I was tempted to write three separate reviews, one for each of the pubs, but I sortof like the holistic relationship ("ship" - HA!) that the trio offer and so am running them together under one banner.
The holy (or unholy depending on your viewpoint) triumvirate are (in west to east order): the Ship, the Castle and the Royal Oak and in east to west order are: the Royal Oak, the Castle and the Ship. That might sound like six but is only five unless of course you have a double pint at either the Ship or the Royal Oak, depending on which you start from.
You will be if you visit all three thrice (plus the pair at the Weir).
Always the most endearing thing about a place I visit is the pub - to hell with the scenery, culture or history - a decent pint of beer and a busty barmaid fulfill all MY travel requirements. I don't recall the barmaids being particularly busty but they were certainly sufficiently friendly, the various beers were unanimously spot-on and all the pubs have their own characteristics and characters.
The Ship is the first pub you encounter if arriving from Lynmouth. This purports to be one of England's oldest pubs and definitely is the oldest-looking one in Porlock. Its website dates it as a 13th century "coaching inn" but there weren't any coaches in those days and the sea used to lap almost to its front door. The website sort of digresses to the pub's role as a smugglers haunt and a press-gang recruitment centre. It is though a great pub - good local beers, very individual and the food stuff looks good too.
In the centre of the High Street (no matter which way you are walking) is the Castle. This a hotel with the most prominent public bar location in the village. The beer was spot-on, the barmaid (unbusty) friendly but on a Monday afternoon it was a soul-less - definitely more of a rest-stop between pubs than a destination in its own right.
Towards the far end of the High Street (or the near end if coming from Minehead) is the Royal Oak - this is a "John Pub" - to quote my own review elsewhere: "Totally unpretentous with friendly staff, interesting locals, good beer and proper pub food. There aren't many of these left. The only thing missing was an ashtray on the bar - HA!"
I'd hate to choose a favourite but I kinda liked the Royal Oak best, simply because it's simple - a proper village boozer with its end-of-bar coterie of slightly off-beat regulars - yep they know who they are ;-))
The original toll road was built sometime around the mid 1800's and was probably not much more than a dirt track in those days giving access to the immediate area below Porlock Hill. Because it wound its way gently up the hill, taking four and a half miles to rise the 1300 feet to the summit at Pitt Combe Head, it wasn't any use as a shortcut and so wasn't a particularly profitable enterprise.
The road came into prominence with the advent of the infernal-combusting engined machines as the early cars couldn't manage the 1-in-4 gradient of the main road - neither up nor down. Going up the engines couldn't cope and going down brake technology wasn't quite up to speed (literally).
In the early 1900's the toll road became sufficiently profitable to be widened and tarmacked but with the advancement of engine and brake engineering the road became less of a neccessity and so was rebranded as "The Scenic Route".
Scenic it is with layby's and picnic areas and if you are in no hurry and don't mind paying the toll then this the way to go.
Caravans being towed are still recommended to use this route as too are cyclists. There is toll for both but cyclists should note that there is a public bridleway which circumvents the toll collection if they want to save themselves the quid. For walkers this a pleasant stroll and there is no charge for those on foot.
By far the best way to enjoy Exmoor is on foot but with 267 square miles of diverse landscapes ranging from undulating moorland to dramatic cliff faces it does take a bit of time to explore everything
Here in Porlock the small local business Discovery Safaris offers a variety of seven-seat Land Rover excursions which take in different features of the moor. Routes depend on seasonality and weather (one is actually described as "The Extreme Weather Route") and can be focused on wildlife, history, scenery or whatever aspect of the area participants are interested in. The standard routes attempt to combine several of these aspects and would suit individuals or couples who want an introduction to the moor.
For small groups with specific interests the safaris can be tailor made, but once again this will be weather dependent. Website below has all the details.
This is quite a small village with pretty much everything on, or just off, the High Street and there are helpful maps strategically located showing where everything is. As well as the maps the main things of interest are signposted and if you want to explore the area the various public footpaths and bridleways are also clearly signed.
Even though this is something that doesn't particularly interest me the Exmoor Classic Car collection based in the former Doverhay Garage is certainly eye-catching. This is the private collection of vintage motor vehicles and memorabilia amassed over the course of the last 50 years by a guy called Stephen Johns.
The 20 or so cars and motor cycles on display have been lovingly restored and most are roadworthy. Nothing is roped off and visitors are allowed to sit in/on the exhibits, although driving them away isn't possible.
As well as the vehicles there's all sorts of related stuff such as an original AA box, a Shell petrol pump, a vast collection of scale models, vintage signage and much, much, more. With a family ticket at only seven quid this is something for kids of all ages to enjoy.
These are the wonderful views from my bedroom window!
Exmoor one way- the sea the other and beautiful little cottages in between.
This shows how close my friend's house is to Exmoor!Bliss.
We could see deer wandering around on the hill as well as the odd sheep., early in the
morning and at dusk.
This is a delightful little place- with yet another steam train station! It takes passengers
along the coast to Minehead.
The poet Coleridge lived here whilst writing his "Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
Picture below of a statue of the Mariner with his Albatross.
Along the harbourside there are stalls selling fruit and veg as well as a dear little public library!
What a job--sitting at your desk with a view of the harbour and the sea. I'd never get any
work done- I'd be looking at the boats and the people scratting about in them, all the time!
We tried to learn the line from the poem that's painted on an old warehouse, below.It took us
nearly all afternoon, driving through the countryside to get it! It's a real tongue twister--
" The Fair Breeze Blew...." I've forgotten it already!Ah..
"The Fair Breeze Blew..The White Foam Flew--The Furrow Followed Free..."
Try reciting it- it's very difficult to get it right!
A fascinating little harbour and marina.Coleridge lived here while he wrote the Rime of the
Ancient Mariner.The statue below is of him and his albatross!
There's yet another steam train station, taking passengers on a short trip into Minehead.
On the harbourside is a stall selling fruit and veg and further along a dear little publiv library!
What a lovely place to work- with a view of the harbour and the sea from one's desk!
The famous line from the Ancient Mariner is painted on the old warehouse by the harbour--
"The fair breeze blew....The white Foam flew...The Furrow Followed Free..."
It took my friend and I all afternoon to learn it- it's a real tongue twister! We kept reciting it in
the car-as we drove through the countryside- till we'd got it!
We visited Minhead railway- wher steam trains run to Lynmouth- further along the Somerset coast.
Oh- the atmosphere of the old trains.
One of them was very familiar to me- not the steam one- but the old 'slam door' one.
It has been lovingly restored to its former glory by dedicated volunteers who run the station
and the trains.
It has the original photos inside and the luggage racks- but not the earlier 'string' ones- that I
remember from a child.
It was delightful watching it pull out of the station, as the guard blew his whistle, then took
his place in the Guard's Van- you no longer see those on trains.
The station is absolutely in its original state- even down to the Ladies' Only Waiting Room!
You can buy fridge magnets- of course- they're everywhere -with the original rail tickets in a
perspex mount- so I did !
The station master even has a plant stall, on the platform, of plants he's grown himself.You're
invited to help
yourself and put a contribution into the restoration fund.There were only some stringy herbs
left so we didn't bother.
The Doone Valley is stunning.It's a 1/2 hour drive from Porlock, through the tollgate and up
onto the moors.You drive under an old arch, having paid the toll to a funny, little old lady- who
looks about 112!The charge is 2.50p, but the road is need of repair and is quite potholed.
On the way back there is a nother tollgate. Another 2.50p, but this time there's a lovely lady
who sells plants at the gate- at very reasonable prices, that she's grown herself. I bought 2
dahlias, a fern and a fuschia- all at 1.00 each!My friend bought a stunning deep red scabious
and also a deep purple one., a marjoram and a thyme. Also 1.00p each!
The valley was 'home' to the Doone family from the novel-"Lorna Doone' by R.D. Blackmore.
Lorna fell in love with John Ridd and went against her brothers' wishes and married him.So
angry were the brothers at her marrying someone from a rival , feuding family, that as she
was getting married and the ceremony started, Carver Doone burst into the church and
shot her dead.
We didn't see another soul- except the odd car wanting to pass in laybys that are
conveniently placed at intervals along the road.
We had to stop at the Lorna Doone farm cafe for a cream tea!Scones, strawberry jam and
double cream and a big pot of tea for 4.95GBP.It was delicious.
Porlock is an Exmoor village. Drive or hike up the hill and you see the vastness of Exmoor. You could also arrange Pony rides with the tourist office.
From the Exmoor above Porlock you get lovely views on the Bristol channel and Porlock. Porlock itself doesn't lie directly on the channel but you could drive there or walk the few kilometers.
This beautiful manor contains a museum where you may see things from the past. I couldn't find the opening times online, so please check with the tourist office.
This church was first built in the 13th century and later reconstructed in the 15th century. Prior to that there was already a church. For more information check on the website below.