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16 Cosy pubs & walks

Fancy a crisp walk then a decent pub lunch? Or maybe you’d rather just curl up with a book in a cosy corner? We’ve got it covered.

Winter firmly has us in its grip and won’t be going anywhere fast. Looking on the bright side – is there anything better than a beautiful Winter Walk that ends in a pub lunch? (spoiler alert: NO). Here’s my starter for 10 if you want to stroll and scoff your way across Kent. So go, welly boots on, and earn that feast.

The Small Holding Farm & Kitchen, Kilndown

If you haven’t yet discovered this wonderful slice of foodie heaven, then you’re in for a treat! It’s everything we love on Muddy – a new restaurant where the menu changes every day – because the chef grows all his own ingredients. It’s run by brothers Will and Matt Devlin. Will Devlin is one of Kent’s most exciting chefs who won Chef of the Year in Kent Life’s food and drink awards. Matt is a great knowledge on the wine/drink side of the restaurant and will match your food choices with the best wine or craft beer options. So dream team! Situated in one acre of beautiful Kent countryside with growing, foraging and cooking at the heart of its ethos. You’ll find it tucked down a country lane in Kilndown, (between Lamberhurst and Cranbrook) – you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to walks nearby, especially as you’ve got Bedgebury forest right on the doorstep. thesmallholding.restaurant

The Fordwich Arms, Fordwich

The Fordwich Arms received a Michelin star just 10 months after the day they opened which is pretty good endorsement. It’s the winning mix of a great Kent pub that just so happens to serve exquisite food (the pheasant dumplings are a must, trust me) which affirms once again why it’s really not that bad living in the sticks. The trail from the village of Fordwich to the Reed Pond is meant to be good – apparently the pond once supplied the monks of Canterbury with water (fact fans). fordwicharms.co.uk

Chafford Arms, Fordcombe

A picturesque, traditional English pub nestled in the small village of Fordcombe, just 20mins from Tunbridge Wells. The view across the weald makes for the perfect setting. Get snuggled inside by the wood burning stove and enjoy some comfort food from their main menu (honey roast ham, egg and chips is a fave!). Their real ales are Larkin’s, brewed locally at Chiddingstone and Harvey’s brewed in Lewes. Surrounded by bountiful fields, the pub recommends for the ramblers among you the walk along Weald Way. chaffordarms.com  

The Chaser, Shipbourne

Sitting overlooking the village church this ex-country-house has high ceilings, walls covered in a pleasingly random selection of books and pictures and fat candles on tables – all in all the definitive English country pub. And it’s one that has won, or made the finals of ‘Sunday Lunch Pub of the Year’ more than once over the years. Makes for a great day out – start with a slap up Sunday meal then walk to nearby Ightham Mote (NT) – the Greensand Way walking route passes the front door. thechaser.co.uk

Leicester Arms Hotel, Penshurst

Located in the beautiful Kent village of Penshurst and opposite the stunning Penshurst Place, The Leicester Arms is a beautiful hotel, restaurant and bar not short of walking space. There’s recently refurbed rooms here too so stay for the weekend, or visit for the Sunday lunch (it’s popular with the locals and has plenty of parking). Head to Penshurst Place or the pub is surrounded by plenty of country fields perfect for dog walking. theleicesterarmshotel.com

The Red Lion, Hernhill

If you are looking for a brisk walk with the younger generation followed by a gastro pub with roaring fires at the end, then we have just the thing. Start at Mount Ephraim, a beautiful family owned estate with 800 acres of parkland, and then it’s a 20 min walk, past it’s many orchards, until you reach the Red Lion in Hernhill. A quintessential English pub – exposed beams and flagstone floors – yet with a contemporary and highly tasty menu. The roasts come highly recommended (cauliflower cheese side is not to be missed) and the playground outside a real crowd pleaser for all age groups. theredlionhernhill.co.uk

Pearson’s Arms, Whitstable

One of the Kent pubs run by TV chef Richard Phillips this has all the hallmarks – stylish interiors, fabulous food and relaxed atmosphere. There’s the obvious emphasis on fresh fish (this is Whitstable folks) and a great choice too – not only is there a full A La Carte and Set Menu there’s also top quality Light Bite/Bar Snacks (no, not Pork Scratchings) which includes dishes like Fresh Rock Oysters with Pickled Shallots. For something more warming in dreary Jan or Feb try one of the mouth-watering Sunday Roasts such as the Roast Shoulder of Charing Pork with Beef Dripping Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, and Red Wine Jus. This pub is the perfect rest-bite after a beach stroll along Whitstable’s salty shores. pearsonsarmsbyrichardphillips.co.uk

The Dog at Wingham

Found in picturesque Wingham, which is rather superbly located on the road that links Canterbury and Sandwich, this pub was the county winner for The National Pub and Bar Awards 2017. Read my full review of the pub here. The pub boasts 8 beautifully designed bedrooms – all with en suite bathrooms. Make a weekend of it – or just visit for a walk and lunch. Also on the last Wednesday of every month you can join in The Dog, Walking Club. thedog.co.uk

King Henry VIII, Hever

This pub sits right opposite the entrance to Hever Castle it’s popular with day trippers but also the locals (a good sign) too. We particularly love this cool and cosy covered outdoor area, where you could comfortably sit with a dog after a muddy ramble and enjoy a cheeky glass (Hever Castle let dogs in on a lead – bonus). Or try The Hever Circular walking route which starts at the medieval church of St Peter, the last resting place of Anne Boleyn’s dad and ends at the historic pub. kinghenryviiihever.co.uk

The George and Dragon, Speldhurst

Formally a rustic 13th century inn – it’s got roaring log fires and dramatic oak beams, as well as seriously tasty food. The George and Dragon promises to maintain its combination of classic offerings sitting alongside more elaborate dishes – like The Sunday Lunch Menu that offers 28 Day Aged Sirloin of Beef Roast to Cumberland Sausage & Mash. Historically one for the foodies. speldhurst.com

The Milk House, Sissinghurst

This stylish eatery prides itself on a menu that changes with the seasons and uses only the freshest produce from local suppliers. A blazing fire surrounded by a beautiful stone fireplace creates a homely atmosphere throughout and alongside a seasonal Dining Menu, there’s also a range of classic pub fare, for those that prefer less fuss, a light Grazing Menu and good choices for kids too. Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens is just half a mile’s walk away and upstairs you’ll find four characterful en-suite bedrooms, should you want to make a weekend of it. themilkhouse.co.uk

The Three Chimneys, Biddenden

Low beams, dried hops, candles and the roaring fires together create a relaxed and inviting authentic pub experience. Beers, bitters and the like are sold from casks behind the bar – in short it’s the kind of gastro pub that Mr Muddy Kent loves – no glossy Farrow & Ball refurb here. Just outside the door is the famous ‘Seven Year’s Stagger’, the journey the French prisoners walked between The Three Chimneys and Sissinghurst Castle during the Seven Year’s War (1756-1763). It’s said that up to 3,000 French prisoners were kept nearby at Sissinghurst Castle. To find the map, go to the pub’s website: thethreechimneys.co.uk 

The Duke William, Ickham

Sitting deep in the chocolate-box depths of the Kentish countryside, this pub boasts a big-name chef, Mark Sargeant who is ex-Ramsay. Low timber ceilings, a wood-burning fire, candles burning in old ceramic beer bottles, mismatched wooden tables and chairs – it’s gone for the classic and quirky vibe. With a seriously picturesque setting, perfect walking territory and top notch food, you can’t go wrong here. Situated just 10 minutes outside the historic City of Canterbury and surrounded by some beautiful country walks, there pub has stylish rooms, one of which can accommodate a pooch if you’re pushed after a pint. Thedukewilliamickham.com

The Barrow House, Egerton

This gorgeous pub in Egerton, taken over by husband and wife Dane and Sarah Allchorne, the team behind ever popular The Milk House in Sissinghurst. Named after the ancient burial mounds dotting the local landscape (the local area is great for walking). Thoroughly modernised throughout, like it’s bigger sibling, it has all the same foodie credentials and three boutique rooms upstairs. thebarrowhouse.co.uk 

The Poet, Matfield

Named after the famous World War 1 poet, Siegfried Sassoon, whose family home was just up the road, The Poet offers very refined British fare. With its sophisticated menu this is another one for the foodies, each main dish is accompanied by a carefully-chosen wine recommendation and there’s craft gins on offer too. However the pub itself has a very laid back feel – so you’d be equally as welcome to just nibble on some bar snacks with a glass of wine after a winter’s amble. Matfield is a very pretty village and there’s loads of good walks on the doorstep. thepoetatmatfield.co.uk

The Beacon, Rusthall

Sitting high on the hill at Rusthall The Beacon falls somewhere between a pub and a restaurant. Combining elegant Victorian interiors with effortless countryside charm, the warm and inviting bar offers the perfect place to sink into scrumptiously soft leather sofas around a crackling fire. There’s a dog-friendly-area near the back door complete with a jar full of doggie treats and lots of great walking right outside the door. the-beacon.co.uk

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Kent