Raise a glass at these great lifeboat pubs
There’s a lifeboat crew at the heart of so many communities. And, in most cases, there’s a particular public house there too - a special place that has kept local lifesavers fed and watered for generations.
Needless to say, it would be virtually impossible (and probably dangerous) for our writer to explore each and every one first-hand but here he uncovers a few recommendations …
1. Slipway Café Bar, RNLI College
Where: Poole, Dorset
Why: It’s the home of RNLI training
Rating: 5/5 on TripAdvisor
The Slipway Café Bar sits above Riggers Restaurant in a stunning glass rotunda at RNLI College. Here, you’re in spitting distance of the charity’s headquarters and lifeboat-building facility - and everyone is welcome to soak up the unique atmosphere.
There are panoramic views of Holes Bay in Poole Harbour and, on weekday evenings, you’ll see lifeboat crews from all over the UK and Ireland enjoying a chat and tipple after a long day's training.
It’s the perfect place to enjoy a pint of Lifeboat Ale - crafted exclusively for RNLI College by Ringwood Brewery. But if that’s not your thing, there’s a range of other drinks and bar food. You can feel doubly good about your visit as every £1 you spend at RNLI College helps save lives at sea, and you’re just a short walk from Poole Lifeboat Station on the quay.
2. The Two Lifeboats
Where: Sheringham, Norfolk
Why: It’s steeped in lifeboat history
Rated: 4/5 on TripAdvisor
A few pubs are called The Lifeboat but this inn is named after two: Augusta and Duncan, whose Sheringham RNLI crews famously rescued eight men from a wreck in 1882.
But the maritime connections reach back to its 18th-century incarnation as the New Inn - and later as the Two Lifeboats Coffee House when it was known for taking in survivors.
Fishermen and lifeboat volunteers would also gather here in the evenings to enjoy a sing-along or show off their dance moves. Regular Eric Wink, of Sheringham lifeboat, was said to be a fine step dancer and his town had a friendly rivalry with the dancing Davies family of Cromer lifeboat.
See Cromer Coxswain Henry 'Shrimp' Davies step dancing at the Bath Hotel in Cromer in 1976 with members of his lifeboating family in this video.
Today The Two Lifeboats is a traditional Norfolk pub, restaurant and B&B - with great sea views and great beer.
Find out more at thetwolifeboatssheringham.com.
3. The City of London Tavern
Where: Bishopsgate, London
Why: It was the birthplace of the RNLI
Rated: ‘Par excellence’ in Old London Taverns by Edward Callow
The London Tavern, as it was otherwise known, was one of the hippest places to meet in the City during the 18th and 19th centuries. Noblemen of the day would gather there to rally support for political and charitable causes.
Boasting a finely decorated dining room with Corinthian columns, its cellars were said to be vast - containing ‘wines of priceless quality’ and more than a thousand bottles of champagne at any one time. It also did a mean turtle soup.
In March 1824 more than 30 eminent gentlemen (including the Archbishop of Canterbury and William Wilberforce) met there to launch the lifesaving charity we know today as the RNLI. Surely, this has to be one of the finest things to ever come from a pub lunch?
Sadly, the tavern was demolished in 1876 - well over a century before there would be a lifeboat stationed nearby at Tower - but its memory will always have a special place in RNLI history.
4. The Black Lion
Where: New Quay, Ceredigion
Why: Amazing fundraising with a literary history
Rated: 4/5 on TripAdvisor
The Black Lion is a family-friendly free house with guest ales and sea views - and one of New Quay lifeboat crew’s favourite watering holes.
From 1944-5 it was the regular haunt of renowned poet Dylan Thomas. Thomas was drinking there one evening when he got into a heated exchange with a drunk army officer, the upshot of which saw the bard’s cottage being peppered with machine gun fire.
Fortunately, The Black Lion is better known for helping its local lifesavers these days. ‘The owner and staff can’t do enough for us and our fundraisers,’ says New Quay Lifeboat Mechanic Ben Billingham. ‘They give our crew free meals after rescues and exercises, donate bottles to our raffles, and provide food and entertainment for our open days so we can raise more money to help save lives.’
Find out more at blacklionnewquay.co.uk.
5. Bushe’s Bar
Where: Baltimore, Co Cork
Why: Family connections and a maritime collection
Rated: 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor
This is one of the oldest pubs in Baltimore and it has a long and cherished seafaring tradition.
You can enjoy a drink while taking in views of the harbour and islands or admire the impressive maritime collection that the owners have amassed over the years.
The bar has been in the Bushe family since 1970 and is currently in the hands of brothers Tom and Aidan who are both long-serving members of the local RNLI crew. It’s a firm favourite of their crew mates but its friendly reputation makes it a popular stop for all passing through.
In her Guide to Ireland’s Finest Places to Eat, Drink and Stay, Georgina Campbell says: ‘This is a terrific pub, at any time of year … it's the Bushe family's hospitality that makes it really special.’
Find out more at bushesbar.com.
6. The Drum and Monkey
Why: A healthy respect for the water
Rated: 4/5 on TripAdvisor
It may be 30 miles to its nearest lifeboat station at Helensburgh but this pub has maritime connections, and not just because it sits on a street named after an historic sea battle.
Renowned for its quality food, ale and gin, The Drum and Monkey is just one of many Nicholson’s pubs supporting the RNLI across the UK and Ireland this summer. The chain is launching a limited-edition fish menu across its entire network of 78 pubs and 50p from every dish sold will go straight to the RNLI.
Staff will also be promoting our water safety messages to customers so we can reach more people at risk of drowning.
Annette Middleton of Nicholson’s says: ‘We’re thrilled to support the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign. Pubs are part of the very fabric of our culture, and we see the RNLI charity in exactly the same way.’
Find out more at nicholsonspubs.co.uk/rnli.
Most of us love a few drinks now and again but remember that going in the water afterwards can be lethal. Alcohol can seriously impair your judgement, reactions and ability to swim. Please don’t risk it.