In my last Northumbrian pub review regarding The Greys inn, Embleton. I said, ‘It doesn’t get much better than this for me.’ I might just have told porkies, little ones, because in this case it does. The Olde Ship inn, Seahouses is defo in my all time top ten boozers. The main saloon bar is unbelievable. It’s something like a cross between a Northumbrian maritime museum and the best of everything that a pub can offer. The pub is part of a larger enterprise which consists of a wonderful traditional family run four star hotel and accommodation. I wholeheartedly recommend a stay in the hotel. Although that’s not what this review is about, the nautical memorabilia theme runs through the entire comfortable hotel and the food has a traditional, local flavour and anyone who says they don’t like this place just doesn’t know what they are on about.
There’s no kids or dogs allowed in the bars. I know different folk have different views, I have a dog and I have children, but I agree here. The saloon bar is a place of adult serenity, an almost club like atmosphere that would be instantly spoiled by children, however well behaved they are. Similarly, dogs sprawled out would get in the way in the busy saloon bar. There is a pleasant area along the corridor from the main bar where children are allowed and families can eat, but it’s not a bar. Dogs are allowed in the beer garden with it’s views out over the harbour to the Farne islands and dog bowls are provided. As well as the main saloon bar there is a smaller cabin bar opposite with the same stipulations.
One of my favourite features is the series of black and white photos in the bar and out into the corridor. They’re all portraits of local people, mainly fishermen. Looking at them I would say late sixties, early seventies. Well captured shots that really capture the spirit of the subject. Although I can identify some shortcomings, backgrounds need burning in, the photographer has done a brilliant job and the characters speak to you. I can gaze at them for hours.
There’s no service issues at The Olde Ship inn, there’s always at least two, often three, experienced, older bar staff on behind the bar. You never have to wait long, they’re very friendly, they’re local, they’ve worked their for years and your drink is always spot on. So why can’t everywhere else up here have professional staff like these?
So what’s the beer like? Six standard real ales that you can get anywhere and a lot of people like them. Me? I’m sticking with the ever changing guest ales. Four of them on the bar. They seem to stay with local, or at least regional breweries and I worried that we might be restricted to either very pale or brown traditional beers. I was proved wrong here Tempest Armadillo was a breath of very modern fresh air. It was on absolute top form and was delicious, hoppy, citrus and tropical fruit and toffee malts and on our first visit I didn’t try anything else, there was no need. This beer hit every note for me and at 3.6% it had the taste power that even much stronger brews lack. We went back again and luckily the Armadillo was still on, not just as good this time but still decent. I know I ought to have tried something else but I was just overwhelmed with Armadillo. I’m sure the other beers would have been just as good and apart from the Armadillo they had all changed since our previous visit two days before.
My suggestion is to wrap up in proper gear and visit this area out of season. Less tourists, more locals, less hassle, more atmosphere. Although it’s a beautiful place in summer, the light is fantastic at anytime and the magic is that it constantly changes. One minute sunny, the next dull, but nearly always a wonderful luminance. On a bright winters day you can walk on the beach and hardly see another soul. You then wander back to The Olde Ship inn and sit in the bar with the locals and a roaring fire. Believe me, you will keep going back for ever. Just please, please, don’t buy a holiday cottage there because you will spoil the magic you came for.