The fishing village of Beer
The East Devon fishing village of Beer is just 15 minutes drive from Sidmouth. The main street leads down to a pebble beach with beach cafes where you can sit and watch the fishing boats coming and going. There are boat rides and fishing trips during the summer season so budding fishermen of all ages can have a go at catching the mackerel that are drawn to Lyme Bay at this time of year. If you prefer to let someone else catch the fish then check out the catch of the day at the fresh fish shop on the slip way leading down to the beach.
The sea has always been central to village life in Beer. For many generations fishing was the main industry although in the 18th Century Beer was also infamous for smuggling, and was home to the notorious Devon smuggler Jack Rattenbury. In Victorian times East Devon was well known for lace making and local Beer lace makers provided fine lace for Queen Victoria’s wedding dress. Today local families carry on the fishing tradition, although the village now relies more on tourism and, for a small village, Beer has a lot to offer visitors. Art lovers can find a couple of excellent galleries in Beer including the Marine Gallery and the Steam Gallery which exhibit a rich collection of fine and applied arts from both local and nationally renowned artists. If you are visiting East Devon in August then look out for Beer Regatta week which has a packed programme of events to suit all ages. There is a family fun day, scavenger hunts, fireworks and late night dances. In the bay there are fishing competitions and on regatta day you can watch the traditional luggers and cruisers racing. C T rated mackerel fishing at Beer as one of the most memorable aspects of her stay at Sundowner Cottage in June 2013.
Eating out in Beer
There are plenty of places to eat (our favourite cafe is the Bay View tea rooms next to the slipway). The beach cafes enjoy an unbeatable location but we’ve found that the quality of the food is nothing special. We like to buy traditional Devon pasties from Woozies deli in Fore Street and take them onto the beach or up onto one of the benches in the cliff side gardens overlooking the bay. There are several pubs in the village offering food as well as local ales and cider. The Anchor Inn has the best location, near to the slipway and with a beer garden across the road from the Inn that has fantastic views across the bay. If you are looking for more than just pub grub or a Devon cream tea then Steamers bistro, tucked away down a side street, is worth seeking out. They are open all year round and have a varied menu including classic British dishes as well as Mediterranean inspired fare and use locally caught fish and farm produce. D A recommended the Dolphin Hotel Sunday carvery as “excellent value for money” (September 2013).
Pecorama model railway centre and gardens
Pecorama sits at the top of a steep hill on the outskirts of the village. The beautifully designed gardens and Beer Heights Light Railway have views down the valley to the sea. There is a crazy golf course and several play areas designed for different age groups. Indoor attractions include an exhibition of model railway layouts and a restaurant in a Pullman carriage, as well as a large cafe. The shop stocks a wide selection of Peco model railway products and is a must for enthusiasts. It is walking distance from the town, although quite a climb, however, it does have its own free car park for visitors. It is open daily from Easter to early November and then Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings throughout the winter.
Beer Quarry caves
Beer stone has been quarried for over 2000 years and the vast quarry caves are now open for tours where you can find out more about their fascinating history and also spot their resident bat colonies. The white stone has been used in buildings throughout the UK including Exeter Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. We think it’s probably not ideal for families with young children as the caves are quite dark and eerie and small children might find them a bit scary (our 9 year old did). Also, the tour involves a lot of standing still listening to the guide while they talk about the history of each part of the caves. Having said that, older children might enjoy the spookiness and the accounts of some of the nasty accidents that happened there. The temperature tends to be fairly constant underground and might feel cold in the summer so take extra layers with you.