In England’s southeastern corner, you’ll find the beguiling county of Kent - home to beautiful beaches, ancient castles and culture aplenty. Just an hour from London, and boasting fast connections across Europe, it is little wonder Kent is such a popular spot with locals and visitors alike.
Known as the Garden of England, Kent is home to miles upon miles of countryside, farmland, orchards and hop gardens. The county is well recognised for its effort in producing tree-grown fruits, as well as strawberries and hazelnuts. You’ll see nods to its hop heritage in the many hop-drying buildings known as oasts, which dot the countryside.
But it’s not just greenery on offer here. The 350-mile stretch of coastline boasts iconic chalky white cliffs with over 50 beaches, including shingle bays and sandy coves. Its many picturesque coastal towns boast charm and sea vistas aplenty, with views stretching out across the Channel.
When it comes to attractions, Kent delivers the goods. The city of Canterbury is home to Canterbury Cathedral with its 1,400-year history, Romanesque crypt and stunning stained glass. Head north to Whitstable and soak up the coastal vibes and harbourside fish market, or travel east along the coast and explore Margate, home to the Turner Contemporary art gallery. Of course, with all that exploring you’ll need plenty of pit stops for refuelling. And we can think of no better place to do that than a proper pub. Here are some of Kent’s best…
Pegwell Road Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate CT11 0NJ
A short distance from Ramsgate you'll find the fabulously dog-friendly Belle Vue Tavern and its iconic terrace known as 'the balcony of Kent'. This outside space (and welcome sun trap!) enjoys gorgeous views across Pegwell Bay and beyond. On a clear day you can see as far down the coast as Deal Pier.
The pub itself dates back to the early 18th century when smuggling tunnels linked some cottages across the road with the pub. There are plenty of smuggling tales to be told! By the turn of the 19th century, the inn moved up in the world and even enjoyed a visit from the Duchess of Kent and her daughter Princess Victoria, who were said to have enjoyed the local shrimp.
Inside, the bar is home to a huge collection of distinctive beers including classic British ales and contemporary international flavours too. There are also plenty of Kentish wines to choose from, and a sip-worthy selection of spirits. The menu is varied and caters to plenty of tastes, with a nod to its seaside location. Start with the lobster bisque with a sourdough cob and seaweed butter, move on to a braised lamb leg and golden ale butterbean stew with Ashmore cheddar mash potato, wilted kale and buttered carrots, and wrap up with a boozy tiramisu with mascarpone orange cream, espresso sponge and chocolate flakes.
Once you've had your fill, take a wander into Ramsgate which boasts one of the largest marinas on the English south coast. Those with children might prefer to head down the coast in the other direction to Pegwell Bay Country Park, a grassy seafront park with a playground and birdwatching hide.
Hareplain Road, Biddenden, Ashford TN27 8LW
This half-timbered building dates back to 1420 when it operated as a simple alehouse. Since its humble beginnings, The Three Chimneys has doubled in size, while still cherishing its traditions and character.
Push open the dark front door and walk into a charming country pub, with dark oak beams, a roasting log fire and well stocked bar. The bar itself is intimate, with low-beamed ceilings and plenty of choice when it comes to drinks. Choose from their own Chimneys Ale (or plenty more), local Biddenden's cider, 18 wines and nine malt whiskies.
The dining spaces are similarly intimate, and you'll have five separate areas to choose from. Overlook the gardens on the terrace, dine in the main restaurant, or opt for a hidden nook for a cosy bite to eat. The menu pushes local ingredients and flavours to the forefront. Think smooth chicken liver pate with Three Chimneys chutney on granary toast to start, followed by pork and sage sausages with creamed potatoes and savoy cabbage with a port and red onion gravy for mains.
Seated in the Weald of Kent, the land that lies between the North and South Downs, there is plenty to discover after you've refuelled. Our pick? The nearby Sissinghurst Castle Garden, one of the most famous gardens in England and listed as 'Grade I' on Historic England's register of historic parks and gardens.
28 Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2AP
Self-described as a Belgian inspired 'beer café', we're including Fuggles in our round up of best Kentish pubs for its sheer dedication to beer. Inside this independent beef café and bottle shop you'll find a huge selection of craft beers and European classics, with over 30 beers on tap and over 100 more in the fridges. And don't worry if you're not a larger lover or ale aficionado, there's also a hefty wine and spirit list.
Don't come here ravenous for a hearty meal, but you will find a tasty selection of cheese and charcuterie to pair with your drink’s selection. The grilled cheeses go down especially well too, we'd opt for The Spicy Devil with Nduja, cheddar, feta, tahini sauce and butter pickles.
The decor is charming with its mix of industrial touches and softer touches, like the candlelight and strung fairy lights. Visiting solo? Grab a stool at the trendy tiled bar while you peruse the selection or chat all things beer with the friendly and knowledgeable bartenders. Alternatively, there's a selection of leather tables, wooden stools and comfy well-loved sofas for socialising while you sip.
Fuggles opened in 2013 and has secured a place in the Good Beer Guide every year from 2014 onward. After you've had your fill of beer, explore the pretty town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Catch a show at Trinity Theatre, take a turn around Dunorlan Park or indulge in a spot of shopping along the picturesque covered and colonnaded walkway known as The Pantiles.
The Grove, Pluckley Kent TN27 0RR
Built as a hunting lodge in the 1840s on the Dering Estate, The Dering Arm remains an impressive sight. The imposing stone exterior, partially clad with lush greenery, is broken up with mullioned arch windows and Dutch gables.
The cellar here is particularly impressive; the wine list is regularly updated with more unusual wines supplementing classics from French, Italian and Spanish varieties. If you have a particular bottle in mind, you can even ring ahead to reserve it. There are also local ciders, homemade gins and a range of cognacs, armagnacs, malt whiskeys, ports and liqueurs available.
When it comes to eating, you can select from the A La Carte menu or tapas, depending on your appetite and inclination. Either way, there is a strong focus on seafood; think Provençale fish soup to start, and pan-fried rainbow trout with toasted hazelnut butter to follow.
There are events throughout the year including live music and a classic car meet every second Sunday of the month. History buffs will love the location, it's an easy drive to Leeds Castle, Sissinghurst Castle and the city of Canterbury. More locally, you can keep yourself well entertained in the village of Pluckley, which is featured in the Guinness World Records book as the most haunted village in Britain.
Stalisfield Road, Faversham ME13 0HY
For escaping the elements, you'd be hard pressed to beat the old-world charm of The Plough, with its roaring log fires and friendly welcome. Inside you'll find modern rustic decor with gorgeous wooden beams and a wood clad bar with plenty to tempt you. Choose from four Kentish ales on handpump, local ciders and wines and over 26 gins. Outside, the sprawling garden, complete with kids play area, is the perfect spot to while away a sunny afternoon.
It's not just the drinks that are notable here, though. The food is innovative and takes traditional local produce and reimagines it into something quite unique. Think Stour Valley venison loin and liver with Pomme puree, mushroom, crispy onion and swede puree, or for vegetarians the quinoa and black bean, onion farci, pickled walnut puree, spinach and braised celery. There are plenty of pub classics too, from cider battered haddock to proper pies, as well as a highly revered Sunday roast.
Situated in the Kent Downs, there is plenty of exploring and walks to be done in these parts. More into medieval history? Leeds Castle is a short drive away and has plenty to keep everyone entertained including golf, zip slides and a falconry.
Coldharbour Road, Penshurst, Tonbridge TN11 8ET
If you're looking for a proper old school pub, look no further than The Bottle House. The historic building dates back to the 15th century and plenty of cosy nooks and curiosities have been preserved throughout. We love the copper topped bar and the distinguished art and antiques dotted throughout the place. The Captain's Cabin themed private room is particularly fun if you're planning an event.
Outside, the attractive weatherboarded building looks every part the historic pub and inside is just as charming. At the timber bar with copper-topped counter you'll find a range of traditional and guest ales on handpump. There’re also 20 wines available by the glass, as well as local gin.
If it's a hearty pub meal you're in search of, look no further. The homemade shortcrust steak pie with roast garlic mash and tender stem broccoli, or roast belly pork with crushed celeriac and crackling are sure to fill you up. There are also vegetarian and vegan dishes, and the Sunday roast - with three kinds of roast - is highly regarded by both locals and visitors.
Afterwards visit the nearby Forest Way Country Park, with plenty of flat easy walking, or pop into Hever Castle & Gardens, which dates back to 1270 and features Tudor art and gardens with a water maze.
Wellington Parade, Kingsdown, Deal CT14 8AF
Located in Kingsdown, a pretty seaside beach on the English Channel, The Zetland Arms occupies a prime position right on the shingle beach.
Sit outside and soak up a sunset over the beach and white cliffs while you tuck into tasty local seafood, or head inside and soak up the maritime atmosphere of this charming pub. There's also a courtyard out the back, with shade for those balmy summer days.
The menu is subject to change but expect to find treats including chowder, fish and chips and a range of pub classic burgers. Afterwards, if you've had your fill of the beach, wander up the network of streets that lead you up to the main streets of Kingsdown and enjoy wandering this idyllic seaside village. Alternatively, follow the coast down past St Margaret’s Bay to the landmark chalk cliffs known as The White Cliffs of Dover.
Christ Church Road, Folkestone CT20 2SX
This tucked away Victorian pub has enjoyed a recent renovation, and it's a welcome addition to the charming old Bouverie district of Folkestone. Inside the pub is a warren of bars and various dining rooms, each with a distinct and quirky decor.
With its sumptuous dark blue walls and ceiling, and rich dark wood, the bar is the handsome heart of the pub. Here you can choose from a range of local beers and ciders, as well as wines from Gusbourne Estate. The dining rooms are bright, airy affairs featuring smart wooden tables, modern fires and original brickwork features.
The food feels suitably fresh for such a recently updated establishment too, from woodfired heritage beetroot with whipped goat's curd and honeyed walnuts to start, to the BBQ pork rib rack with house slaw, watercress and smoked paprika fries for mains. Finish up with a coconut rice pudding with coconut yoghurt, mango and lime zest - perfection!
For a post-feast stroll, take a meander down to Folkestone Beach. It stretches all the way down the Kent coastline to Hythe, so you can up the ante with a decent ramble.
Captivated by Kent? Check out our selection of welcoming holiday cottages and start planning your dream visit to the garden of England…