I absolutely adore historic English pubs, but Cornwall’s oldest pubs are particularly intriguing. Thanks to the county’s history of piracy, smuggling and wrecking, the oldest pubs in Cornwall are simply dripping in character. Whether you’re looking for somewhere romantic for a cozy date, or smehwere to escape the rain, a historic pub in Cornwall is a great choice.

In an effort to find the most beautiful old pubs in Cornwall, I’ve scoured the county for the best historic boozers on offer. From the very north of the county – once along the famous Saint’s Way – to the smuggler’s lands down south, I’ve found eleven brilliant and historic inns for you to enjoy.

If you have any other suggestions for beautiful old pubs in Cornwall – let me know! I’m always on the look out for a pint and some tales of the past.

The Oldest Pubs in Cornwall

All over Cornwall you’ll find plenty of beautiful old pubs. Best of all, nearly all of them come with a warm Cornish welcome to you, and any four legged friends. That’s right – pretty much every Cornish pub is dog-friendly. Beer, dogs and history? No wonder they say Cornwall is twinned with heaven!

Sloop Inn, one of the oldest pubs in Cornwall

Sloop Inn, St Ives

If you are looking for a historic pub in Cornwall with an amazing location, then I highly recommend the Sloop Inn in St Ives. You can’t miss it with its unique and vintage facade.

It’s been a pub since 1312, although most of the building that you see today dates from the 17th century (still looks pretty cool, though). That makes it one of the very oldest pubs in Cornwall, and one of the oldest in all of the UK.

The pub was particularly well-loved by artists and fishermen. These two different groups would often come together to drink at the Sloop Inn.

What I really love about this pub, however, is the location. It overlooks the harbour at St Ives, right at the end of the high street. This means that it has beautiful views to go with your pint.

While you may be tempted just to stay outdoors, the inside is beautiful as well. It’s got the low beams and dark and gloomy vibe that I think all old Cornish pubs should. Be gone, light! I want to feel like I’m hiding from the customs men!

You can also stay in the pub if you want to get to know it a bit better. Just beware – apparently, things have been known to go bump in the night!

The Sloop Inn, a beautiful historic pub in St Ives, Cornwall

Bush Inn, Morwenstow

For a historic Cornish inn with a bit of a modern edge, I recommend the Bush Inn in Morwenstow.

Who doesn’t love the idea of watching live rock music in a 13th century pub, after all?

As you’d expect from a pub its age, the Bush Inn has many beautiful original features. This includes low beams, a roaring open fire and thick walls. It’s a totally charming place.

It is not, however, stuck in the past. The owners are passionate about supporting local musicians and there’s an impressive calendar of live music on offer.

They also have a great selection of wine and beer, and can even mix up a mean cocktail for you if you ask nicely.

The food menu is good, with some classic pub dishes served up with Cornish hospitality.

If you’re looking for a great day out in a beautiful old Cornish pub, I highly recommend the Bush Inn. Just watch out for the ghosts – it’s considered one of the spookiest places in Cornwall!

Pandora Inn, one of the oldest pubs in Cornwall

Pandora Inn, Mylor

Another gorgeous old pub in Cornwall with a great view is the Pandora Inn at Mylor.

Thatched roof? Check. Flower boxes? Check. Beamed ceilings? Check.

I definitely highly recommend visiting the Pandora Inn if you are on the lookout for a gorgeous historic pub in Cornwall.

As luck would have it, we were in the middle of a storm when visited so sitting outside would probably have meant getting blown into the river. However, I imagine it is gorgeous during summer.

I wasn’t complaining though, as I found the inside even more charming. Ironically, this is actually a result of a fire in 2011 which saw the pub gutted, and gave the proud owners a chance to carefully restore it back to how it would have looked centuries ago.

The interior is therefore now in keeping with the pub’s 700-year-old+ history as an inn. Due to its age, some of the history is a little fuzzy – but we do know some details.

Interior of Pandora Inn, one of the oldest pubs in Cornwall

The history of the Pandora Inn

The earliest records of the building speak of it being a farm, and then an inn known as the Passing House. It was a particularly important place as it was along the main route to Truro. It would later be renamed the Ship Inn.

A final name change saw it become the Pandora Inn in 1828. It was named after the HMS Pandora, a ship that was sent off to rescue the remaining crew of the Bounty following a mutiny in 1779. While it managed to do so, it was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef on its return voyage, claiming the lives of many.

The Captain of the Pandora is believed to have bought the inn on his return to Cornwall. I’m not sure that I would have chosen my greatest professional failing as the name for my pub – but maybe he was looking to drown his sorrows.

Like most of the oldest pubs in Cornwall, not much of the earliest 13th century building remains – but there are still some hints. Even still, it was definitely one of my favourite old pubs.

Punchbowl and Ladle, one of the oldest thatched roof pubs in Cornwall

Punch Bowl & Ladle, Feock

Nothing yells “awesome old English pub!” like a thatched roof, and the Punch Bowl & Ladle has a great one. Side note: it’s prettier than my pictures suggest… thanks, Storm Gareth, for ruining my shot!

What I love about the Punch Bowl & Ladle is that this is very much a village pub. A sign on the door even warns you of the grumpy pub landlord (although he didn’t seem that grumpy to me).

So, if you want the “real English pub experience” more so than the tourist version, I highly recommend checking out this beautiful old Cornish pub.

Perhaps you might even like to join in one of the regular events, which range from Cornish singing to quiz nights. It sounds like great fun!

Part of the pub dates back from the 15th century, although much of what you see today is from the 17th. One fascinating story about the Punch Bowl & Ladle is that apparently the large fireplace was used to destroy contraband if the customs officers arrived!

This pub has a cozy, local vibe with plenty of old books and comfy seating. There’s a good selection of local ales, and I hear the food is good too, although we didn’t get to try it.

I definitely recommend this as one of the best old pubs in Cornwall.

Inside the Punchbowl and Ladle

The Crown Inn, Lanlivery near Bodmin

I’m very partial to Bodmin, since its eerie moors are the stuff of my morbid history-loving dreams are made of. One of the highlights is the beautiful old Crown Inn.

While many of the oldest pus in Cornwall have lost much of their character over the years due to fire or other damage, much of the Crown Inn is still original. It’s amazing to think that people have been visiting this watering hole for over 800 years.

It was originally built along what is known as the “Saint’s Way” in Cornwall. It was also popular among the builders and stonemasons who built the nearby church of St Brevita.

Today, it is an utterly gorgeous pub with all the features you’d expect. Think low beam ceilings and ultra-thick walls to guard against those Cornish winters. There’s also a roaring fireplace to help add to the cozy charm.

There’s plenty of beer on tap as well as a few wines, and you can also enjoy a good honest pub meal here too.

If you like, you can join a long list of travellers who have spent a night at the Crown Inn. They have beautifully appointed rooms at a good price.

The First and Last Inn on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall

The First and Last Inn, Sennen

You’ve probably picked up that I think every good pub needs plenty of smuggling history. Well, the First and Last Inn in Sennen certainly fits the bill.

By Cornish standards, it’s not one of the absolute oldest inns in Cornwall as it dates from around the 17th century.

However, I think it’s a worth addition to our list thanks to the fascinating history of smuggling and piracy.

Located near the end of the Lizard Peninsula (hence its name), the First and Last Inn was always likely to be a hub for smugglers. And a hub it was, seeing many pirates and wreckers over the years.

Around 1800, the owner of the land on which the First and Last Inn is located was financing many of the smuggling operations coming through south Cornwall.

The sorry tale of Annie

As the couple that actually ran the inn knew about this, they blackmailed the owner into letting them stay rent free. Eventually, however, it all fell apart and one of them, Annie, turned state’s witness.

Anyone who has seen Poldark knows this was not a good move – loyalty amongst Cornish folk was high. Incensed, the locals hung Annie up on the beach where she was drowned. They then moved her body to the inn as a warning, where she remained for several days until she was buried in an unmarked grave in the cemetery next door.

The room in which Annie lay is still preserved at the First and Last Inn – but few dare to enter. I can’t say I blame them!

Ghosts, smuggling and murders aside, the First and Last Inn is actually a friendly and jolly pub that does great food (I loved the calamari!) and drinks.

Beautiful Tinner Arms in Zennor

Tinners Arms, Zennor

Not far from St Ives, the Tinner’s Arms is Zennor is my pick if you are looking for an old pub in Cornwall with a beer garden. Or just to be enamoured by a gorgeous village pub.

It has such a beautiful outdoor area which boasts amazing views out over the surrounding countryside. It is incredibly picturesque and so quintessentially country Britain – all the way down to the old man in his wellies and Berber coat that we saw plodding down the lane!

Even though the surrounding area has a quaint village feel, the pub itself is very impressive. Inside, it has been tastefully renovated so that it has all the traditional charm – with a teensy bit more head room.

Outdoor area at the Tinners Arms

They also do great food, and their Thursday folk nights are particularly popular. Of course, you can also just stop by for a pint.

Undoubtedly, the gorgeous Tinner’s Arms is one of the oldest pubs in Cornwall. In fact, it dates back to 1271… the same year that the last Medieval crusade took place.

The pub is just a stone’s throw from the beautiful old church, which is significant in its history. The pub was originally built to keep the stonemasons building the church well hydrated.

I highly recommend making a visit to this absolute gem. Plus, the drive from St Ives to Zennor is incredibly beautiful.

The Old Inn and Restaurant, one of the oldest pubs in Cornwall
Image (c) the Old Inn and Restaurant

The Old Inn & Restaurant, St Breward, Bodmin

Nestled in the picturesque village of Saint Breward not far from Bodmin, the Old Inn & Restaurant is a charming old Cornish inn.

It lies right on the edge of the Bodmin Moor – one of my favourite places in Cornwall and the site of many spooky legends.

As its name suggests, the Old Inn & Restaurant is one of the oldest pubs in Cornwall. In fact, it dates from the 11th century – so if you sink a pint here, you’ll be joining a very long list of drinkers!

Long before the pirates and smugglers, Cornwall was known for its monks, churches and monasteries. As a result, many of the oldest inns in the counties are built nearby to churches, including this beautiful pub.

Why? Simple – the workers weren’t going to toil away on the church without a place to retire back to! Therefore, the Old Inn & Restaurant began as a resting place and inn for the hardworking stone masons on the nearby church.

Once the church was completed, the inn became the stopping off point for travellers across the moors. It was perhaps here that the story of the ghastly Beast of Bodmin – known to steal livestock – began.

Today, the pub maintains much of its gorgeous traditional character with a few modern touches as well. There’s all the things I love – think low beams, a roaring fireplace and of course a friendly smile when you pull up to the bar.

They’re said to do a fairly legendary carvery on Sundays however I didn’t get a chance to try it. Throughout the week, they have a menu of traditional pub favourites.

I did however enjoy a tasty pint of ale, so I’ve got no complaints!

The Turks Head is the oldest pub in Cornwall

Turks Head, Penzance

Just reading about the Turks Head in Penzance was enough to send me on a four-hour Wikipedia binge about pirates. This gorgeous pub is choc-full of fabulous pirate-y history.

Not to mention it’s also one of the friendliest pubs in Penzance. I knew I’d found a fellow history lover when I met bartender Gary, who delighted in telling me about the history of this inn.

The history of the Turks Head

Built in 1233, the Turks Head is the oldest pub in Penzance, as well as one of the oldest in Cornwall and all of the UK.

Its name has a fairly bloodthirsty origin, named for when the Turks invaded the city during the Crusades. You can use your imagination to figure what the locals’ preferred way of dealing with them was.

Unfortunately, much of the pub burnt down in the 16th century and was rebuilt. However, there are still some fascinating glimpses of the past which can be found in the cellar.

My favourite part of the Turks Head is the smuggling passage that can be found between the pub and the harbour. Well, they didn’t call it the Pirates of Penzance for nothing.

Interestingly, the Turks Head has some more modern claims to fame. In the 19th century, a young boy named Thomas Holloway grew up in the pub. He would go on to be a pioneer of women’s education, opening a university college for women to study courses previously unavailable to them, such as medicine.

If you love history, you’ve got to stop by this amazing pub in Penzance.

Exterior of the Admiral Benbow in Penzance

Admiral Benbow, Penzance

Just down the road from the Turks Head, the Admiral Benbow is one of the quirkiest of the old pubs in Cornwall.

It’s got a fabulously charming exterior (look out for the pirate’s flag and the marksman on top of the roof), but the inside is a total delight.

You feel like you’re walking into Aladdin’s Cave here, with every space taken up by all kinds of fascinating nic-nacs. They’re mostly naval inspired, as you’d expect.

My favourite room of all is at the back – it’s actually made from a reclaimed ship, and it still looks like you could be on the high seas. The wheel of the ship even still turns!

While the pub itself dates from the 16th century its heyday was at the height of Cornish smuggling between about 1750 and 1830. There’s even still a smuggler’s tunnel under the bar!

The eclectic collection and historic ties mean its one of the most popular pubs in Cornwall, so she can get pretty busy! They also serve great food and drinks, so if you do want to try them, I’d recommend making a booking.

Quirky interior of the Admiral Benbow in Penzance

Weary Friar, Pillaton near Saltash

Many of the oldest pubs in Cornwall were built at the same time as the oldest churches in Cornwall, and it’s no coincidence. With every influx of strapping young men came an influx of would-be drinkers!

One of these pubs is the Weary Friar, which dates back to the 12th century when the nearby church was being constructed. At first, the builders were the main clientele, before it became a rest house.

This pub doesn’t have a well-known smuggling history, as North Cornwall was never as involved in the dastardly trade as its southern counterpart.

Today, the pub is absolutely delightful with all those vintage features you dream of finding in an old historic Cornish inn. In particular, I love the old roaring fire and the dark beams overhead.

If you fall madly in love with this gorgeous old pub, you can even stay overnight in one of their 12 rooms. At £75 per night (with Morris Dancing some days!), I think it’s a pretty good deal.

A map of the oldest pubs in Cornwall

Like this? Pin it!

Share this Post

4 Comments

  1. The story of the First and Last Inn is so cool! They all look stunning though! If I ever make to the area I’m definitely checking some of these out!

  2. Ahh, a girl after my own heart! I also love a good olde traditional English pub and a few intriguing stories from the past 🙂 I haven’t actually visited Cornwall since I was a child, so I desperately need to return. In fact, it would make a cool little road trip checking off all the curious old drinking haunts with stories to tell, and one that the boyfriend would approve of too 😉 The only problem is that accommodation in Cornwall is soooo expensive! I wonder if you’d get a discount for sharing a room with one of the old ghosts….

  3. Frankly saying, i have never planned to visit Cornwall. But the photos and the story of the First and Last Inn is so cool. They are really oldest, the photos made different taste in this article. Good essay indeed.

    1. Thanks Redoy! I hope you get to visit one day. Happy travels! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *