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Historic Inns and Pubs of Devon

Some of Devon's oldest buildings are the pubs and inns. From remote Dartmoor inns to coastal smugglers inns, each offers a warm welcome to visitors.

Elephant’s Nest, Tavistock

One of Devon’s most unusually named pubs is the Elephant’s Nest at Horndon, near Tavistock. The long whitewashed stone building, known locally as the Ele’s Nest, has connections with Sir Francis Drake. This historic 16th century freehouse is on the edge of Dartmoor, surrounded by unspoilt Devon countryside and is just the place to rest in the beer garden after a local walk.

You might think the strange name of the inn was from some ancient Devonian animal story, but in fact it only came about in the 1950s. Until then the pub was known by the uninspiring name of The New Inn. The landlord at the time, Charles Ossington, was a well-proportioned gentleman who clearly enjoyed the excellent food the pub is known for. He weighed well over 20 stones and would sit on a small stool pulling pints and spinning around on his seat to use the spirit optics. One of his regulars, seeing him at work, declared “You look like an elephant sitting on a nest” and Charles was so amused he contacted the magistrates and had the inn renamed “The Elephant’s Nest”.

Warren House Inn, Postbridge

In the same area, on the Tavistock to Moretonhampstead B3212 road, drive past the Warren House Inn which is famously said to have never let its fire go out. It is one of the highest pubs in England in a remote and isolated area of Dartmoor some 1,425 feet (434m) above sea level. Apparently, when the new inn was built in 1845, glowing coals from the fire in the old building across the road were carried across to light the new fire!

Warren House Inn has many folklore tales surrounding it, so head out there for a bite of lunch and ask the staff about the body in the chest or the flock of sheep sold to a well-inebriated patron in the fog, which turned out to be the nearby stone circle in the light of day!

Dolphin, Plymouth

Those spending a day in the shops and attractions of Plymouth should head down to the Dolphin on the Barbican, Plymouth’s oldest pub. This was where artist Beryl Cook would sit, observing the characters who came and went in the bar. She used them in her larger-than-life caricature-type paintings which she created at her Plymouth home for over 40 years.

Her work was snubbed by art critics but at her first exhibition the hoi-poloi loved her colourful characters and she was soon showing in London. Her paintings now fetch five-figure sums. She died in 2008 after being awarded an OBE, which she was too shy to go to the palace to receive personally. Visit the pub, checkout the local characters and order one of the excellent ales. Food does not stretch much beyond a bag of pork scratchings though!

Wherever you choose to stay in a self-catering cottage in Devon there will be a choice of local hostelries nearby, offering a wonderful insight into local life.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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