Gary and Margaret Marshall run a hostelry so perfect in the eyes of its regulars and the thousands of holidaymakers who flock to it that it has been named one of the Campaign for Real Ale's (Camra) pubs of the year in four of the past five years, including winning the national title in 2001. It has been a runner-up twice.

This year, Camra told Mr Marshall that his freehouse on Bodmin Moor, next to one of Cornwall's best-known village greens, would be ineligible for entry, to give others a chance.

"It's not as if we have lost the title, we're just not allowed to be in," Mrs Marshall said. "But by the same token, you don't exclude a sportsman because he won last season, do you?"

Martin Huddersman, a retired firefighter, had made his routine 18-mile journey to have lunch at the pub yesterday. "It doesn't make sense. If it's the best pub it should win," he said. "But they want to give other people a chance - a remarkable reason."

Mrs Marshall says the secret of the pub's success is concentrating on getting the basics right - good beer and good food. But it is the drinking culture that is paramount. "We run the place as a pub. It is still an old-fashioned local," she said.

Rod Davis, the chairman of the Cornwall branch of Camra, said excluding a pub such as Blisland Inn in this way was standard practice. "No slight is intended and never was. It is a damn good pub. But there are a lot of landlords and landladies running wonderful pubs who deserve recognition as well," he said.