Waterside pubs have long been a part of sailing tradition. Yachting Monthly experts recommend 10 of the best pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: 10 of the best
For many, stepping ashore for a pint or a glass of wine is the ideal end to a great day’s sailing; the chance to share the highlights of your passage, chew over what you could have done better or just enjoy the view.
Hostelries have long been part of sailing tradition, from the quayside pub, which welcomes weather-beaten sailors to prop up the bar in their flotsam covered establishments, to the quaint, rural, riverside haunts, with their beer gardens offering unrivalled views over the anchorage.
There’s a great wealth of local real ales, wines and spirits to discover in ports and anchorages all around our coast.
From the peaty single malts of Islay or the malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness of Irish Guinness to the delicate botanicals of Portsmouth gin and the crisp real ales of Purbeck, there are plenty of ways to celebrate another memory-making sail.
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Islay, Inner Hebrides
Recommended by Graham Snook
The west Scottish island of Islay is currently home to nine open distilleries (and there are plans to reopen Port Ellen and one more).
While it’s possible to moor at Port Ellen Marina, there are two moorings provided by Lagavulin Distillery in the sheltered Lagavulin Bay.
This puts you a stone’s throw from Lagavulin Distillery and a short walk from both Ardbeg to the east and Laphroaig to the west.
All three distilleries offer tastings and tours. But as you’re closest to Lagavulin it makes sense to start there, tours start at £20; tastings start at £25 (www.distillerytours.scot).
I can personally recommend the £35 Warehouse Demonstration, by the infinitely knowledgeable Iain MacArthur; after a distillery tour, you will be led into Lagvulin’s warehouse to sample the contents of many barrels and bottles.
Oban distillery is another easily accessible distillery on the west coast for those less fond of the peaty Islay malts.
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: Getting to Islay
A few miles south of Islay it’s possible to make out the white distillery buildings of Lagavulin, and her neighbour Ardbeg off to starboard.
Leaving the ULIN of the painted LAGAVULIN visible to starboard of the 13th-Century Dunyvaig Castle will lead you in nicely for the approach around the port/starboard perches and rocks.
Lagavulin’s mooring is free if visiting the distillery. Port Ellen Harbour is exposed to swell from the south.
The marina has 34 berths with power and water (www.portellenmarina.co.uk).
Porth Dinllaen, North Wales
Recommended by Jonty Pearce
Once ranking third in a survey of the world’s top-ten beach bars, Porth Dinllaen’s Ty Coch Inn (www.tycoch.co.uk) is situated on the north coast of the Lleyn peninsula where it enjoys spectacular views from its doorstep sandy beach across to the triple peaks of Yr Eifl and Snowdonia.
Only locals have vehicle access to the inn, so visitors must walk across the beach from Morfa Nefyn or cross the headland golf course.
The 1823 Ty Coch started life as a vicarage before opening as an inn in 1842; it enjoys a central position among the two dozen or so buildings of this National Trust-owned village.
The pub’s live music sessions are legendary, the food great, and the beer refreshing.
One of my fondest memories is dining on a beach table in the sun with the incoming sea lapping at my bare toes watching the comings and goings of boating folk.
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: Getting to Porth Dinllaen
Tucked behind a sheltering bluff on the north-west shore of the Lleyn Peninsula, Porth Dinllaen is a good passage halt for those travelling north from Cardigan Bay as well as a refuge for those travelling south from Caernarfon Bar and Holyhead.
The main approach hazard is Careg y Chwislen rock to the northeast of the headland, marked by a pole beacon.
The anchorage offers excellent holding in sand and mud with a depth of 3m, and is sheltered from the south round to the northwest.
The bay contains moorings and rocks crowd the inshore shallows, but further out there is plenty of space.
Recommended by Graham Snook
Most sailors bypass Dublin in favour of the marinas at Howth or Dun Laoghaire, choosing instead to visit the city on its Dart railway system.
There is, however, a 100-berth marina on the south bank of the Liffey in Dublin at Poolbeg Yacht Club.
Once in Dublin, there are the producers of its two world-famous drinks to visit.
St James’s Gate, Dublin is the home of Guinness. The Guinness experience isn’t a brewery tour, it’s the museum of Guinness and full of interesting facts and stories, finishing with a chance to pull your own pint (www.guinness-storehouse.com).
If whiskey is more your tipple, head north of the Liffey to Southfields and look for the observation tower that was an old Jameson Distillery chimney.
A tour costs €25 and includes a 40-minute tour of the distillery followed by a whiskey tasting (www.jamesonwhiskey.com).
Public transport, via bus and tram, is good around Dublin.
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: Getting to Dublin
Dublin is a busy port (www.dublinport.iee), so keep an eye out for shipping and monitor Dublin Port VTS CH12.
Observe the TSZ to the north and south of Burford Bank.
It’s best to enter from the south and remain outside the buoyed channel from Dublin Bay buoy to Poolbeg lighthouse.
If you do approach from the north, head for No.3 Buoy and cross at right angles to the shipping channel, after first obtaining permission from Dublin VTS.
From the lighthouse, you have to motor along the south side of the channel keeping as far to the south as possible until you arrive at Poolbeg Yacht Club (www.poolbegmarina.ie).
St Agnes, Isles of Scilly
Recommended by Jane Russell
The Isles of Scilly are flung out into the Atlantic from Land’s End, and St Agnes is the farthest inhabited island in the group, which makes the Turks Head – celebrating its 50th year in 2022 – the southwesternmost pub in Britain.
You have to work quite hard to get there and anchoring for any length of time is far from certain, which is partly why the welcome feels the warmest, the food the most delicious and the pint’s the best you’ve ever had.
But the Cornish beers and locally produced food are well deserving of this accolade.
You might catch a gig race, or a local gig of a more musical kind, but sufficient is the voyager’s contentment as you relax into the sublime setting, nestled on the edge of the turquoise waters of Porth Conger, and raise your glass to the boat that brought you here and the crew who shared the journey.
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: Getting to St Agnes
In settled conditions you can anchor in Porth Conger, between St Agnes and Gugh, to the north of the drying sandbar that connects the two.
Head in SE between The Cow and St Agnes. Beware The Calf (dries 3m). If space allows, anchor when Kittern Hill on Gugh bears E.
The Cove, south of the sandbar, has more room, deeper water and a straightforward approach. It is protected from the north but is not a safe place in wind or swell from a southerly sector.
Anchor clear of the telegraph cables. Dinghy to the beach and it’s a short walk to the pub.
Restronguet Creek, south Cornwall
Recommended by Ken Endean
What could be nicer? An old, thatched pub beside a sheltered estuary, with a reputation for fine food.
The name is supposed to have come from HMS Pandora, the ship sent to capture the Bounty mutineers; she was lost on a reef but her captain was cleared at the later court martial and some accounts even credit him with purchasing the inn.
Following a fire in 2011 it has been carefully restored to its traditional appearance and details.
In winter, there are log fires but the main attraction in the sailing season is a substantial pontoon, extending from the front terrace with tables and benches for diners and room for mooring yachts directly alongside.
The pontoon dries at low water, so arriving by cruiser should take account of the tidal cycle: spring tides are ‘morning and evening’, so best for dinner, while neaps are high at midday – best for lunch. www.pandorainn.com
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: Getting to Restronguet
Carrick Roads is a delightful expanse of water, with anchorages offering shelter from all directions and provisions available at Falmouth and St Mawes.
The Pandora is at the entrance to Restronguet Creek, which is fairly congested with moored craft.
If time and tide do not suit mooring alongside, a good anchorage is just to the north, in the direction of Loe Beach and close under the shore.
The approaches are shallow but MLWS is 0.8m.
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Studland Bay, Dorset
Recommended by Graham Snook
There are many breweries around the UK, but few are attached to a great traditional pub with a beer garden, like that of the award-winning Isle of Purbeck Brewery (www.isleofpurbeckbrewery.com).
The family-run brewery was established by Jack and Pippa Lightbown in 2003, after the increasing success of the pub’s August Beer Festival, now in its 22nd year.
The Bankes Arms Inn (www.bankesarms.com) is a short walk from the ever-popular Studland Bay and offers a large beer garden in the summer and an open fire in the winter.
The range of Purbeck ales includes summer seasonal brews like the pale straw Equinox.
Given its popular location with tourists arriving by land and sea, on summer days it pays to get there early as everything is on a first-come, first-served basis, and it’s not uncommon for there to be a wait for tables.
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: Getting to Studland Bay
Studland Bay offers excellent shelter with winds from W and SW. Approaching from Poole or the Solent is straightforward.
From the south, be aware of the overfalls off Old Harry Rock.
Parts of the bay are now subject to a voluntary no-anchor zone off South and Middle Beach.
Anchor above 050°39N. Holding is sandy and good. Dinghy in to South Beach towards the line of beach huts.
Where there’s a break between them there’s a footpath to Manor Road. Turn right and you’ll see the pub ahead.
Langstone Harbour, Portsmouth
Recommended by Kieran Flatt
Pompey lacked its own distillery for several hundred years but it has one now and it’s a cracker.
Appropriately based in the 18th Century bastion of Fort Cumberland on the south-east tip of Portsea Island, overlooking the entrance to Langstone Harbour, Portsmouth Distillery (theportsmouthdistillery.com) was founded in 2018 by two ex-Royal Navy officers with a passion for rum.
It’s probably the first distillery in Britain to make and age rum in the traditional way. Their unaged 1968 White Rum is super-smooth with a rich and complex flavour.
The first batch of three-year-old rum, aged in bourbon casks, will be bottled in time for this summer. There’s also subtly spiced Cinnabar and gin-style Forum Garden rum.
They also make craft gins – including one in collaboration with the Mary Rose Museum based on a recipe found on the wreck of the Mary Rose – and give inspiring, entertaining tours (£20pp) of their uniquely historic distillery.
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: Getting to Langstone Harbour
The distillery is just 100 yards from Southsea Marina (www.premiermarinas.com), which is accessed via a tidal gate that opens with 1.6m rise of tide.
A dredged channel with lateral marks leads you in and there’s a waiting pontoon outside.
The approach is straightforward, bearing in mind that the ebb tide runs very fast and a nasty sea state can develop on Langstone Bar when a strong onshore wind blows against the ebb.
Ideally, aim to arrive in the three hours before local HW.
Pin Mill, River Orwell
Recommended by Janet Harber
For centuries the Butt & Oyster, at the top of the hard in the hamlet of Pin Mill on the River Orwell, was a waterside inn frequented by barge crews and locals.
After it featured in Arthur Ransome’s We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, the inn became an attraction for East Coast yachtsmen.
Butt is thought to be another word for a barrel used to pack fish or oysters. Nowadays the Butt is one of a chain of Suffolk pubs.
Most patrons are more likely to arrive by car than by boat.
At high water springs the tide laps at its walls and you can sail a lifting-keeler almost to the door of this picturesque watering place.
Pub food and Adnams ales served all day every day. Busy on weekends and holidays. Booking 01473 780764.
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: Getting to Pin Mill
The classic way for yachtsmen to visit is by dinghy from a visitor’s mooring. The hard is muddy at low water. Alternatively, walk along the shore from Woolverstone Marina (www.mdlmarinas.co.uk).
From Harwich Harbour the Orwell entrance is between Shotley Point and the Felixstowe container terminal.
Some very large container ships dock here and manoeuvre between Shotley Spit and Guard buoys. The recommended yacht track passes just west of Shotley Spit buoy.
The six miles of deep water channel from Harwich to Pin Mill is well buoyed.
Recommended by Graham Snook
Beer has been brewed at the site of the Adnams Brewery, on the east Suffolk coast, for over 670 years.
Adnams is well known as a brewer of Broadside and Southwold Best beers, but for 11 years it has been a distiller too.
Over the years the distillery activity has increased and it has racked up awards including the world’s best gin (2013) and vodka (2014).
Adnams makes a range of gins, vodkas, whiskies and liqueurs. Tours of the brewery and the distillery are available.
It also offers ‘experiences’ like making your own gin; select your botanical, distil your gin, and of course, taste and bottle it.
Should Southwold harbour be untenable, Lowestoft to the north has several marinas and yacht clubs with facilities for visiting yachts.
The no.99 Coastal Clipper bus service runs frequently from East Point Pavilion to Southwold. www.adnams.co.uk
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: Getting to Southwold
Before entering Southwold, contact the harbour master 24 hours before; not only does this ensure they have room, but they can alert you to any changes to the sand and shingle sandbanks at the entrance to the River Blythe.
Tides can run at 6 knots on the ebb and 4 knots on the flood; care must also be taken when passing the ferry (a rowing boat, 3 cables from the entrance) which has warning signs 100m up and downstream. It has priority at all times.
Proceed up the river around 7 cables to the visitor’s moorings. www.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/visitors/southwold-harbour
Lossiemouth, Moray Firth
Recommended by Graham Snook
A few days in Lossiemouth, on the Moray Firth, gets within reach of Speyside and a wondrous variety of whisky.
The inland towns of Elgin, Rothes and Dufftown are a bus ride or two away, although hiring a car will offer you greater flexibility.
It’s a 30-minute ride on the no.33 bus to Elgin, where the Glen Moray distillery is a short walk from the town centre.
The more adventurous could then get the no.36 bus to Dufftown.
The 36 bus route gets within walking distance of distilleries of Benriach, Glen Grant, Aberlour, Balvenie and Glenfiddich as well as the mountains of barrels at the Speyside cooperage (www.speysidedistillery.co.uk) – also worth a visit.
It does pass other distilleries but they either don’t offer tours or, in the case of Macallan, it’s a long trek by foot.
All the tours are followed by a dram or two, and many distilleries offer post-tour tastings giving you a unique opportunity to sample fine and rare bottlings.
Waterside pubs, breweries and distilleries to sail to in the UK and Ireland: Getting to Lossiemouth
Lossiemouth Marina (www.lossiemouthmarina.com) has 125 berths and welcomes visitors.
If approaching from the west, leave the north cardinal marking Halliman Skerries to starboard and pass the harbour, giving around 5 cables clearance to the north to Spey bay.
Radio the harbour master on VHF Ch.12 to confirm a berth and approach the harbour from the east with leading lights on 292°.
Visitor’s berths are usually in the east basin; a sharp turn to port. Avoid entering in strong winds from north to south east.
Welcome Anchorages, free, available to download at www.welcome-anchorages.co.uk
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