When I first learned that the most photographed pub in Devon is supposedly that of the Bearslake Inn, I was excited to see it for myself. Located on the fringes of Dartmoor, somewhere between the A30 and Lydford Gorge, Bearslake Inn is something of a piece of history in of itself. After all, it’s formed from a former Devon longhouse and parts of the structure date all the way back to the 13th-century!
A (Very) Brief History of Bearslake Inn
And no, there are neither bears nearby, nor is there a lake anywhere in the area. Instead, it’s thought that the ‘bear’ part of the name comes from an old English word meaning ‘wooded place,’ while the ‘lake’ part is also the name of the quaint hamlet where the pub can be found.
A Devon longhouse is a traditional building which once served the purpose of housing both humans and livestock under the same roof. Animals would live in one part of the structure, while people inhabited the other. An ever-burning fire would perpetually heat the property, and the longhouse typically had a thatched roof.
In 1959, Mr Joe Sweet bought what was at that time, a set of three attached and abandoned cottages. He then set about transforming the former homes into tea rooms, installing modern amenities such as gas, water, electricity, and applying for an operational license. Today, Bearslake Inn is a Grade II listed property and the oldest part of the pub is the Bar area, which is thought to date all the way back to the 13th-century!
Food and Drink at the Bearslake Inn
As I had to drive home afterwards (and it was a midday-midweek visit when I ventured into the pub), I didn’t get to sample any of the local brews on offer. Instead, I opted for one of the coffees, which ended up being rather tasty! When it came to food, I selected the cheesy chips from the Bar Menu. These arrived promptly and were incredibly fresh.
If you’re looking for something a little fancier, then there’s more formal dining available in the form of the restaurant area. This being said, the Bar area is styled in more vintage decor and is the perfect place to enjoy your lunch if you want to enjoy a traditional Devonian affair together with your pooch (well-behaved dogs are welcome in the bar area!). Think comfortable sofas, exposed wooden beams, and traditional stonewalling…
Attractions near Bearslake Inn
Dartmoor National Park is a stunning region of outstanding natural beauty. Full of history, ancient pubs, and incredible moorland walks, it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of modern day life. Here are the best things to do near Bearslake Inn:
Castle Drogo: The last castle to have been built in England, Castle Drogo is a sumptuous palatial building complete with fortifications and a working portcullis. Today, Castle Drogo is owned and managed by the National Trust and can be visited for a fee. Once there, you’ll find some incredible architecture by Edwin Lutyens (architect of the Cenotaph), as well as beautiful gardens, and breathtaking views onto Dartmoor.
Wheal Betsy: Located just down the road from Bearslake Inn, Wheal Betsy is a former silver tin mining engine house that’s now owned and managed by the National Trust. Complete with a leaning tower, it’s an incredible sight to see and a real glimpse at the history of industry in the area.
Brentor Church: Perched precariously atop of an extinct volcano, the church at Brentor is one of the smallest churches in Devon, and is well worth a wander up from the car park below. Dedicated to St Michael de la Rupe, there’s no paved pathway up to the small chapel, and it’s said that brides often wander up to the building in their wellington boots before getting married!
The Granite Way: Step just outside the Inn, and you’ll be on the Granite Way, a cycle route and waymarked trail which spans from Lydford to Okehampton. This moderately easy cycle path is perfect for all ages and is the perfect day out for couples and families alike. While en route, why not stop at the Bearslake Inn to enjoy some traditional pub fare?
Okehampton Castle: The ruins of what was once the largest in Devon is reputedly now the most haunted set of walls in the county, if not the whole country. Now owned and managed by English Heritage, the castle is best explored with the help of a handy (and often humorous) audioguide which is included in the entry fee.
Lydford Castle: The name of Lydford’s largest ruins is somewhat deceptive in the fact that the castle was never a royal residence, but was actually used as a prison! Located in the centre of Lydford, often said to be one of the prettiest villages in Devon, Lydford Castle and the rest of the hamlet is well worth a wander around.