cafes for dogs, Devon, dog friendly cafes, dog friendly hotels, dog friendly pubs, dog friendly restaurants, pubs for dogs, the dog blog

Devon and Dorset – Part 4

We awoke to find that the drizzle of the previous day had disappeared … to be replaced by a full on downpour. Not to worry. On the way to The White House we had stopped at a service station called Ashby’s. On entering the shop we were amazed to find that it was in fact an Aladdin’s cave of ALL the outdoor clothing and equipment you could ever need (including doggy lifejackets!). I was very happy for the opportunity to rectify my mistake of relying on the British summertime, and purchased a rather snazzy new ‘mac in a sac’.

We had planned a walk in Dartmouth for our morning adventure, and the rain was not going to stop us, not now that I had my trusty waterproof jacket. Smugly I removed it from its ‘sac’ and shook it out … only to find two legs of a pair of trousers unfold themselves! Damn it! Off we set on a detour back to Ashby’s with the full intention of trying to negotiate an exchange. By the time we’d driven there through the pounding rain the more sensible option was clearly to get a coat as well as the trousers. In fact Hannah and Grenson were so jealous of my full on waterproof suit that they had to purchase themselves waterproofs too!

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Who was it who said ‘there is no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong type of clothing’? Whoever it was they were an idiot.

Our walk took us up a path around the back of Dartmouth Castle and on to Compass Cove following part of the South West Coastal Path. The walk itself wasn’t too bad but I’m sure the views of the harbour would have been much more impressive if not covered in cloud. To make matters worse, halfway along our route we found our path blocked by a gang of very suspicious looking cows. We didn’t like the look of them. They looked shifty.  So we abandoned the walk and turned back.

It wasn’t a full disaster. The woods were lovely, the totally justifiable use of full wet weather gear is always good for making you feel like a proper adventurer (Bear Grylls eat your heart out), and Grenson loves a walk in long grass and the rain. It is guaranteed to send him ‘cracker dog’ (i.e. he runs around at full speed with his bum tucked in under himself, like his front legs can’t quite keep up with his back ones!).

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Another reason for our return to the car may have been to do with a recommendation we had been given for a fish and chip restaurant in nearby Beesands. By now it was way past lunchtime and there is nothing like a bracing walk to whet the appetite (even if it is only half a walk).

The Britannia @ The Beach is also known as ‘The Shack’, and when I first caught sight of it I realised why.

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We were shown to a table in the gazebo that serves as the main dining room. My expectations weren’t soaring, but by now I was literally starving (and by literally I mean I was slightly hungry having not eaten for a matter of hours).

There was no need for fear. I should know by now that unassuming little places like this often serve up the best food you’re likely to find, and this place did not disappoint.

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Look at the batter on that haddock. GET IN MY BELLY!!

We returned to our accommodation and an afternoon snooze may or may not have been enjoyed by all.

Once we awoke we decided that a nice evening stroll to the local pub was in order.  The Tradesman’s Arms was flipping brilliant.

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We found ourselves a couple of stools at the bar to perch on, and having not long consumed our fish and chips settled for a couple of packets of crisps with our liquid refreshment (dinner of kings). However, whilst sitting at the bar enjoying my beer I spotted the pies that were coming out of the kitchen. Oh my! They looked absolutely delicious. Add to this the fact that behind the bar hung the sign pictured below.

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That settled it, we immediately booked ourselves in for lunch the next day.

Tune in next time for a full pie review!

To be continued…..

The Man and the Dog

 

 

 

 

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Devon and Dorset – Part 3

Upon waking, (and after a bowl of Dorset Cereal followed by a hearty cooked breakfast courtesy of Palmers Barn B & B), we idly leafed through our new National Trust book and happened upon a place near Tavistock called Lydford Gorge. Not wanting to miss any chance to get full value from our recent membership we headed straight there.

As we arrived the weather closed in again and the fact that I had only brought one coat, that wasn’t particularly water proof, once again attracted ridicule from Hannah (my arguments about the fact that it was meant to be summer were always a nonstarter, this is after all Britain). My initial thought was ‘to hell with the value for money, let’s just carry on to our next B&B’. Thankfully this profligate madness quickly passed. For I can say now ladies and gentlemen (and pooches) that Lydford Gorge is blummin brilliant. Simply walking by the river is breathtaking enough, but then you reach the gorge and enter a hidden magical gap in the rocks that has been carved out over millennia by the rushing water.

 

It’s amazing to think that for thousands of years this beautiful natural phenomena was probably only seen by a handful of people. It was just going about its business being quietly stunning without anyone noticing. Even today if it hadn’t of been for the overwhelming desire to get the most from our NT membership fee we’d have simply passed it by. If you’re in the area make sure you don’t make the same mistake, stop and take a look, you won’t regret it.

Having fed our eyes with beauty it was again time to feed our bellies with grub. So we hit the road and headed on to our lunchtime stop, The Ship in Noss Mayo. This involved yet more precarious narrow one lane tracks down into the estuary, (I’m not sure I’m cut out for country driving, give me a nice wide motorway any day). Once we’d made it down we then had the excitement of parking. We found a space easily enough but then spotted a sign warning of tide times, and looking around us realised that the car park was actually in the bed of the estuary. Not feeling like taking risks we moved the car further up the hill as we didn’t fancy having to get a boat back to the car!

Once inside, the pub made me really quite appreciate the drizzly horrible weather outside. I’m absolutely certain that sitting by the side of the estuary in bright, hot, sunshine (and watching the cars get submerged by the tide) would be fantastic. But to me this pub seemed like one that really comes into its own on a miserable day when it can offer a warm, welcoming shelter from the outside. I ordered an ale and the steak pie, what else could I do?!

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It was delicious…however, I must admit that I am a big fan of a proper pie. A proper pie in my opinion is not a meat stew with a pastry hat. I am willing to let them off this one time, as it was proper pastry (not a silly circle of puff pastry), and as I’ve already mentioned, it was very tasty.

Our accommodation for the next two nights was at the White House in Chillington. Once we’d found it (head off a narrow one track road and enter an even narrower lane!), we were given a lovely welcome, including a very barky hello from the three house dogs. Unfortunately the excitement may have become a little too much for Grenson as he promptly proceeded to wee up the wall near the bar. Very embarrassing. Luckily the owners were very nice about it and very understanding. Also very quick on hand with the disinfectant and mop. Oh the perils of travelling with your pooch!

The house is an impressive and grand Georgian building, and the style is the epitome of boutique hotel. You’ll find an array of interesting lighting and artwork, and Hannah was particularly taken with the wallpaper prints.

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(being En Brogue, obviously a pair of fancy flats had to be in shot too).

Our room was also suitably grand with a four poster bed and the ubiquitous roll top bath in the middle of the room.

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Clearly with this much luxury surrounding us there was only one thing to do. Stay out of the drizzle and head down to the bar to while away the rest of the night playing cards and sipping cocktails!

To be continued…..

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

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Devon and Dorset – Part 1

We’ve been on our holibobs!

Of course, holibob planning for us now is a little more tricky than it used to be. There is a Grenson in the family that we have to think about. With this in mind we put away the brochures for Thailand and Mexico and replaced them with ones for Devon and Dorset. Who needs tom yum or tacos when you have cream teas instead?

So we packed the car and set off on our little family road trip.

First stop wasn’t actually Devon or Dorset I’m afraid (it’s a long journey!). We decided to stop off along the way at White Horse Hill in Uffington.  On the face of it this stop was to give Grenson a leg stretching opportunity and to see the bronze age white horse, but in reality it had a lot to do with us trying to use as many National Trust car parks for free as possible, having recently become members (got to get your money’s worth).

Whether you’re a member of the NT or not this place is well worth a visit. There are plenty of great dog walking tracks and the white horse is indeed impressive, but it would be worth coming here simply for the view.

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No wonder they put their horse up here, it must have been a giant sign seen all around the land…maybe it was a bronze age Hollywood sign?

Leaving this brilliant theory hanging in the air, we loaded our wagon and set off again, heading for our final destination for day 1 – Clovelly in North Devon.

We chose Clovelly because… well it’s just so c-lovely (n.b. that has to be said in a broad midlands accent for the joke to truly work).

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Our accommodation was at the Red Lion, which is a quaint old 18th Century fisherman’s beer house at the bottom of town and overlooking the harbour. The town itself is like a time capsule. No cars are allowed, instead wooden sleds pulled by people (and sometimes donkeys) are used for deliveries. Within the Red Lion there are pictures of the townsfolk at the turn of the 19th Century…it looks exactly the same. Amazing.

 

I always find it a worry when staying at hotels with a pet that you end up with their worst rooms. This definitely did not seem the case here. Our little room had a prime view out over the harbour. Grenson loved it!

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There were two downside to staying here, however. The first was the fact that we could only go in the bar with Grenson and not the restaurant. That is usually fair enough (not everyone loves dogs after all…hard to understand but true), but unfortunately this also meant that we weren’t allowed the delicious restaurant menu full of the freshest fish you’re likely to find. Instead we had to make do with the bar menu which was basically your standard burger/scampi fare. Still, I made the most of it with a very pleasing surf and turf. It also meant we had to tag team for breakfast, which was only served in the restaurant, although it was delicious (and I smuggled a sausage back to the room for Grenson).

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I also enjoyed earwigging on some of the chat from the locals at the bar, and getting a close up look at the amazing old black and white pictures of the village that I mentioned earlier.

I’m pretty sure this fella was sitting behind me whilst I supped my ale!

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The second downside to staying here is the fact that it is at the bottom of the hill. This meant that the following morning we needed to drive up a perpendicular track to leave. I’m not fond of small track roads at the best of times, but when they are winding their way up a cliff face I like them even less. Luckily Hannah (wife, en brogue) came up with the idea of following a local taxi driver who was just about to leave. Thank God we did. All was going fine until a large lorry came out of a building site half way up the hill. Then a van came down the other way and we hit gridlock. Much precarious clutch control, dodgy reversing, and the lorry managing to hit a wall followed. Finally the taxi driver took control and instructed me to follow him as we did a bit of off road to get around the truck and van and leave them to their stand off.

It was a very stressful start to day two.

God bless that taxi driver wherever you are!

……to be continued.

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

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Family Mini-Break – Rye

Last weekend, along with Grandma, Grandie, Uncle Joe and Auntie Zoe (don’t try to tell me Grenson isn’t human) we made our way to Rye for a cheeky little family mini-break.

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The in-laws had been suggesting a trip here for a while, but of course with the addition to the family of Grenson, accommodation was needed that would allow dogs too. When booking we figured that any establishment that has a pooch as part of its branding is highly likely to be  a good place to visit with your four legged family member, and with the Ship Inn we were 100% correct.

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Grenson was very pleased to find out that the dog friendliness stretched to his very own sausage at breakfast time. This was his personal high point of the stay. The low point was the several minutes he spent carrying out a Mexican stand off with the bulldog in the foyer, before eventually realising that it was porcelain and as a result not really that into ‘having a play’.

Thankfully for us dog companions the highlights aren’t confined to the ornamental pooches and breakfast porkers. The rooms, staff and grub on offer are also great and as well as being a lovely hotel it’s also a very stylish little boozer.

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It’s not just the Ship that is accommodating to our canine companions in Rye, the whole town seems to have an open door policy (barring a few stuffy old establishments). There is a wealth of great antique and brocante shops and they all seem to be fine with dogs browsing too.

However, I have to admit as Grenson kept getting ever closer to the tables covered with antique glassware I decided it was actually fine for us to stand outside.

In the town you’ll find plenty of great pubs and cafes that are more than happy to let you include your dog as part of your group; these include the Hope Anchor Hotel, The Globe Marsh, The Standard Inn and The Fig cafe (for your Monmouth Coffee fix). Out of all of them I would give a big shout out to Edith’s House. This is a dog friendly cafe in the heart of town that is oozing with quaint decor and bursting with flavoursome lunches. I (weirdly according to everyone else) went for a cream tea instead of a toastie. It wasn’t so weird when they all had a sample of my cherry jam. The cherry-iest cherry jam in all the world! Ha! He who laughs last, laughs last … or something like that?

When your pooch begins to get a little bored of wandering around town looking at priceless antiques (such as the programme for the 1986 Liverpool v Everton cup final…no price attached… didn’t ask… too scared), or sitting around scoffing cherrytastic cream teas, then a few minutes away is Rye Harbour. This includes a beautiful nature reserve and a lovely walk along the coastline that Grenson loved.

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You can also pop over to Camber Sands and eat cockles on the beach in the pouring rain…

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…if you’re insane like our family.

All in all I would say that Rye is a perfect destination for a family mini-break, especially when your family includes a little pupper.

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Old Swan and Minster Mill – Cotswolds

It was Grenson mini-break time again last weekend (yes, I know he’s spoilt!). This time we ventured up to the Cotswolds and the Old Swan and Minster Mill.

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Now, there is dog friendly, and then there is dog SUPER friendly! All of the staff here seem to have been vetted not just for their love of dogs, but also to make sure that they are the kind of people who stop everything in order to make a fuss of any dog in the vicinity. Needless to say, Grenson loved it!

When he got to his room and found a doggy bed and a bowl of biscuits waiting for him he loved it even more.

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And when I found a bottle of sloe gin waiting for me I loved it too!

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But it’s not just the treats in the room that made us love this place. The accommodation is split between the Minster Mill (a series of rooms/apartments set along the banks of the River Windrush), and the old pub which is 600 years old. Yes that’s right, 600 years old! That means that conceivably you could have found locals in here supping pints and discussing the fact that Chris Columbus had apparently found a place called America … “well he says he’s discovered it , but try telling that to the indigenous people who have been living there for centuries. He should stick to directing The Goonies if you ask me, now I’ll have me another ale and some scampi fries please” … is probably how the conversation went, I imagine.

The properties are also set in 65 acres of dream walking land. Grenson particularly liked his early morning stroll along the river.

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And if you are eating here (which you must) you are going to need some gut busting walks.

The food is absolutely delicious. Look at this…

 

I started with poached cacklebean (no idea?!) egg, peas, bacon and walnuts, moved on to 8oz rare Longhorn ribeye, chips, land cress and truffle salad served with bearnaise sauce, and finished up with custard tart with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Notice that the dessert actually has a bite shaped amount missing. Sorry it looked too mouthwatering, I couldn’t wait to start. All of it was fantastic.

Grenson didn’t miss out either. While I was digging in to the above feast, the chef made him his very own dinner.

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Unfortunately he couldn’t wait for pictures either and licked the bowl clean. I think it may have been the best thing he’d ever eaten…until they brought him his sausage at breakfast time!

So if you’re looking for chocolate box perfect villages, stunning river walks, food to make you wobble and dog friendliness off the scale, then I heartily recommend a visit to the Old Swan and Minster Mill; you and your four legged friend won’t be disappointed.

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The Man and the Dog.

 

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Minibreak Part 3 – Bristol

I woke up with a little pounding drum inside my head that hadn’t been there the night before. Those Stereophonics boys know their ale. Only one thing could help. Hotel breakfast!

I can only state that the Welsh breakfast (the sausages included leeks) at Llechwen Hall is an absolute life saver.

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If this hotel didn’t already have my seal of approval then the scrambled eggs alone would have qualified it for highly recommended status. Black pudding AND a hash brown. And that is a healthy and very agreeable portion of beans I think you’ll all agree, (without a separate pot in sight).

Feeling more alive, I remembered that having bored Grenson in the pub during the entirety of the previous night, I had promised him a decent walk. Luckily for me, Llechwen Hall is situated on a mountain with acres of good walking land all around it. So we set off and found a lovely walk virtually on our doorstep.

The Welsh weather was doing its thing with drizzle and high winds, and after an hour walking around the green green grass of home, all cobwebs had been blown to smithereens! Bracing!

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It was now time to begin the long journey home. However, a pitstop would be needed along the way for paw stretching and lunch, and I had the perfect little place in mind. Basically, if you are ever in the vicinity of Bristol there is only one place to go for lunch. The Pear Cafe.

En Brogue (my wife) and the owner of the Pear Cafe, Elly Curshen (Elly Pear), have recently become firm friends (mainly cultivated through a shared love of brogues and Breton stripe tops). As a result we went for  a visit last year and I was presented with this thing of beauty…

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There is chicken crackling in that sandwich! A sandwich with CHICKEN CRACKLING in it!!!

How could I not make a slight detour for the chance to experience a sandwich of that genius again? Frankly, if I’d have been in Edinburgh I’d have still considered a detour not unreasonable.

You won’t only love this place if you are a chicken crackling fan like me. Elly is in fact a Pescetarian so you can find plenty of vegetarian and vegan choices too.

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From these suggestions I am also willing to give a glowing character reference for the Grandma’s Egg and Onion filling.

Obviously after the Welsh breakfast I’d consumed merely hours earlier, I felt that personally I could only opt for yet more read meat … and chicken crackling. Have I mentioned the CHICKEN CRACKLING?!

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Notice also in this picture a very subtle advertisement (it’s a slippery slope I know).

Elly has her first book coming out on April 7th Elly Pear’s Fast Days & Feast Days full of great recipes based around the 5:2 diet. Follow the link to pre order from Amazon, and also note that it is already a #1 best seller. Well done Elly! Whoop!

Due to the fact that I then followed up the above sandwich with one of her deadly chocolate brownies (sorry no picture, it was too delicious for wasting time on that nonsense) I will be pre-ordering immediately. I think I could do with 2 months worth of fast days let alone 2 days.

My only defence is to misquote Ross from Friends – We were on a mini break!

And a very nice and enjoyable mini break it was too. We’re both already looking forward to the next one.

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

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Minibreak Part 2 – Pontypridd

After our less than successful evening in Devizes, consisting of strange half shut pubs and severely disappointing fish and chips, I am pleased to say that things improved in the morning.

First up we set off to the Kennet and Avon canal and enjoyed a lovely crisp morning walk alongside the canal barges that were spewing out some fantastic smells as the Bargers? Bargees?…people inside, cooked up their breakfasts. We then found the indoor market in a place called The Shambles (great name) and made a few choice purchases including 7 doggy chocolate bones for £1. Bargain!

With the morning taken care of, thoughts soon turned to lunch. I made a plan to find a place somewhere along the rest of our journey to stop for refuelling. A quick consultation with the invaluable website doggiepubs.org.uk and I found a suitable looking pub called The Old House at Home , which is in fact not in a village named Home as you may guess from the name, but actually in a place called Burton near Castle Coombe. (Go figure!).

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I didn’t bother quibbling with the name too much, as once inside I realised I’d stumbled across a gem. When entering I had in mind a nice light lunch. Maybe a soup of the day, or a sandwich. A light snackette at best. Once I looked at the menu however, I ended up with this …

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I’m not resisting belly pork when it’s on the menu; washed down with a Butcombe ale shandy and I’m pretty much in pub food heaven. Delicious!

As I waddled back to the car I noticed the accommodation, which looked very nice indeed, and made a mental note to stay here on my next mini break over this way.

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My accommodation in Pontypridd was in a place I had never heard of during the three years I’d spent living in the town as a student. Of course not, my world consisted of the house I lived in with all my friends and the student union. We would maybe venture into Cardiff if feeling extravagant, but truth be told, most of the time even the student union was too far away. The pool table in the pub opposite our house was pretty much where we spent the entire three years. Great times!

As a result it was a bit of a shock when I left the A470 and started climbing into the mountains. I half expected to find a ski lift when I finally made it to the top. What I did find was Llechwan Hall.

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If any of you have seen the film The Lobster with Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz then that is how I felt when entering this hotel. I wasn’t sure if Grenson was my dog or my brother!

Don’t get me wrong. That is not meant to signify that I didn’t like this place. Oh no. Oh no indeed. It was flippin brilliant! Lovely grounds for walks (more to come on that in part 3), incredibly comfortable beds and staff that were so friendly and helpful that Grenson must have thought he was in heaven. The ‘fuss’ levels were through the roof! And whilst he was happy with all that, I was very pleased to see that they had a little residents’ bar. I love a little residents’ bar!

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I had no option but to grab a pint whilst waiting for my taxi to take me to meet my friend, Craig, in town. At that point the staff pushed Llechwan Hall into the doggy friendly stratosphere. The young guy on reception came over and asked me if I wanted dinner. I declined saying that I was eating out. He then clarified that he was actually asking if Grenson wanted dinner. He was going to ask in the kitchen if they had any meat for him! Unfortunately for Grenson I’d already given him his evening meal (I’m sure he’d have received much more tasty morsels from the kitchen than what I’d given him). But super bonus points were added for this kind little touch.

Grenson and I dragged ourselves away from the hotel bar and down into the valley to meet up with Craig. The pub he took us to was called The Bush Inn, a pretty rough and ready looking pub from the outside that he wasn’t even certain dogs were allowed in … he needn’t have worried. There were already two other dogs in there and within 30 seconds a big fella at the bar was showing me a picture of his dog on his phone.

A most enjoyable evening was spent drinking a local ale that was brewed by the Welsh band The Stereophonics?? (with a little help from the Brains brewery).

As for the pub? It was great. A proper local community pub. The clientele were a good mix of genders and age groups, (and as already mentioned, a few canines mixed in too which always makes for a nice atmosphere … but I would say that wouldn’t I?). In one section of the very Tardis-like pub there was a quiz taking place. In another area someone was being hustled at pool, and over in the corner three old guys were deeply concentrating on their game of darts (I imagine they’ve been playing regularly on a Tuesday might for the past 30 years!). Add to all of this beer produced by local rock bands and you’ve got a pretty decent little pub (that is actually much bigger on the inside).

Unfortunately the ale flowed so well that I didn’t even think about taking pictures for the blog until the next morning. I wasn’t really expecting to find a place that warranted such a glowing review in all honesty.

So I’ll have to leave you with this picture of Grenson and Craig at the end of the night. Grenson is clearly ready for home and bed. It had been a big day!…And his daddy may well have been a bit drunken! hic!

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Part 3 to follow including breakfasts, mountain walks and one of my favourite little cafes!

The Man and the Dog.

 

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