Pub Crawling in Padstow

Sign outside The Harbour Inn pub.

Padstow in North Cornwall is best known for its connection with TV chef Rick Stein and for its ‘Obby ‘Oss, of which more later. Its attractive and compact town centre, however, also supports six pubs, which struck us as the perfect number for a Saturday night crawl.

Having been deprived of St Austell’s Proper Job for a couple of months, we headed straight to the London Inn, outside which a sign promised a very nearly full range of the local brewing giant’s cask ales. Inside, we found a pleasing lack of head-office-approved corporate slickness, and genuine clutter on the walls, rather than the stuff that comes by the kilo from pub decor companies. Nothing special, but comfortable, and the PJ was very good. We considered staying, but, no, the crawl must go on.

The Golden Lion Inn, Padstow.The interior of the Golden Lion, just across the road, looked strangely familiar, and then it dawned on us: we’d seen it in the documentary Oss Oss Wee Oss (Alan Lomax, 1953) on the BFI DVD Here’s a Health to the Barley Mow. As the stable of one of the Padstow ‘Obby ‘Osses, the Golden Lion is a culturally and historically significant pub, and its low beams and dark corners are very appealing. It was uncomfortably quiet, however, and the Tintagel Castle Gold was lacking zing.

We soon found out why the other pubs were quiet: everyone was at The Old Ship, where it was standing room only, because a Johnny Cash tribute act was set to perform. It made much of offering Brain’s S.A. — a rarity in Cornwall, it’s true, but hardly anything to shout about. Sharp’s Own, sweetish at the best of times, was also as flat as a pancake. What’s the opposite of cosy? That’s what the Ship was. As the faux-Man in Black launched into ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, we slipped away, leaving our drinks unfinished.

We then commenced a run of three St Austell pubs.

The Shipwrights felt a bit like a pub-themed fast food restaurant, with that particularly lurid orange wood finish that too often characterises modern pub refits, and we didn’t like being cleaned up around (at 9:30!), though the barmaid who served us was very chatty and pleasant. There were more fruit machines than customers. Tribute and Proper Job were in decent enough nick, too.

The Old Custom House was also quiet, with flickering TV screens on every spare surface. The highlight here was the new bottled version of 1913 Stout, tasting excellent despite its clear bottle, and served in an appropriately vintage-feeling straight-sided pint glass.

We hit the Harbour Inn in the run up to closing time. It is the stable for the rival ‘Oss, the Blue Ribbon or Peace ‘Oss, and had a pleasant, lived-in feel. Even though it’s huge, and we had the place almost to ourselves, the landlord and landlady made us feel very welcome, hitting the perfect balance between attentiveness and giving us space. When they wanted us to leave, it was hinted at with a very gentle: ‘Ahem… will you be wanting any more drinks at all?’

Is Padstow worth a visit for beer geeks? No. Is there enough to keep a pub-lover entertained if they’re visiting for other reasons? Definitely. Bear in mind, though, that in season, none of these pubs will be as quiet as we found them on a chilly night in March.

10 thoughts on “Pub Crawling in Padstow”

  1. When we had a holiday in Padstow two or three years ago we found the London Inn to be one of the best, and most welcoming pubs. We drank a lot of Proper Job and Tribute on that holiday, I recall.

    When we went to the Seafood Restaurant we had a Chalky’s Bark and Chalky’s Bite, and found that one of the two was a perfect match with each course on the great tasting menu, depending whether it went better with fennel or ginger.

    Nick

    1. We still haven’t made it to the Blisland Inn as you recommended, by the way — basically impossible on public transport.

      1. I have only ever visited Cornwall once and made it to Blisland, if via a slightly odd dawdling route – not by bus of course. Interestingly, despite loving it’s cosy atmosphere and inespensive food the thing that let it down slightly was that it was having a Sharp’s brewery festival! Six days into our Cornwall jaunt we could have cheerfully drunk virtually anything but Sharps by this stage, although the stronger one offs were well priced. I’d still heartily recommend a visit though – maybe a kind friend with a motorised vehicle may be your solution, not forgetting, rembering to check there isn’t a Sharp’s festival on….

  2. Mmm, I think you’ve just summed up the experience of everyone who has ever gone looking for a good time in an out-of-season holiday resort.
    Personally I take a peverse pleasure in it, even though the pubs are cold from the lack of people,atmopshere and worthwhile heating, the owners are probably away in the Canaries getting some sun and the beer has spent too long in the lines waiting for a customer.
    It’s the boot camp of beer and the bloody-mindedness of the English all rolled into one.

  3. Sounds like a similar experience to the one we had last year , although most people seem to think we just hit the London Inn on a bad day. Obviously it was busier in Padstow when we went by the sounds of it, but the Harbour was still just as quiet as when you were there but again, still had good beers on. Sounds like Brains SA is a permanent fixture at the Old ship too.

    As we are returning to Cornwall early may, where should we consider for a good pub crawl then? (only 1 of us 3 is a beer geek though!) We’ve done Wadebridge, Padstow, where next?

  4. ‘Is Padstow enough for Beer Geeks? No’
    That’s good enough for me. Not visited Padstow since I was a kid, but we are planning coming down to Cornwall in the next year or so; pubs like the ‘Oss are the kind of establishment i’ll be hoping to stumble into.

  5. There used to be a group of locals in the London Inn who would sing folk songs and sea shanties: the only non-Irish pub I’ve witnessed this happen in in this country. I haven’t been there since the mid 90s, though. In those pre-PJ, pre-Tribute days, St Austell’s beers were much less interesting.

    1. The painted sign outside still advertises Tinner’s bitter which, as far as we know, is now only made in tiny amounts for one or two pubs.

      Spontaneous singing pretty common in Cornish pubs from what we’ve seen.

  6. I don’t remember a lot of our trip to Padstow, it was the night before Mayday so we saw all of the celebrations it was bonkers and very drunken, I did mainly drink doombar and rattler.

    The pubs did seem to have a decent range of beers on but nothing amazing, there was one pub, I forget it’s name where it had propellers etc hung from the ceiling, that did some brilliant wasabi nuts and a great pint of rattler.

    When I went down for the Sharp’s cooking competition they put me up in the Old ship, the breakfast was delicious and the burger I had for tea was spot on.

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