Pub of the month - May 2022

I n this month’s edition, we’re featuring the newly refurbished Masons Arms. Tucked away in the chocolate-box village of Branscombe, situated in East Devon, it’s the perfect rural retreat for a little R&R away from the usual hustle and bustle of everyday urban life.

Discover one of the county’s most well-kept secrets. Just a mere 10-minute stroll from the beach and surrounded by swathes of rolling hills, the Masons Arms acts as a wonderful base for exploring this hidden gem.  David, the General Manager, and his team look forward to welcoming you. 

 

GET TO KNOW THE TEAM: MEET DAN

  • What’s your role in the Masons Arms? 

Deputy General Manager 

  • What do you enjoy the most? 

I love meeting and speaking with guests from all over! Whether they live down the road or have travelled a great deal to get to the Masons, it’s a pleasure to be a part of their pub experience and exchange stories. 

  • What aspect of the new refurbishment are you most excited about? 

Our new private dining room, ‘The Thatch’, really is something special. It’s cosy, suits 4-8 guests and has an exclusive, intimate feel. I believe it will be a sought-after space for those wanting the perfect setting for their special occasion. 

  • How do you spend your free time in the local area? 

I’m a keen swimmer (colder the water the better!) and the beach is only a short and picturesque walk away from the Masons Arms. I see plenty of dogs jumping in the sea too while I’m down there, and there’s no better place to shower off than the Mason’s very own doggy bath, complete with dog-friendly shampoo and towel if you need! 

  • Do you have a must-visit spot in the area? 

When in Branscombe, you must visit The Forge. Built around 1580, it’s believed to be the oldest thatched working forge in the country. You’ll find their craftsmanship dotted around the Masons, particularly around the fireplace and above the bar. We’re proud to support them and have a part of their history in the pub for guests to admire. 

  • What’s your favourite dish on the menu? 

The beer-battered fish and chips, hands down. Can’t beat it. That and a pint of Tribute on the sun-trapped patio is a proper day-maker for me! 

 

INDULGE IN CULINARY DELIGHTS

Our spring and summer menu features fresh seafood, revamped pub classics and more to tempt your taste buds. The provenance of ingredients lies at the heart of our offering, sourcing quality local produce from our suppliers in the South West. 

You’ll find delicious daily specials curated by head chef, Paul Hughes, showcasing the team’s culinary talents. Not sure what to choose? Paul recommends the pan-seared scallops to start, toasted mackerel salad, or roasted lamp rump main, followed by your favourite sweet treat. Why not treat your loved ones to a meal in the stunning Masons Arms, washed down, of course, with a St Austell pint (or two!). Just a few steps away after an evening feast, you can drift away into a deep slumber in one of the twenty-eight rooms available on-site.   

 

T he magic is back! The Masons Arms opened again today for the first time in 4 months and the food is as fantastic as ever, the staff are a delight and it’s a mecca for those seeking the good stuff in life. Sun was out blazing today, and we had a fabulous time. There’s nothing not to love about the Masons Arms.

- Rob Readman, Google

A LOOK INTO OUR PAST

The history of the Masons Arms can be traced back to 1360 when it was a cider house. Orchards surrounded the inn until the early 20th century.  The name derives from medieval skilled masons who were contracted to work in the quarries at Beer, extracting and carving stone to build Exeter Cathedral. Being skilled artisans, the masons saw themselves as a cut above the unskilled labourers and wanted separate lodgings. They travelled to and from the quarries on horseback, leaving the labourers to quench their thirst in nearby Beer. 

During roof repairs in 2014, a mysterious secret chamber was discovered under the eaves. The room had no visible means of entry, and the windows were blocked off to the outside world. This may have been a ‘priest hole’, a place for a Catholic priest to hide from Protestants who were on the prowl for heretics after Henry VIII’s religious reforms. 

The village was long associated with the manufacture of lace during the Victorian period – ‘Branscombe Point’ is still a recognised style worldwide. The census returns show that many Victorian women in adjoining cottages to the Masons Arms worked in lacemaking, including the wives and children of the innkeeper. During this time, innkeeping was not a sole occupation. In 1871, the innkeeper, John Williams, was a butcher by day while in 1881, Charles Clarke was a carpenter. 

Step into another world. Explore the historic village of Branscombe whilst staying in the lovingly restored Masons Arms; drawing on the area’s colourful past, you’ll find subtle nods to the inn’s former purpose.

PLAN YOUR ADVENTURE

Nestled within the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to exploring the great outdoors.

Our village has its own secluded shingle slice of the South Devon coastline. Branscombe’s fantastic dog-friendly beach lies a short stroll from the Masons Arms. Playful pups are also allowed on the nearby Beer Beach, although only between October 1st and April 30th. Beer shelters behind white chalk cliffs and is a natural cove and suntrap, with an intriguing history steeped in tales of smuggling. 

We’re just around the corner from Seaton Beach. This gently sloping pebble beach stretches over a mile in length and is a serene spot for swimming, bathing, and exploring Lyme Bay in a kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard – you’ll find hiring facilities for both on the beach. Sidmouth Beach is also nearby; an expanse of sand and shingle that serves as the gateway to the Jurassic Coast, with towering cliffs and clean bathing waters.

 

WHAT'S ON?

Not sure when to visit? Plan your trip around one of these events and get involved with the local community.

Sidmouth Blues and Jazz Festival – 2nd – 5th June

Be the very first to attend this new festival in Sidmouth, set to present a diverse collection of artists covering a range of genres. Not only will you have the opportunity to dance along to some great music, but the event schedule will also include a variety of workshops and masterclasses for you to get stuck into.

Seaton Tramway – A variety of dates

Take a ride to the wetlands of Axe Valley, admire unrivalled views that encompass an abundance of wildlife, and discover ‘Devon’s most rebellious town’. With special trips planned throughout the Summer, this is the perfect activity for families staying in the area.

Budleigh Music Festival – 8th – 16th July

In 2005 the Budleigh Salterton Festival of the Arts was launched. The title reflected their aim to include a variety of art forms – from art exhibitions to jazz concerts, drama, but especially classical music. Now, the festival transforms the small seaside town every July, offering visitors the chance to see first-class classical performances.

Ottery St Mary Food and Families Festival – 3rd September

Bringing you a taste of East Devon, the Ottery St Mary Food and Families Festival celebrates local producers and chefs. Growing year on year, make sure you’re hungry for an unforgettable feast.

Spring Nature Trail – running until the 19th June

Visit the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth and follow the nature trail to discover Devon’s rich biodiverse wildlife. Of course, you’ll also get to meet the lovable rescue herd of donkeys along your way.

 

PACK YOUR WALKING BOOTS

Branscombe to Beer

We’re a three-hour walk along the beautiful coastal path to Beer. You’ll pass several notable landmarks along the way, including a historic forge, old bakery, and manor mill. Once you have left the village, the trail will soon bring you to Hooken Beach and Hooken Cliffs, a Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site; this wooded and sheltered habitat is a haven for wildlife, with the 400ft cliffs of chalk and limestone holding a wealth of fossils.

Soak up the views at Beer Head before turning north past Pound’s Pool Beach, Arratt’s Hill, and Big Ledge. The picture-postcard village of Beer is home to one of South Devon’s most pleasing views. Soak up the scenery from Jubilee Gardens, a vista that stretches across the ocean and over the gentle bobbing shapes of working fishing boats.

Branscombe to Sidmouth

Follow the coastal path west from Branscombe towards Sidmouth. You’ll be treated to a beautiful five-mile stretch frequented by mesmerising views that stretch as far as the eye can see. The route passes Coxe’s Cliff, Weston Cliff, and Chapman’s Rocks before arriving at Higher and Lower Dunscombe Cliffs which command pleasing vistas. Relax on Sidmouth’s sheltered shingle beach and grab a bite to eat before venturing back.

Branscombe village walk

Take a stroll around Branscombe, uncovering intriguing landmarks and artefacts that tell the story of our village through the ages. Follow the public footpath from the car park that passes through the orchard and past the Old Bakery Tea Rooms. From here, cross over two fields and along the millstream through Millennium Orchard. The Old Manor Mill, a National Trust property, lies to the far side of the orchard, complete with a working watermill.

Turn right after the mill, up the hill and along a farm track before heading through fields and up a flight of steps to a bridle path. You can turn right from here to walk through the woods or, for a longer route, turn left and head along the beach and coastal path. You’ll eventually come to the Grade I listed St Winifred’s Church, which is believed to date back to the 10th century. Follow the road down past chocolate-box cottages until you return to the car park.

BOOK YOUR PERFECT GETAWAY TO THE SOUTH WEST

Whatever the season, escape the everyday with a trip to the newly renovated, Masons Arms. Whether you're in search of countryside adventure, or simply fancy a change of pace - this nook in the tranquil village of Branscombe is the perfect answer.