The Pilchard Inn
Best for: briny seadogs who want to roll out the barrel
Where: Burgh Island
Burgh Island is the atmospheric little Devon outcrop that inspired Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (the writer also wrote Evil Under the Sun while staying here). The Pilchard Inn is everything you would expect from a salty seaside drinking hole. Huge stone fireplaces, which would have once warmed fishermen and smugglers, cast a flickering, orange glow. The pub now belongs to the Burgh Island Hotel — an Art Deco looker that opened in 1929 — but it’s open to everyone. Stop by after a brisk walk over to the island at low tide, order a pint of St Austell’s Tribute and huddle by the fire or watch the tide wash in and out from one of the benches outside, just as people have done since the 14th century. And if the tide comes in while you’re finishing your drink, you can return to the mainland by sea tractor — a real thrill in itself.
Address: The Pilchard Inn, Burgh Island, Devon TQ7 4BG
Telephone: +44 1548 810514
The Anchor Inn
Best for: Devon’s best mussels
Life revolves around the River Exe at The Anchor Inn – from the extensive fish menu through to a tiny harbour on the doorstep that fills with water according to the tides. Located in the village of Cockwood at the mouth of the river (avoid pronouncing the ‘w’ if you want to sound like a local), the pub bustles come summertime, with drinkers draping legs over sea walls and squeezing onto the handful of benches outside. Along with the views and fresh sea air, this picturesque spot is famous for its mussels, with 16 variations all inspired by different countries or regions. We like the Mussels West Country (Cheddar cheese sauce and Devon cider). The pub also looks over Brunel’s famous Great Western Railway – time it right and you might spot the Torbay Express steam train.
Address: The Anchor Inn, Cockwood, Exeter, Devon EX6 8RA
Telephone: +44 1626 890 203
The Elephant’s Nest
Best for: refuelling after a long tramp on the moors
Set in Dartmoor National Park, The Elephant’s Nest has all the hallmarks of a traditional country pub – bar the name, of course. The chocolate-box-gorgeous building still appears on some Ordnance Survey maps as its previous moniker, The New Inn, despite the portly former landlord changing its name in the 1950s after he received a particularly inventive insult. Whether you’re a serious rambler or more of a Sunday stroller, the pub offers respite for those exploring Dartmoor’s harsh terrain, with a serene, green beer garden and a cosy interior. The old building has also had an extension (using Dartmoor stone), so that three bright and spacious bedrooms are now available for bed and breakfast. More importantly, they’re within tripping distance of the bar and its Devon ales.
Address: The Elephant’s Nest, Horndon, Mary Tavy, Tavistock, Devon PL19 9NQ
Telephone: +44 1822 810273