Seven Devon pubs to visit by boat

PUBLISHED: 13:48 06 June 2016

The Ship Inn, Noss Mayo

The Ship Inn, Noss Mayo


There’s nothing quite like arriving at the pub by boat. Jonathan Reynolds picks his favourite hostelries up Devon rivers

Anyone heard of the expression ‘A Brewer’s Tide’? I have come across it quite often but surprisingly a formal written meaning for it I cannot find anywhere.

In the context that I have heard it though, it is simply a phrase used by people on boats to describe a rise of tide great enough for them to get to a pub, in a drying location, by boat and that usually means a craft with the shallowest draught (that’s the measurement between the keel and waterline of a boat rather than ‘served from the keg’) possible, especially when they are thirsty, that fortuitously coincides with the opening hours of the pub.

There is something really special about arriving by boat for a lunchtime or evening ashore and Devon has a wealth of superb eating and drinking establishments accessible from the water at any state of the tide.

For me though, it is the greater challenge and adventure involved in working the tide and sailing/rowing/paddling or I suppose motoring (if you really have to) to pubs that are located at the tops of small and tranquil shallow rivers and creeks that wind into the Devon countryside, which gives me the greatest satisfaction.

Here are some of my favourites:

Maltster’s Arms, Tuckenhay – Nearly at the head of Bow Creek, an offshoot of the River Dart, and as deep as you are likely to get into the depths of rural Devon by boat. For a fee, you can moor alongside the quay overnight and sleep aboard, if you have the facility, or stay in the pub.

Millbrook Inn, Southpool - Slip away from the hubbub of Salcombe up the steeply wooded shores of Southpool Creek and take the port hand arm at Gullet Point. “The Millbrook Inn is a wonderful pub and it’s become a great tradition for people from far and wide to make an annual pilgrimage up the creek during the holiday season and moor their boats on the high tide to enjoy food in the courtyard,” says new owner Charlie Baker.

Sloop Inn, Bantham – Once inside the river Avon at Bantham you will find a delightful, peaceful and totally unspoilt haven. There are plenty of variations for exploring but if the tide allows, it is possible to catch the last couple of hours of the flood tide up from Bantham to Aveton Gifford, have a glass of refreshment in the Fisherman’s Rest, whilst the tide turns, and then return to Bantham with the first of the ebb in time for lunch or dinner at the excellent Sloop Inn.

Ship Inn and White Hart, Noss Mayo; Dolphin Inn and Yealm Yacht Club Bar, Newton Ferrers – The very beautiful Yealm is perfect for exploring in dinghies, canoes, paddleboards and RIB’s too. When the tide permits it’s possible to take a trip to the beach at Cellars Bay and then back on the tide later up the Newton Creek arm where there is a spoiling choice between the Ship Inn and the Swan Inn on the Noss Mayo side or the Dolphin Inn and the Yealm Yacht Club on the Newton Ferrers side.

There are not many opportunities in the course of the boating season where tide, opening hours and your own commitments, not to mention weather, align to allow you to set off and sample the all-round experience of true ‘brewer’s tide’ destination establishments like these.

When it all slots into place though this seems to heighten the enjoyment and the mini adventure is likely to be so memorable you could well find some of these trips becoming annual pilgrimages for you too.

Jonathan Reynolds is a sailing and boating addict and with his marine industry experience in wooden boatbuilding, yacht surveying and insuring, promotes yachting and marine industry businesses in the South West through his role as director of RAW PR and Marketing.

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