Great Kent pubs

The Leather Bottle, Cobham

The Leather Bottle, Cobham - Credit: Archant

Cosy up together in Kent Life’s pick of the best pubs in Kent, from coast to country, city to village

The Pilot Inn

Tucked away on the coastal headland, literally a stone’s throw (and there’s a lot of them around) from the sea, in the heart of the Dungeness National Nature Reserve, this family friendly pub with restaurant is steeped in the smuggling history of Romney Marsh. Its inception followed the luring aground of the Spanish vessel, Alfresia, in 1633, when the crew was murdered and the cargo of spirits looted. The ship was used to build the original Pilot and some of the original timbers still remain in the bar. Today it is prized for its fish and chips and an excellent representation of real ales with permanent options of Sharp’s Doombar and Adnam’s Broadside. A guest pump hosts a local or Kentish option and traditional scrumpy occupies the fourth.

Battery Road, Dungeness TN29 9NJ

01797 320314

Five Bells Inn Brabourne

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Kent Life and Kent on Sunday’s very first Pub of the Year in our 2013 Awards proved a worthy winner indeed, with our esteemed judge praising the inn is an “outstanding example of what a 21st-century pub should be: supportive of its local community and suppliers, creative in its food offering, and warm and welcoming in the time-honoured tradition. With a menu rivalling many top-class restaurants, the Five Bells is nevertheless true to its pub heritage with open fires, hop bines and excellent local beers.”

The Street, East Brabourne, nr Ashford TN25 5LP

01303 813334

The Coastguard

Watch the high tides while harboured comfortably inside this White Cliffs retreat, described by owners xxx and xxx as being ‘between the bottom of the hill and the deep blue sea.’ It attracts an eclectic mix of old and young whose common desire is good food, good drink and good company shared. The view isn’t bad either. After a bracing walk or scramble about with the dog on the beach (it’s dog and children friendly), The Coastguard is a welcome sight indeed – when the English Channel is about to wet your toes, you’ll have found it.

Bizarrely, UK mobile networks consider The Bay to be part of French territory, so free Wi-Fi is provided should you want it, and families are welcome to enjoy afternoon treats with dedicated quiet tables for homework. A great range of beer from local and afar is always available.

The Bay, St Margaret’s Bay, Dover CT15 6DY

01304 851019

Bull’s Head

At its heart a friendly local pub boasting a good range of cask ales, the lounge bar here is the most charismatic of the three here, offering the atmosphere of a snug saloon with wing back chairs, a roaring fire and quirky ornaments. A bar menu is served from noon until 9.30pm every day (beer-battered fish and chips, steak and Young’s Ale pie, hand-carved ham), entertainment is available occasionally and accommodation is also on offer. The hotel dining room will be closed until 30 March 2015 for refurbishment

Royal Parade, Chislehurst BR7 6NR

020 8467 1727

The Old Brewery Tavern

Wander away from the busy city centre into this capacious gem that’s stocked with beverages to suit all, including various ciders on tap. A comfortable, discreet lounge area contrasts with a largely contemporary design elsewhere and while it has a modern fireplace, wooden tables and chairs in the central area retain the feel of traditional British pub. Families, friends and couples can be seen dining alongside the open kitchen while others enjoy the bar and warming fire.

Stour Street, Canterbury CT1 2NR

01227 766266

The Cricketer’s Inn

Situated next to a beautiful windmill and opposite the village green, guests are welcomed with a roaring wood fire, soft lighting and a bricked interior that gives a distinguished yet comfy feel. The cute dining area is lit softly with burning candles. There is an extensive wine menu and drinks selection and entertainment is occasionally on offer.

Wrotham Road, Meopham DA13 0QA

01474 812163

The Leather Bottle

One of Charles Dickens’ favourite ale houses (it even has its own in-house ale, exclusively brewed by Shepherd Neame and named after the great writer, this half-timbered traditional village pub featured in The Pickwick Papers. It was here that the lovelorn Mr Tracy Tupman fled after being jilted by his sweetheart Rachel Wardle, and drowned his sorrows in Mr Pickwick’s company.

Low ceilings, aged pictures, eccentric Dickens and Sinatra quotations on the wooden beams and a cheery fire makes for a homely ambience and four cask ale pumps, with the popular Cornish Doombar, are always on tap.

54-56 The Street, Cobham, DA12 3BZ

01474 814327

The Three Tuns

Highly Commended in the 2013 Kent Life and Kent on Sunday’s Awards, Pub of the Year category, The Three Tuns stormed into the lead with a convincing win in 2014. Our judge noted: “Chris and Carol Haines pour their heart and soul into this pub, and it shows.” He described the pub as a true all-rounder, particularly in terms of support for its local community and suppliers, adding: “The couple are highly committed to sourcing local ingredients, beers and ciders, and even offer their suppliers a showcase with annual beer and food festivals held in the pub garden.” In the winter months, it is delightfully cosy with its brick walls and wooden furniture, and staff and landlords offer a genuinely warm welcome.

The Street, Lower Halstow, Sittingbourne ME9 7DY

01795 842840

The Chaser Inn

The name comes from the connection to the local Fairlawn Estate, where steeplechase horses were trained. It’s opposite the huge village green and right next to the church, where the weekly Farmers’ Market is held every Thursday and does a roaring trade serving cooked breakfasts to the stallholders and customers. At weekends, it’s the award-winning Sunday lunch that draws them in, but it’s invariably buzzing – seek a bit of peace and quiet in the stunning panelled Church Room with its vaulted ceiling, wooden tables and chairs and cosy fire.

Stumble Hill, Shipbourne, Tonbridge, Kent TN11 9PE

01732 810360

The Three Chimneys

With hops and low beams, a warren of cosy rooms interlinked by the main bar, two logburning fires and a mighty inglenook, this 15th-century pub is deservedly popular. Despite its name, only two chimney stacks top this ancient free house, but there’s a clue in the pub sign showing a French soldier looking at a three-armed signpost. It refers to the Seven Years’ War, when the 3,000 French prisoners incarcerated in nearby Sissinghurst Castle were allowed as far as the pub where three roads, or trois chemins, meet. There’s a dining room for the serious eater, while the plainer public bar is favoured by regulars and their dogs.

Hareplain Road, Biddenden, Kent TN27 8LW

01580 291472

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