THE ALMA INN, HARWICH, ESSEX
WHAT’S THE SCOOP? In my opinion, The Alma Inn is arguably one of the best pubs in Britain. It’s dog-friendly, serves great food and an even greater selection of real ale and cider. Plus there’s a fine atmosphere and you’re guaranteed service with a smile and lashings of tongue-in-cheek humour.
You can even stay over – what’s not to like? Harwich is, and has always been, a seafaring town and The Alma has been at the heart of the community since the 1850s. There’s always something going on at the pub, too, from quirky quiz nights to live music.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? Oh yes. Dogs are allowed everywhere in the downstairs section of the pub, including the dining room. There are always water bowls floating around and dog treats are on sale behind the bar, with all proceeds going to a local animal charity. There is an extra charge of £10 per night for dogs to stay in the rooms.
The pub is obviously locked overnight but when you check-in, you’re given an out-of-hours code to the back entrance in case your four-legged friend needs to pop out for a late night pee.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? Retire to one of The Alma’s beautifully-appointed rooms upstairs. There are five to choose from, all named after historic Harwich characters, plus a suite that sleeps four.
We stayed in room one – Chamber’s Chambers – which had a mix of period and contemporary features plus a partial sea view. The Chambers family – for whom the room is named – used to run the pub from the 1930s until the 1980s and several members of the family still live locally today.
We loved the comfy double bed, not to mention the old-fashioned safe, cool filament lamps and Nespresso machine. Complimentary biscuits and bottled water was a nice touch, too – and the in-room guide raised several smiles, thanks to that aforementioned tongue-in-cheek humour (I won’t ruin it for you – you’ll have to book a stay to see exactly what I mean).
The room also had a flatscreen TV, retro radio and access to free WiFi – and we were spoilt for choice when it came to reading material, thanks to the cunningly-stored antique books above the bed. Who needs headboards?! Even the stylish bathroom was a treat with fluffy white towels, a punchy rainforest shower and luxurious Tyneham toiletries. A huge driftwood mirror gave a nod to Harwich’s maritime history, too.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? Awesome. The Alma is renowned for its fresh, locally-caught seafood – especially the lobster. Steak is also a speciality and you can choose the exact cut and weight you would like to order from a regularly updated chalkboard in the bar. There are plenty of other dishes, of course, and many come with an Iberian twist.
Breakfast is an equally delicious and laid-back affair, whether you go for the veggie or non-veggie option. In my opinion, it’s worth going meat-free for the halloumi and bean fritter alone. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served seven days a week.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but the likelihood of meeting other dogs in the bar is very high!
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Start by exploring Old Harwich, right on your doorstep. Steeped in history, it has lots of listed buildings to check out and a cute little pier, where you can catch the Harwich Harbour Ferry to Felixstowe. Also look out for plaques celebrating the town’s links to former Harwich MP, Samuel Pepys and the Mayflower – the first ship to transport Pilgrims to America in 1620.
If it’s off-lead action you’re after, head to Dovercourt Bay. It is a short walk from the Old Town and has a fantastic sandy beach. Dogs are only allowed on the beach out of season but even if you visit during the summer months, you can still enjoy a stroll along the prom. Watch out for the ferries, giant container ships and cruise liners sailing silently in and out of Harwich International Port.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: All the fuss from the staff and locals, sneaking bits of sausage at breakfast
WHAT I LOVED: The relaxed vibe, the amazing veggie breakfast, the stylish rooms
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Rooms at The Alma Inn start from £75 per night, including breakfast. Look out for the fantastic special offers – you can sometimes enjoy a night’s stay with breakfast and a £50 bar tab for just £100. For more information or to book, click here or call 01255 318681.