Castle Inn now open at Chiddingstone

The Tudor hamlet of Chiddingstone now boasts a superb pub once again. The Castle Inn (website is a work in progress apparently) reopened a few days ago (6 April 2016) in a 500-year-old building with original beams. It has two smallish bars, a couple of nice lounges and dining areas and a cute beer garden. The local brew, Larkins, is a real winner and the bar staff are friendly and amenable. There’s a large open kitchen and though I didn’t eat there, you kind of feel the food’s going to be pretty good. Recommended for any walkers on the Chiddingstone walk (at the start/end of walk) and Hever walk (short diversion from Hill Hoath).

The Castle Inn, Chiddingstone

The Castle Inn, a beautiful pub in a Tudor building next to Chiddingstone Castle

 

Country pubs on walks around Shoreham, Downe, Sevenoaks, Ide Hill and Hever, Kent

STOP PRESS: New pub open – Castle Inn in Chiddingstone (opened April 6, 2017) and it’s a cracker (see below).

One of the unique pleasures of walking in the UK is the array of superb pubs offering refreshment within reach of wherever you are – often in a lovely garden and at a reasonable price. In recent years many have taken to offering wider ranges of beers, wines and soft drinks, better quality coffee and more imaginative food choices. There are many good brewers in the county – see the interactive map at Camra’s website – from old, famous names like Shepherd Neame to smaller outfits such as Westerham Brewery and Larkins of Chiddingstone. Big names from Suffolk and Sussex supplying pubs in the area include Greene King and Harvey’s.

The Castle Inn, Chiddingstone

The Castle Inn, a beautiful pub in a Tudor building next to Chiddingstone Castle

Liking a pub is a personal thing – we all have different criteria and it’s hardly scientific in my case. I genuinely don’t know why I prefer some things over others! Of the pubs on the walks I particularly like the Queens Head in Downe (good beer selection and cider drinkers will love flattish Rosie’s Pig on a summer’s day). My pick of Shoreham pubs is Ye Olde George Inn opposite the church. It’s the closest to the station, has medieval-low ceilings and a friendly vibe. Can’t vouch for the food because I haven’t eaten there, but it looks pretty decent. There are lots of other pubs in the village – you won’t suffer in any of them. Camra has reviewed them all, handily, on one page.

The Plough in Eynsford is right by the Darent river (the bank here is wide and grassy, a popular spot for a summer drink – often a bit too popular) and a really old bridge and ford.

Cock Inn, Ide Hill

Cock Inn, now refurbished, Ide Hill

The wonderfully refurbished Cock Inn in Ide Hill, the large, efficient Chaser Inn in Shipbourne, and the rustic White Rock in Underriver are excellently placed for the Greensand Ridge walks of One Tree Hill and Ide Hill (walks 4, 6 and 7). The White Rock boasts a lovely unfussy beer garden and lawn with a competition-ready petanque court. The White Hart at Brasted (well placed for the Ide Hill walk and en route to south east London if returning from Hever and Chiddingstone/Penshurst) is another large gastro-style pub which prides itself on its food. In 1940 it was the pub of choice for the Biggin Hill squadrons who often let off steam there in the evenings during the Battle of Britain and was the original site of the famous blackboard with the chalked signatures of many prominent RAF pilots of the second world war (now at the Shoreham aircraft museum). Today, it’s very popular, maybe with more of the dining crowd than the walkers. Also in Brasted, off the main road, is the friendly, family-run Stanhope Arms, again which serves much-praised food.

The Henry VIII at Hever offers very good food, quick-serving bar staff, Shepherd Neame and guest beers, a large dining area and a large garden. It’s in a lovely old building and is perfectly positioned right at the end of the Hever walk.

Queen's Head, Downe

Queen’s Head, Downe

The Castle Inn at Chiddingstone (website to come) – perfect to end up in at the end of that walk – has just reopened (April 9, 2017). It’s in a fantastic 15th century building, has friendly bar staff, an excellent kitchen and serves top-notch ale by local brewery Larkins, a great rival for similarly excellent Westerham Brewery.

Around Penshurst the Bottle House Inn and Spotted Dog both have big reputations but neither is very close to the walk unfortunately. Likewise the excellent Rock Inn at Chiddingstone Hoath, a pub in which one or two walkers on the Hever walk have found themselves having overshot at Point 3 (Hill Hoath) (see blog post below for further details)!

Do look out for those local brewers like Larkins, particularly around Chiddingstone, Penshurst and Hever; and Westerham, around Downe, Biggin Hill, Ide Hill etc.

Sadly, there have been quite a few pub closures too. Of them, the Fox and Hounds at Romney St is much missed by walkers.

Two new walks on the Kent Weald, via Hever, Chiddingstone and Penshurst

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I’ve added two new circular walks, a bit further than the others from south-east London, at Hever (walk 9) and a few miles to the east, Chiddingstone/Penshurst (walk 10). They are both possible on public transport from south London: trains from East Croydon run to Hever and Penshurst, but unfortunately neither station is en route; being 1.5 miles from the start in the case of Hever and two miles from the walk for Chiddingstone/Penshurst. Both are lovely and quiet; Hever has more woods and sandstone outcrop, whereas Chidd/Pens is more meadowy and crosses the river Eden twice. Each has a small section on roads where you have to be careful. The bit on the road at Penshurst on the Chiddingstone walk is particularly bad so don’t do it with younger kids. Both walks use the Eden Valley Path for the first half. Hever, Chiddingstone and Penshurst are all Tudor villages with great houses linked with Henry VIII, the Boleyns and others so these walks, or parts of, are particularly good for youngsters studying that period at school. Both have great pubs: the Henry VIII at Hever and the Castle Inn at Chiddingstone.

Here’s a reminder of the historical connections of the walks on this site and a map of their locations.

• Penshurst Place (nr Tonbridge) Tudor home (many scenes from Wolf Hall were shot here) with great adventure playground and superb gardens. On Chiddingstone circular
• High Elms nature reserve (nr Bromley): excellent nature centre with orchards, ponds, cafe, wildlife information plus gardens (free). Close to Downe circular
• Hever Castle (nr Edenbridge), quite expensive but a great day out. Anne Boleyn’s childhood home. Often a bit crowded. Hever circular starts here
• Emmett’s Gardens: (nr Ide Hill/Brasted) great gardens for azaleas, tulips, bluebells with south facing escarpment, lovely view. Lubbock family connection. On the Ide Hill circular
• Knole: (Sevenoaks) super Tudor pile, but public not allowed in gardens (boo). Knole Park brilliant for walking though and close to One Tree Hill walks on this site
• Lullingstone Country Park (Eynsford): on the Shoreham to Eynsford walk; a great area for strolling. Tudor gatehouse to much altered castle
Down House (Downe/Bromley): Charles Darwin’s house always fascinates with interesting gardens. On the Downe circular walk

And here are those walks again. They work for me at all times but in the spring I’ve always favoured the Otford circular via Romney St and the Ide Hill walks for some reason.

Download Walk 1: Downe circular (near Bromley, 2.6 miles) View on your phone/PC
Download Walk 2: Shoreham circular (3.5 miles) View
Download Walk 3: Shoreham to Eynsford (4.2 miles) View
Download Walk 4: Ide Hill circular (3 miles) View
Download Walk 5: Otford circular via Romney St (5.5 miles) View
Download Walk 6: One Tree Hill circular (near Sevenoaks, 5.5 miles) View
Download Walk 7: One Tree Hill figure of eight (near Sevenoaks, 5 miles) View
Download Walk 8: Shoreham/Otford circular (5 miles) View
Download Walk 9: Hever circular (4.5 miles) View
 Download Walk 10: Chiddingstone/Penshurst circular (4 miles)
View
Download Walk 11: Knole Park’s Wild Side (3.5 miles) View
 Download Walk 12: Eynsford/Lullingstone circular (4 miles)
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Winter walks and cosy pubs, Shoreham, Sevenoaks, Downe

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I’m updating this post (6.1.16) rather than write a new one, hence the discrepancy between the date and what I’m writing. Christmas has gone, sadly, and the temperature has plunged to normal January levels. There’s been plenty of rain (though nothing to moan about considering the horrendous situation in Cumbria, Yorkshire and parts of Lancashire) and some of the routes on this site are now a bit quagmirish – nothing to daunt those who are used to Glastonbury down the years though! The arrival of fresher conditions will add a bit of winter ambience to the walks and improve the light – it’s been so heavy and grey this past month – and make that open fire in the pub at the end even more welcome. So, get those boots on and start living up to your new year’s resolutions and walking off all that cheese, roast potatoes and booze-induced torpor…

Most of these walks are accessible from Peckham, Dulwich, Lewisham, Brockley within 45 minutes by train or car. The train from Blackfriars to Sevenoaks is very useful for several (click for Peckham Rye live departuresNunhead, Beckenham Hill, Beckenham Junction (change at Swanley or Bromley South if leaving from Beckenham Junction). The Downe walk involves a bus from Bromley (146) or, from Orpington stationthe R8 bus or 10-minute cab ride).

Of the routes on this site, the least affected by mud are usually the Shoreham circular, Shoreham/Otford circular, Shoreham to Eynsford and Downe Circular. You’ll still need boots, but the woodland walks at One Tree Hill and Ide Hill are true squelchathons come December, although they remain great to do if you have the right footwear (and attitude!). Also excellent are Knole Park (Sevenoaks station nearest rail) and Lullingstone Country park (where you can do a variety of walks arriving at and leaving from Eynsford station, but can also explore on the Shoreham to Eynsford walk). The latter two are great for huge skies and spectacular late afternoon sunlight. Just take a look at winter sun shining on Knole House (pictured). Shoreham is lucky to have four excellent pubs, each of which is welcoming and serves decent food. None are snooty and formal. They are Ye Olde George and The Crown, the King’s Arms and the Two Brewers. I usually stop by the George (by the church), mainly because it’s closest to the station. For the Ide Hill walk on this site, the Cock Inn is splendidly positioned right at the end of the walk and is a really nice little pub. The best pubs for the One Tree Hill walks are the White Rock Inn (Underriver) and the  Chasers Inn (Shipbourne). In Downe there are two pubs: the Queen’s Head and the George and Dragon; they are close to each other so poke your head in and see which one you like best.
• Pubs in Shoreham – West Kent Camra crawl
Rainfall radar live

Download Walk 1: Downe circular (near Bromley, 2.6 miles) View on your phone/PC
Download Walk 2: Shoreham circular (3.5 miles) View
Download Walk 3: Shoreham to Eynsford (4.2 miles) View
Download Walk 4: Ide Hill circular (3 miles) View
Download Walk 5: Otford circular via Romney St (5.5 miles) View
Download Walk 6: One Tree Hill circular (near Sevenoaks, 5.5 miles) View
Download Walk 7: One Tree Hill figure of eight (near Sevenoaks, 5 miles) View
Download Walk 8: Shoreham/Otford circular (5 miles) View 

Ide Hill’s Cock Inn open again. Hooray!

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It’s bad news for Romney Street’s Fox and Hounds (see below) which seems a long way from reopening, but good news for walkers finishing up in or passing through Ide Hill – the Cock Inn has been superbly revamped and is now open after a short period of uncertainty. Here’s the slightly convoluted story of its refurb which sounds like a bit of a planning mix up. Anyway, the end result is good; the place looks excellent and its original character is alive and well. Pictures above from the Ide Hill circular walk.

Ide Hill Walk