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Square and Compass Inn, Worth Matravers, SWANAGE, BH19 3LF [Map]
This is one of only 20 or so pubs to have appeared in all 29 or so editions of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide and when you visit this gem you can see why. It's been in the hands of the same family, the Newmans, for nearly 100 years and they don't seem to have any plans to sell up and move on either. It's built of a good strong stone and will no doubt be around for a long time to come. It also has a very special unspoilt and unique interior and it deservedly forms part of CAMRA's National Inventory of heritage pubs having been little changed in perhaps 200 years.
The pub lies a little off the beaten track and the busy A351 Wareham to Swanage road and when you approach this special place you step back in time to an age where life was at a slower place. The views to the south extend beyond the ancient field systems, now visible as narrow green terraces, out to sea to the English Channel. There are few places in southern England where I've felt this relaxed sitting out the front of the pub consuming a pint of Ringwood Best Bitter or perhaps one of their guest beers. They also sell real cider and host a cider festival near to Christmas and a beer festival in October.
I'm glad that this isn't a high class food pub with the constant too-ing and fro-ing of the company car brigade who glance regularly at their watches if the food doesn't arrive within 10 minutes. Far too many pubs have switched to food, but in this pub decent real ale and good conversation are the order of the day. They do offer simple dishes such as cheese and onion pie, chilli or pasties.
I go there for the unique atmosphere of the place. There's no bar as such, merely two hatches in the corridor and beer is served directly from the casks behind. Bare flagstoned floors, wooden settles and tables in two rooms filled with chatty locals and visitors from far and wide. At weekends you might catch some folk music, and I was surprised to bump into Sophie, an old morris dancing friend from Norwich playing her flute. They don't offer accommodation in the pub itself, but if you phone the landlord he might let you camp around the back. Oh yes, they've a fossil museum around to the left which is well worth a look.