Beer Blog

The Volunteer Inn, Lyme Regis


Not one I’d rush back to, I thought as I walked out the door. An hour later I found myself eating my own words when I realised I’d left my book in the Volunteer. The lad behind the bar denied all knowledge, but I found it, still on the chair next to where I’d been sat.

So why did I not want to go back, because the pub itself is quite pleasant in that olde worlde English Inn style beloved of foreign visitors, well Americans and Japanese and … lots really. They would have loved the low beamed ceiling, bare floorboards, black painted walls and outside Gents.

Thing was Lyme Regis wasn’t awash with foreign tourists, just home grown ones competing for every inch of sand in front of the Cobb. That left me, five good old boys, three younger locals, a lone female drinker, two visitors and the bar man.

The good old boys kept their own company, the younger kids chatted at the bar while the lady drinker talked to anyone who would engage with her, they didn’t. Meanwhile the tourists seemed more occupied with goings on down the high street.


It said £3.20 a pint, so I was mightily surprised to be charged £1.90 for a half of Branscombe Vale Donegal. By my reckoning that’s a near 20% premium on one half of the price of a full pint. So that’s the first reason why I wasn’t happy.

I’m guessing the Donegal is rebranded Branscombe Vale Best Bitter, it’s the same ABV? Whatever, the quality of the beer was nothing to shout out about neither, NBSS 2.5 at very best. Average, very average, just like the rest of the beer choice; Tribute and Courage. I recall someone posting in the comments on my post about Cellar 59, saying they would rather be in the Volunteer. Mmmm, I think not.


I visited Cellar 59 later on and they serve excellent quality ales, of all descriptions, both quality and choice, all with a decent ambience, in a nice place, with no wax from the candles plastered all over the tables. That really annoyed me even though I generally like candles, as did the seating. When I sat down the chair felt too small, a bit flim-flam, like wendy house furniture, no wonder all the locals hogged the bar. I did like the Naval crests around the top of the bar though. I wasn’t so keen on the lounge, which looked more like a tea shoppe to me.

If you look at the pub’s website, you’ll see it’s been in the hands of the same family since 1995 and was originally run by Mr Joe O’Donnell, who sadly passed away in 2010. There are some lovely photos of him. He looked like someone I know. Well, bits of lots of people really, but they’ve all gone too. I know I would have got on with him like a house on fire.

He obviously ran a good house ‘back in the day’, but it seems West Dorset CAMRA judged the same as I did, as the Volunteer has disappeared from the Good Beer Guide (2018), last in the 2017 edition, and the fading GBG stickers in the window bear testimony to it’s lament. Serves them right if they charge a 30p premium on the price of a pint. Mind you, it does show that GBG selection works.

13 replies »

  1. We felt the same way about this pub. The pub was one of the few pubs we have visited where I felt unwelcome. Almost as if snide comments were being made when you looked to order and find a seat. Like you were the only one not in on the joke. We visited the year it was last in the book and once again the selection process shows that it works. The few pubs which have made me feel this way have typically disappeared from the guide the following year. I much preferred the city center Palmers pubs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Not one you’d rush back to you thought as you walked out the door.
    Not one I’d ever go back to I knew as I walked out the door in about 2000 or 2002.
    Being listed in a guide book that’s published about this time of year I thought there was a chance of “good beer” but I made the mistake of buying a pint of the cask beer that had been reduced in price and the first sip made it blatantly obviously why it had been reduced in price.
    I don’t know which is worse – a publican who can’t cut his losses on the last gallon of a slow selling cask or a branch that puts a pub in the book because the “beer range varies”.
    That was twenty minutes that I could have spent in one of the town’s Palmers pubs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave,
      “Felt unwelcome”, yes, and I think those Royal Navy plaques above the bar are a clue that the regular customers are mainly retired servicemen who act as if they’re still in the Mess and could do without “you people”, us.
      I was made more welcome last Saturday during the Open Day at Stafford’s Masonic Lodge, but that’s just keg.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m hoping RC visited the Nag’s Head. A pub that didn’t do much for me, but makes me think you really can’t judge by one visit. I am curious what RC thought of it. I loved the Ship Inn on Coombe Street. The Palmers 200 was great.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember having quite a decent meal in here when I was in Lyme Regis in 2004. Bar on the right, more of a restaurant area on the left. I vaguely recall it used to serve Draught Bass.A recent GBG confirms that Donegal *is* rebadged Branscombe Vale Best Bitter.

    The best pub was the now-closed Angel – a little Palmers house with beer on gravity in the back streets at the bottom of the hill.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In addition to Dave’s comment on the Volunteer Inn, on our visit we had a beer that had turned. After the less than friendly exchange with the barman when we ordered, we chose to take the loss and avoid the confrontation we thought we would have.

    Liked by 1 person

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