Living History: The Oldest Pubs in Cornwall

Published: Wednesday 2nd Oct 2019

Written by: Catherine Coad

In a land of giants, saints, smugglers and pirates, Cornwall has more than its fair share of history tucked under its sand-kissed, windswept belt. Shrouded in legend and lore, it not only draws those looking to experience its wild beauty first-hand, but also those hoping to delve beneath its surface and uncover some of its fascinating stories. 

Providing modern day time-traps to the past, Cornwall is peppered with historic pubs brimming with such tales. Of course, you’ll never have to venture too far before you find a traditional inn waiting to welcome you in; but Cornwall’s oldest pubs have an undeniable presence and charm you’ll find hard to resist. Let the fires be hot, the drinks be cold and the conversation flow long into the night…

The Old Inn, St Breward 11th Century
Quite possibly Cornwall’s Oldest Pub, the aptly-named Old Inn in St Breward has roots winding all the way back to the 11th Century. Welcoming tradesmen and weary travellers for a millennium, it’s hard not to be blown away by the amount of history contained within its walls. Even harder to contemplate, the village itself dates back to 8000BC!

The Crown Inn, Lanlivery 12th Century
At home amongst the brooding, untamed countenance of Bodmin Moor, the Crown Inn is an enchanting place. Built along the Saint’s Way, it was originally used to accommodate local builders and craftsmen working on the nearby St Brevita Church. As part of their payment, builders were offered “mash”, a fermented drink – although these days punters are offered something a little more refined!

Victoria Inn, Penzance 12th Century
A stone’s throw from the awe-inspiring St Michael’s Mount, the Victoria Inn in Penzance is one of the area’s oldest pubs. Popular for its award-winning menu, the pub’s polished edges are subtly undercut by the thick open beams and exposed stone walls, hinting at the building’s age. Able to trace its heritage all the way back to the 12th Century, it is certainly one for the bucket list. 

Weary Friar, Saltash (12th Century)
Another pub built to coincide with the construction of a nearby church (this one being the Church of St Odolphus), the 12th Century Weary Friar was the welcome haunt of a steady stream of builders look to wind down after a long day. Follow in the footsteps of these hardy young men and nestle within its thick walls for a night of yarn spinning and beer sipping. 

The Bush Inn, Morwenstow (13th Century)
Head over to Morwenstow’s Bush Inn and fall in love with the views, atmosphere and, of course, history. A 13th Century country pub, the Bush Inn still oozes authentic character and intrigue whilst enjoying a slightly more contemporary facelift. Original to a T and oh-so welcoming, it is the perfect spot to lap up the warmth of an open fire in winter or soak up the sunshine in summer in the beautiful sea-view garden. 

The Pandora Inn, Mylor (13th Century)
Overlooking the picturesque Restronguet Creek, it’s easy enough to lose yourself in the romance of the Pandora Inn. Coupled with its rich history and wealth of tales, it will quickly become a firm favourite. Although the pub is currently named after a naval ship that sank off the Great Barrier Reef in 1791, there has been a pub on the site since the 13th Century. Tread its historic flagstone floors and retrace the footsteps of time.

The Turk’s Head, Penzance 13th Century
The Turk’s Head earnt its name following the Turkish invasion of Penzance in 1233. Concealing a huge number of secrets within its walls, including authentic priest holes and a genuine smugglers’ tunnel, it has to be one of the most fascinating pubs in the UK. Exuding charm and quirkier than ever, you will be hard-pressed not to be captivated. 

Treguth Inn, Holywell Bay 13th Century
A picture-perfect thatched pub perched above Holywell Bay, the 13th Century Treguth Inn takes visitors on a passage through time. Originally a farmstead and a tearoom before becoming a public house, it also happens to be one of the county’s most haunted pubs! Numerous reports detail a mysterious shadowy figure lurking in corners and mysteriously broken objects throughout the pub… However, we’re not sure if these reports coincide with Happy Hour. Well, there’s only one way to find out…!


Catherine Coad

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