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Pubs in Dorset in general

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      30.07.2005 12:48
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      Probably the best pubs in England for traditional food and atmosphere.

      Well guess what I have found! An unused category about my favourite hobby, pubs in Dorset. Well, to read that you may think I am an alcoholic who spends all his time in pubs, however that is not true. They close some of the time. Okay, living in Poole, I am in a handy position for the Eastern side of Dorset and all the public houses, inns and taverns that she has to offer, and I will say I have frequented most of them. I am not going to cop out here and post a review of one pub, although that would be the easy option, instead I will tell you about a few of the more prominent and interesting establishments I have frequented. “I went to a Tavern, I used to frequent, and I told the land lady my money was spent. I asked her for credit, she answered me “Nay!” She said “Custom like yours I can get any day.” Okay, my regular haunt is; The Shoulder of Mutton on the Ringwood road, West Howe, Bournemouth. This pub is about 3 miles from where I live and I can run there in 25 minutes, so it’s a handy old place to know. Jamie, the Landlord work for Land Rover during the day and his wife runs it between day light hours. A traditional pub that offers no food, just good drink and hospitality. One of the few pubs I know that closes during the day (2.30, but you dare get there after 2.15!) and opens again early evening (5.30) for the workers on their way home. Not a real ale place although he has one or two, more the traditional lager and bitter. 4 darts teams, 2 football teams and a great free quiz on a Sunday night. I can always be found here on a Friday night looking out of place in a suit and tie amongst builders, lorry drivers and the likes. However, this is not an airs and graces pub, so no one judges. There are a few good characters like you would expect to find in a place like this, and it can have a blue air as well, so be forewarned. On hot days, there is a large beer garden to the side and a car park that houses about 30 cars. Nice place to stop for a beer and if you want a scowl, ask him if the kitchen is open. The Grasshopper is a pub nearer to me on the Bournemouth Road in Parkstone. This pub has a fantastic array of food either in the bar or in the restaurant section. Again, a large car park so no problems if you wish to leave your car here after a night out and grab a taxi back. The food is both simple and creative, depending on your tastes so it can cater for a good mixed bunch and prices seem to be around the normal for the area, £6-£9 for a main meal. Again, not really a real ale haunt so I can not aid you CAMRA guys, and I do not consume real ale myself, so even if they did specialise in real ales, I would not be able to offer any proper advice and I will be damned if I am going to make it up and fib to you, that’s not my style. Going out of town towards Dorchester on the Upton By-pass (Dorchester Road) you come to the Bakers Arms, a Brewers Fayre pub so the food is like that you get from Iceland but cooked for you instead. (Yes, I am not a fan of Brewers Fayre food) what I like about this pub is the huge kids play area both in and outdoors, so children tend not to be under your feet and screaming the place down. The bar itself is a traditional stone floored bar with ample space to drink and a child free area. Good quiz machine and a fair selection of fruit machines. Easy to drive to, about 10 minutes due West of Poole and again, ample car parking and plenty of tables inside. Reasonably cheap but then Brewers Fayre tend to have a national menu rather than a local one. It tends to be whatever Iceland have as a BOGOF special. Wareham has 4 or 5 pubs that cater for tourists and locals, and traditional pub fare can be found in all of them. The Old Granary is the pub to go to for freshly baked baguettes with various fillings. Monsters they are! You can sit on the quay side and scoff these with a decent pint of Guinness and fight the ducks off at the same time. Parking is awkward here though and you are better parking behind Sommerfields and walking the couple of hundred yards down to the quay. On the Wareham to Swanage road, there is a pub called the Half Way Inn, which is a low beam old smugglers haunt which used to have a brilliant Cypriot menu, but ahs changed hands recently so I am not sure what the food is like there now. Set up high on the Purbeck moors, she has some good views over to pool Harbour and a large beer garden for the summer months. Not really child friendly on a rainy or cold day though and not much for children to do so expect bored and annoying children if you hit it at peak times. Corfe Castle, a few miles further boasts one of my favourite (if somewhat expensive) pubs to hit for food. The Greyhound is an old coaching Inn situated under the ruins of Corfe castle and has a beer garden right under the castle walls. Meals here range from the basic to Whole Lobsters for £20. My personal favourite is the Seafood basket which is full of whitebait, scampi, cod and plaice and costs £12 but will feed two easily. They do magnificent fresh sandwiches and pizzas. This pub does have real ale and scrumpy cider, but again on wet days there is no real children’s area so be prepared for the inevitable. Large garden houses about 20 tables but no car parking whatsoever and a fair walk from the west street car park if you suffer any disabilities. Headroom is an issue inside and I am forever smacking my bonce on a beam or two. Swanage, a few miles further on has a multitude of pubs and all cater for the tourist but none stand out to me as a place you must go to. The traffic can be horrendous getting in and out of Swanage in the summer though, so be patient and try to avoid peak times. Further down the Purbeck coastline, on the Wareham to Weymouth road, you come to Osmington Mills and a hidden gem, the Smugglers. Down a narrow lane, past wooden cabins and caravans, nestled in a gully exposed from the cliffs, you find her below the car park. With a stream and small waterfall in her gardens this place is a pleasure on the eye. Olde world style and another beamed pub, the Smugglers are in fact three houses knocked into a large pub. Deceiving from the outside but spacious and crammed with tables on the inside. Beer garden must easily hold a hundred people and climbing stuff to keep the kids amused. They have a purpose built BBQ pit and marquee to house the salad and condiments come summer months and inside you can still have the traditional menu (again another home baked baguette place, brilliant!). I often take friends here when they come to visit and despite the 35 minute drive from Poole, it is well worth it. The views from the car park overlooking Weymouth and Portland are fantastic and you always need a few minutes to follow the coastal path along the cliffs. In fact, if you enjoy a walk after or before your meal, the coastal path along to Lulworth Cove is about an hour and a half each way, so you can climb those cliffs and enjoy views over to the IOW and beyond. Weymouth itself is packed with pubs, but like most towns, they are characterless and aim to supply tourists with Iceland style meals, which I prefer to feed the cat rather than myself. If you are going back or coming in via the A31, due west about 5 miles past Wimborne you have the Worlds End pub which is renowned locally for its Sunday lunches. They do a varied menu but cater for some 200-500 people a day so the food tends to reflect that kind of market. The Coventry Arm, a few minutes up the road is more of a drinking pub and a real ale house apparently. I sometimes have a quick drink here if the traffic is bad and I need a break. Dorchester has the Kings Head for a Sunday Carvery second to none. Pleasant service and no quibble seconds although booking is advisable. Dorset as a whole has more villages than any other county in England and has no motorways, so life and travel is slow. Don’t get flustered about a 20 mile drive taking the best part of an hour here, as that’s the way it is. There are lots more small village and country pubs offering the traveller good hospitality and food. So when you are caught in traffic and getting a bit flustered, pull over, relax and enjoy a taste of Dorset.

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