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Drinking in West Dorset will usually require a designated driver, given that many of its best watering holes are way out in the sticks. Pub crawling is pretty tricky in these parts and ‘muddling a cocktail’ often means getting the order wrong, but you can be sure of charm-drenched locations, breathtaking views and a selection of fresh, pokey local brews, all served with a friendly smile. Just make sure your ride home is sorted.
It’s ‘location, location, location’ at the Anchor, where you can sip your pint of Palmer’s ale and eat big bowls of chips while enjoying a thrilling, full-frontal view of the Jurassic Coast. Best approached via an exhilarating cliffside walk over Golden Cap – the highest point on the South West Coast Path.
Given the Digby Tap’s year-round popularity, you might think there was nowhere else to drink in Sherborne. Flagstone floors and cosy corners make this a snug bolthole in which to sup a pint of the week’s local session beer and watch the good people of the town going about their business.
There’s a strong cider-drinking tradition in this village, and the local producers are famous round these parts for their roof-raising concoctions. Sadly you can’t buy the homemade stuff here, but you might meet some of the cider-makers enjoying a pint of Thatcher’s Gold or one of the cask ales from nearby Palmer’s brewery.
As near to the Jurassic Coast as you can get, the Harbour Inn’s beer garden is actually on the beach – affording a foot-in-the-sand experience that’s almost Mediterranean if the sun is shining. With a chilled bottle of wine in hand, it’s a great spot to observe the great British public on their holidays.
The interior of this pretty 16th-century inn is all horse-brasses and sticky dark wood, but it’s the outside space that makes it a must: quite simply, it’s the beer garden of dreams for parents with young children. A treehouse and slide, swings, climbing frames, magical dens and hideouts are all safely contained within this bucolic setting.
Forget the authentic Caribbean cooking and new seven-bedroom extension, it’s the character-packed bar, chocolate-box garden and traditional Dorset skittle alley that make the reinvented Shave Cross Inn a strike for drinkers and pub aficionados. The location in lush Marshwood Vale isn’t bad, either.
The ceilings may be low and the rooms small, but the atmosphere is nothing short of enormous in this legendary pub. The drink of choice here is cider, with a homemade pasty on the side to satisfy any hunger pangs. Paleontologists will enjoy the bijou fossil ‘museum’ on the windowsill.
Over 50 West Country ciders, perries and orchard-based drinks are on tap here, from easy-drinking Kingston Press and Thatcher’s to Aspall’s Premier Cru and Julian Temperley’s Royal Cider Brandy. Bag a space at the long communal table and settle in for the long haul.