When you think of Cornwall, there are probably a few things that spring to mind… Beautiful sandy beaches and dramatic coastlines are usually first, but a close second is invariably the county’s unbeatable pub game. Thatched roofs, cosy open fires, and a history richer than the amber ales you’ll find on tap, you just can’t beat a Cornish pub that’s been around since people first decided it was better to drink with friends.
From pirates to smugglers to weary travellers just looking for a dry room and a refreshing drink, some of the pubs on our list have been quenching thirsts since the 12th century – although with so many pubs claiming the title of oldest, we might never know who truly holds the coveted title of first. Of course, once you’ve settled yourself down in the corner of one of Cornwall’s ancient and deliciously cosy pubs, the question of which came first will soon melt into the background as the character and charm wraps around you. Oh yes, we really do love an old pub with a story to tell!
Ready to hear the stories from the walls themselves? Here’s our roundup of the oldest pubs in Cornwall that are sure to have you singing a shanty or two by the end of your visit!
The Old Inn and Restaurant, Bodmin Moor
Best for: Moorland wanders followed by a pint
Churchtown, St Breward, Bodmin Moor PL30 4PP
Built in the 11th century, it wasn’t until the 15th century that this popular pub opened to the public. Not only is this aptly named inn one of the oldest in Cornwall, it actually takes the top spot for highest, with its lofty perch on Bodmin Moor creating an unbeatable location to sink a real ale (or two). Inside the classic granite exterior, you’ll find sloping beamed ceilings and roaring log fires, creating a deliciously cosy atmosphere – the perfect end to a long day out on the moors with the dog. An extensive pub grub menu and Sunday carvery ensures you’ll be well fed after your moorland treks so why not pull on your well-loved walking boots and enjoy a well-earned visit to Cornwall’s famous inn. Or, for a spookier time, head to Bodmin Jail for a hauntingly memorable visit full of death, crime and gift shops!
Victoria Inn, Perranuthnoe
Best for: Award-winning food in a historic setting
Perranuthnoe, Penzance TR20 9NP
Tucked away in the quiet beachside village of Perranuthnoe and a stone’s throw from the glorious sandy beach, the Victoria Inn combines history with modern charm throughout every corner. Oh yes, the building might be circa 12th century, but the incredible menu is without a doubt a modern delight! Exposed stone walls and a warming log burner create a wonderfully cosy setting in which to enjoy your award-winning meal, while the bar serves up refreshing drinks and dog treats for any four-legged guests (who are welcome in the bar and garden). Making full use of local produce, you can expect a true taste of Cornwall when visiting the Victoria, whether it’s Cornish yarg, locally caught fish, or ice cream from Zennor.
Weary Friar, Saltash
Best for: Ye olde vibes
Pillaton, Saltash PL12 6QS
Another 12th century pub to warm the cockles of your contemporary heart, the Weary Friar’s charming name is only the beginning. As you walk through the door of the aged inn, you’ll be swept off your feet and planted firmly in a time gone by thanks to the looming beams that hang above and the brick fireplaces that fill the ancient room with a warming glow - not to mention the spooky spectre that’s been known to appear on the stairs! The fantastically old-school bar is well stocked with the very best beers, wines, and spirits providing ample inspiration for your refreshments, as well as a bar menu full of your favourite pub classics, from sausages and mash to ham, egg, and chips.
The Crown Inn, Bodmin
Best for: Beer gardens and local ales
Lanlivery, Bodmin PL30 5BT
Oh, we do love a village pub – you just can’t beat the friendly atmosphere and friendlier faces as you sink a Cornish ale or two. Nestled on the edge of Bodmin, The Crown Inn is another great choice for those who love combining their pub visit with a hearty stomp across the moors. Of course, you can always forgo the walk on a sunny day and simply spend your afternoon in the balmy beer garden enjoying the wonderfully traditional view of the 12th century freehouse. This family-run pub also provides button-popping food alongside its welcoming ethos, with beer battered cod and lobster mac and cheese just some of the mouth-watering meals on offer.
The Tinners Arms, Zennor
Best for: Cornish legends, ale and ice cream
Zennor, St Ives TR26 3BY
Home to one of the most famous mermaids of Cornwall, Zennor is definitely steeped in magical history and Tinners is as much a part of the village’s past as the iconic church and mermaid’s chair. Built in 1271, The Tinners Arms has been welcoming folk for over 700 years – and the moment you enter the granite-hewn building you’ll see why people keep coming back. A roaring fire and well stocked bar go hand in hand when it comes to soul-warming refreshments, while the pretty beer garden provides a sunny spot to indulge in a Cornish ale or a tub of locally made Moomaid of Zennor ice cream. On the menu of this much-loved pub, you’ll find a superb selection of locally sourced dishes – the fish is particularly unmissable as it’s caught right around the corner in Newlyn.
Pandora Inn, Mylor Bridge
Best for: Peace, tranquillity and buckets of history
Restronguet Creek, Mylor Bridge, Falmouth TR11 5ST
Tucked away by the easy flowing waters of Restronguet Creek, dog-friendly Pandora Inn is the only pub on this lip-smacking list to which you can arrive by boat – a very impressive brag! As soon as you moor up (or arrive by modern means) and take in the thatched roof backed with trees and the peaceful waters you’ll understand that there is no better place to be than the pontoon at The Pandora when the sun is shining. The fire-lit and flagstone interior creates an equally captivating spot in the winter months – we recommend settling down for their epic weekly carvery! Taking its name from a naval ship that sank off the Great Barrier Reef, the inn has changed a lot since the 13th century. A devastating fire in 2011 led to much of the building needing extensive repairs. Due to the nature of the building’s Grade II listed statues, only traditional materials and methods could be used to restore the much-loved inn, a clause that ensures the beautiful inn continues to maintain its ancient and welcoming features to this day.
The Turks Head, Penzance
Best for: A swash-buckling retreat
49 Chapel Street, Penzance TR18 4AF
Whether you enter through the door or the secret tunnel that links this former smuggler’s rest with the harbour (just kidding, the front door will do), you’re in for a real nautical treat when you step foot (or peg) in Penzance’s oldest pub and fantastic place to eat. Rustic seating, cosy corners, and pirate vibes aplenty create a dog-friendly hidden gem that’s totally shipshape and ready to fill your belly with Cornish delights. Taste your way through Cornwall’s rums and gins or browse the menu for a plate of something totally delicious and locally sourced – the perfect refreshment after a day of pirating… Oops, sorry, we mean walking! A stroll along Penzance’s pretty promenade with its colourful flags and famous Jubilee pool is just the ticket to get the appetite ready for a visit to this 13th-century, Cornish institution.
The Bush Inn, Bude
Best for: Wonky beams and beer gardens
Crosstown, Morwenstow, Bude EX23 9SR
Welcoming weary travellers since the 13th century, The Bush Inn near Bude is the last word in old-time style, whether you love beams that never quite look straight or crooked fires that ooze charm and warmth. Outside, a huge beer garden (although beer field might be more accurate) provides an incredible spot to sink a few drinks as you stare across the fields and out to sea. We might be centuries on from the inn’s humble beginnings, but the character and heart remain the same, with good food, live music, and flowing ales available throughout the year. Combine this age-old combination with a hearty walk along the nearby cliffs and you have an unbeatable way to spend a day in north Cornwall.
Treguth Inn, Newquay
Best for: Poldark and pints
Holywell Road, Holywell, Newquay TR8 5PP
Just down the coast from Newquay and a mere hop, skip, and a jump from the Poldark-famous Holywell Bay, the Treguth Inn is the pinnacle of Cornish simplicity, perfected since the 13th century. Under the thatched roof, a cosy inn awaits that’s full to the beams of smiling faces and real ales – not to mention a Sunday lunch that’s sure to keep you off your feet for a few hours or more. Pop along for the epic quiz nights on Wednesdays or for a thirst-quenching bevvy after a day splashing in the waves of the nearby bay – Treguth is always here to welcome you with open arms.
The Sloop Inn, St Ives
Best for: Dog-friendly days out in St Ives
The Wharf, St Ives TR26 1LP
Slap bang on the harbour in St Ives, The Sloop Inn has been making the most of its stunning waterside location since 1312. And good thing too, as this dog-friendly pub has become the go-to haunt for many a local and visitor over the centuries, earning it a well-deserved reputation. When it comes to dining at this famous establishment, you have three equally tempting choices, each with its own charm. For sunny days and sea views, the Upper Deck offers a terraced setting that overlooks the harbour, while the Captain’s Table beckons in the winter months, promising an intimate dining experience with supremely tasty food at its heart. For a more relaxed atmosphere, the pub restaurant is there to fill the table with toothsome dishes that take you from breakfast all the way up to an indulgent evening meal – with a well-stocked bar to boot!
The Blue Anchor, Helston
Best for: Spingo and spooky stories
50 Coinagehall Street, Helston TR13 8EL
One of the oldest continuously running breweries in the UK and the oldest brewery in Cornwall, The Blue Anchor is embedded deep in Cornwall’s history and heart. The quirky pub started life as a monk’s rest in the 14th century, with the centuries in between full of mugs of ale and murder (only a few though). The pub became such a deep-rooted part of Helston, that miners used to collect (and then likely spend) their wages at the bar! Today, it’s worth a visit for a pint of their famous Spingo ales, which come in three distinct strengths – we recommend approaching the strongest with caution! Toasty fires and a covered beer garden (and outside bar) ensure guests can drink their fill of Spingo whatever the weather or season, so there’s always an excuse to visit this historic local.
Excited to tour Cornwall’s oldest pubs? Explore our collection of beautiful holiday cottages in Cornwall and start planning a pub crawl steeped in Cornish history – bottoms up!