connected. Surfers flock to this laid-back bar, where barefoot beauties sip cider in the sunshine and sway to the melodies of a tinkling acoustic guitar. The sun goes down in the middle of the cove, and the sunny terrace provides the perfect viewing platform for nature’s best display.
Perched on the harbour wall in Falmouth, the Chain Locker is an ancient piratical institution on the town’s waterfront. Inside are low-ceilings, thick beams and crumbling walls, all restored from its hay day a few hundred years ago. The huge beer garden is almost always sunny and the bar is always stocked with sweet local ales and cheery staff.
Sat between feral Madron Moor and the wild north coast, the Tinner’s Arms in pretty Zennor is an absolute dream. The building looks like nothing special from the outside, and inside is no bigger than the average English living room, but the onsite brewed ale is delicious and sweetened with honey, the beer garden a tropical sun trap, and the local grub sophisticated and delicious.
With a pirate permanently attached to the roof of the pub with rifle in hand, the Benbow sure has piracy in its bones. Not only does it feel as though you have entered a ship’s gallows as soon as you step into the shade and out of the sun, but there are still tunnels which lead from the basement to the harbour, where smugglers once bootlegged their contraband. Snuggle in a corner by the fire, or watch Penzance amble by in one of the porthole windows, all with a deliciously hoppy pint of ale in hand.