It's a race to be first in the queue to order an evening meal at the Start Bay Inn, Torcross, in the South Hams. It's no surprise why. The fish couldn't be fresher, the batter lighter, the chips fatter. The pub, a 14th century thatched inn, is right on Slapton Sands, a two-and-a-half mile long stretch of shingle that borders a freshwater lake, Slapton Ley. Grab a pint of Otter and a table outside for the best views of the beach. Then, when you're stuffed, skim stones into Lyme Bay as the sun goes down beyond the lighthouse at Start Point.
Start Bay Inn, Torcross, Kingsbridge
On the A379 between Dartmouth and Kingsbridge
Upstairs at the Bull - a lovely boutique hotel in the heart of Bridport - there's the Venner Bar, an establishment that feels more like a swanky private club in London than a watering hole in rural west Dorset. It has chocolate brown walls, leather sofas, dimmed lighting and a long bar presided over - when we went - by a depressingly good-looking Spaniard. I love pubs down here but occasionally a metropolitan injection is needed.
34 East Street
Bar Saloon is a broom cupboard of a drinking den in the Old City, with just a handful of tables and chairs. The look is - quite by accident I suspect - straight out of the pages of Wallpaper, with exposed fake timbers, dark walls, fairy lights and a couple of topless pin-ups. It’s presided over by a genial, rotund man who sits at a tiny bar under shelves loaded with bottles and boxes of yet more bottles. He fixed my dad a vodka and tonic and brought me an Al-Maza, a crisp Lebanese beer. Staring out into the darkening street, a bowl of nuts on the table, we couldn’t have been happier. And if you think the bar's size is Lilliputian, be sure to check out the loo.
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