Sunday 30 June 2019

BRAPA in .... Ignorance is Blisland (Cornwall Part 7)

Since the landlord at the Hole in the Wall in Bodmin had told me he'd heard a whisper that the famous, isolated old inn at Blisland was likely to get back in Good Beer Guide for 2020, I hadn't been able to shake the feeling that 'I should make the effort to go'.

Don't get me wrong, part of me was excited at the prospect of visiting a former National CAMRA Pub of the Year which had also been on the front cover of a recent GBG, but part of me had been 'relieved' it wasn't in the 2019 edition and I didn't have to make that effort.

After another bacon-less breakfast of champions ......

The pigs have all emigrated to Devon

.... I retraced by steps to Bodmin where I'd pub ticked a couple of days ago.  It seemed as good a base as ever to get myself to Blisland, and it was time for the first 'cheat' of the holiday, delving into my 'emergency taxi fund' envelope.

The theory here was I'd 'sell the taxi driver the BRAPA dream' but just my luck, I chose a fairly mardy, surly old bugger with no love of pubs or adventure, slight unkempt and sinister, he seemed more enthusiastic about getting back for the Bodmin school run than anything else (you may say, a bit too enthusiastic!)

I'd wanted to strike a deal so he could then take me on to the Red Lion at St Kew Highway, a pub which has recently changed its hours so it now opens on a Friday lunchtime, noon til 2:30pm.  But it was obvious the guy wanted to get back to Bodmin post-haste and I couldn't convince him to hang about for me.

Still, when we got into Blisland, we finally found some common ground as a funeral concierge was just coming out of the church, scowled at us, and a short haired blonde lady refused to step up onto the footpath to allow our taxi through!

If the taxi driver wasn't impressed, my attitude was anger and I hope I don't sound harsh when I say "look lady, I don't give a fuck if your Mum has carked it, BRAPA waits for no one". I didn't actually wind the window down and say that, but I have a feeling my taxi driver would've encouraged it.   Still, we were soon outisde the pub and he only charged me a tenner which was pretty good, I'd expected more.

It was somewhere between 11:30am and 12 noon when I entered the Blisland Inn, and the hype was entirely justified by a wonderful old feeling pub, not spoilt by tourism, which I could properly appreciate being the first customer of the day.  The landlady was friendly and she chatted about the ales to me in a matter of fact way which wasn't boring or patronising, full of good humour, though no recollection of what was said!  I was slightly concerned this was the calm before the storm and the whole funeral party were going to come in for lunch, but it never happened.  A couple of very matter of fact older ladies broke away from the crowd, they reminded me of the Golden Girls, and when one of them said she'd heard drinking coffee was bad for you, she loudly announced "everything's bad for you, you may as well just stop living now!" before realising this may not have been the most opportune time to make such a comment.  I glanced back towards the bar where a man who looked like vicar but had an Italian accent was doing what you'd expect from an Italian man and chatting up the barmaid.  "You are looking really good, really well" he purred, and I cringed internally (she actually looked knackered).  With my ale going down a treat and none of the new pub entrants coming anywhere near me, I glanced back over at the Golden Girls.  "The funeral the other day was a happy one at least, but the one this morning, too sad!" I hope they are rating them on TripAdvisor.  They must've listened to themselves, cos they then considered why there was such a spate of Blisland funerals, before they concluded everyone living her was old.  I'd seen and heard enough, great pub, but I didn't want to be grabbed by those ageing tentacles (or the Italian vicar), so left.

Invigorated by a really good pub experience, I decided to change tack and one of my longest walks of the holiday followed, just over 4 miles to the village of St Mabyn where I had a GBG tick.

With heavy rain showers one minute, bright sunshine the next, I was constantly kept guessing, but on the plus side, minimal traffic passed me which was good because the country lanes were as dark and narrow as you could expect from rural Cornwall.

That elusive Red Lion at St Kew Highway was just 1.7 miles on from St Mabyn, and I did half wonder if I should crack on and try and get there before 2:30pm closure, but I couldn't be sure I'd make it in time so settled for the pretty little village of St Mab, with bleating sheep and cider adverts everywhere, it was quite a hive of activity as they were gearing up for a local show the following day.

St Mabyn Inn (1654/2626) might've been my only official GBG tick of the day, but it was certainly a valuable one - you could see why this pub was a GBG regular from the moment you stepped inside.  In fact, controversially, I probably preferred it to Blisland but was here longer and could relax into the experience more. To try and get 'in' with the local smokers, I entered down a side passage like I was some regular though of course they knew I wasn't cos they'd seen me taking the above photo and directed me towards the bar, as it was a pub with corridors and partitions and a pool table.  This was one of the friendliest sets of locals I found during my time down here, everyone smiling and saying hi, even the dangerous looking lad in the Jurassic Park tee shirt!  I squashed in at the bar next to the old farts, and realised the landlord with his big grey sideburns and Cornish burr was the most distinctive Kernowy landlord I'd ever seen, I can picture him now and it makes me smile, what a chap!  If you thought Ed Sheeran's take on 'Galway Girl' was a bit of a stretch, you should hear this landlord doing his best Ed Sheeran Galway Girl vocals.  Simply astonishing.  Is it too late to book him for a Glastonbury duet with Chris Martin?  The Pride was drinking well (Tintagel Pride that is) but just when I thought I'd found the archetypal Cornish gem, the wailing of a twild could be heard!  Yes, a family of 4 were secreted into a booth and the kids were playing up, killing the atmosphere - though to be fair, why they had the radio blasting so loudly wasn't exactly in-keeping with this great pub anyway.  For a minute, I thought it was Steve Backshall again but alas no, and soon one of the kids was crying so loudly, the couple scooped up the kids all their stuff, looked embarrassed, and left very quickly, apologising as they went!  Good.  In peace now, I had loads of time to kill so returned to the bar and ordered myself a nice farmhouse cider (the adverts dotted around the village had obviously done their job).  It was great stuff but gave me the squits in record time, a record previously held by that dreadful old laxative beer from Old Laxey in the Isle of Man.  Lovely pub this, worth the effort, much recommended.

If one scene could sum up this pub, it'd be this one

Coming back down here with my wardrobe and Matthew Lawrenson to enter this!

Selfie stained glass attempt!

Had to wait for staring twild family to go before taking this

Nice roaring fire in June!

Some good shittttt!  

20 minutes up the road out of St Mabyn, bus 55 stopped at a stop just a couple of times a day, so I was praying it would turn up!  After the regulation 9 minute delay, it finally appeared and so delighted I was to see it, I nearly threw myself on the road just to ensure it stopped for me.

Would I get back to Bodmin?  Would I ever get to St Kew Highway?  And what of St Austell?
Find out in Part 8.



  1. Dunno, after having that same breakfast for 4 days in a row, people might think you're a bit odd. You should switch to the Breakfast Of Champions - Relentless, full fat milk, and a Mars Bar.

    1. Interesting choice! Well stayed tuned Matthew because a 'healthier' starter option is just around the corner .....

  2. "The pigs have all emigrated to Devon"

    Is that once of those vegetable sausages then?

    "and a short haired blonde lady refused to step up onto the footpath to allow our taxi through!"

    I know understand how the term 'death waits for no one' came to be. ;)

    "was doing what you'd expect from an Italian man and chatting up the barmaid"

    If they were on a bus he'd be doing more than just 'chatting' her up!

    "but I didn't want to be grabbed by those ageing tentacles (or the Italian vicar)"

    (slow golf clap)

    "just over 4 miles to the village of St Mabyn where I had a GBG tick."

    That'll work up a thirst.

    "It was great stuff but gave me the squits in record time,"

    Good thing it was here then and not back at Blisland. Hate to imagine how that 4 mile walk would've gone!

    "Coming back down here with my wardrobe and Matthew Lawrenson to enter this!"


    "Some good shittttt! "


    "Find out in Part 8."

    Blimey. This might turn into a 44 parter after all!


    PS - "before they concluded everyone living her was old"

    Here, not her dear boy.

    Also, not sure if you are aware, but Richard Coldwell passed away a few days ago. Martin has a post up about it. That's the main reason I didn't comment on the funeral bit too much. :(

    1. I know Russ, I wrote this blog a few days ago so just bad luck that the latest Cornwall release had to coincide with this awful news .... makes me look like a right harsh bastard! Anyway, yes, a Quorn sausage (but not a good one), I reckon I'll be done in 14 parts, and note Mudgie's 'cortege' comment below. Also you put "I know" instead of "I now" so can I get my revenge for once? Cheers!

    2. "Also you put "I know" instead of "I now" so can I get my revenge for once? "

      Consider me suitably chastised. I shall (k)now go sit in the corner and hang my head in shame for a bit. :)


  3. Should be funeral cortege, not concierge. Surprised Russ didn't point that one out :P

    1. I totally missed that. (blush)

      But, in my defense, I was skimming over the funeral bits.
      (naw, I missed it) :)