Many of the pubs mentioned here are doing takeaway drinks while the coronavirus crisis continues, others have really organised themselves to serve people safely. But as I’m sure you know, don’t rely on any of these pubs being open at present at any given time at the moment. Let’s hope they survive.
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.
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 or Flat Tyre on a summer’s day). My pick of Shoreham pubs is The Samuel Palmer, opposite the beautiful church. It has taken over the 14th-century building that used to house Ye Olde George Inn. It’s the closest to the station, has medieval-low ceilings and centuries-old rustic beams and a friendly vibe. The food is excellent with a chef with Michelin star experience to direct operations. It’s not pub grub, more like fine dining, but three courses for £35 is great value for what is served. There are lots of other pubs in the village – you won’t suffer in any of them. I like The Crown on the west side of the river, which has had Jamie Oliver as a guest. Camra has reviewed them all, handily, on one page. The King’s Arms, now happily reopened after a fire early in 2022, is another little gem. If the idea of a pub doesn’t do it for you, Shoreham also has the Mount Vineyard, which has plenty of really lovely outdoor bar seating bar close to the vines and a large glass indoor room more for top notch pizza (and wine). And on the other side of the village, closer to the Meenfield Woods and Polhill walks is the cute Honeypot cafe.
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. The Malt Shovel, on the main road through Eynsford by the church, is also excellent and concentrates on good real ales and fresh food (daily fresh fish, the website claims). It makes a point of not having Sky TV and gaming machines. And just down the road a bit the Castle Hotel near the Norman ruins is a welcoming pub-with-rooms too.
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, 7 and 26). 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. Not far away, the Westerham Brewery tap room on Beggars Lane is a great place to stop and mosey around. You can also buy the famous Squerreys Estate wine at the winery there. There’s food too.
The Henry VIII at Hever offers 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.
The Castle Inn at Chiddingstone – perfect to end up in at the end of that walk – reopened in April 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. It’s the sister pub of Bough Beech’s large Wheatsheaf, also with great food and beer garden.
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.
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My picks of pubs and cafes (most now open but check website first)
- Walk 1: Queen’s Head. The Teashop. Also in the village is the George and Dragon.
- Walk 2: The Samuel Palmer and The Crown (also Two Brewers and The Kings’ Arms – very good too). Also the lovely Mount Vineyard with loads of outdoor seating.
- Walk 3: Eynsford – The Plough and The Malt Shovel, plus the Riverside Tearoom. Shoreham – The Samuel Palmer and The Crown.
- Walk 4: The Cock Inn and the Ide Hill Community Shop, which is on the road towards Sevenoaks (take care, no pavement) with a stunning view over the Weald.
- Walk 5: Best placed on the walk is The Samuel Palmer in Shoreham (and the King’s Arms, on the other side of the river bridge); also The Woodman and The Bull in Otford.
- Walk 6: White Rock Inn in Underiver and The Chaser Inn in Shipbourne. Also National Trust cafe at Ightham Mote
- Walk 7: The Chaser Inn in Shipbourne. Also National Trust cafe at Ightham Mote. (White Rock Inn in Underiver is a mile south of the One Tree Hill car park, but off the walk)
- Walk 8: The Samuel Palmer in Shoreham (and the King’s Arms, on the other side of the river bridge); also The Woodman and The Bull in Otford.
- Walk 9: King Henry VIII at Hever opposite the castle entrance. The Castle Inn is just off the walk (walk half a mile to Chiddingstone from Hill Hoath) a third of the way round the walk
- Walk 10: The Castle Inn, Chiddingstone. Best cafe is the Fir Tree House tea rooms just off the walk at Penshurst (turn right instead of left at Point 6, 2oo yrds). Also cafe at entrance of Penshurst Place, a little further to walk (third of a mile from Point 6)
- Walk 11: No pub on the route but an excellent National Trust cafe at Knole House. The Bucks Head, Godden Green, is close to the route though – you just have to dip out of the park at Point 4 – obvious when you’re there
- Walk 12: As per walk 3
- Walk 13: Daylight Inn, Petts Wood, several cafes too. Lots of pubs at Chislehurst but not on route. Closest to Chislehurst station is the Bickley. A little further away is the lovely Ramblers’ Rest and Imperial Arms.
- Walk 14: As per walk 2
- Walk 15: Any of the Westerham pubs
- Walk 16: The Samuel Palmer and Mount Vineyard, Shoreham
- Walk 17: None on the walk, so Cock Inn, Ide Hill or the outstanding The Wheatsheaf, Bough Beech hamlet – excellent food and beer in a late medieval building.
- Walk 18: The King’s Head, Two Brewers or The Crown, Shoreham
- Walk 19: The Samuel Palmer, Mount Vineyard, Shoreham
- Walk 20: Queen’s Head, Downe
- Walk 21: Westerham pubs
- Walk 22: No pub en route now the Padwell Arms shut in Stone street. So, The Chaser Inn, Shipbourne, The Plough, Ivy Hatch, or White Rock Inn, Underriver, the best bet… let’s hope it reopens soon.
- Walk 23: The Samuel Palmer, Mount Vineyard, The Crown, King’s Head all Shoreham
- Walk 24: The Three Horseshoes is right where the walk starts in Knockholt Pound; nice village pub.
- Walk 25: The Blacksmith’s Arms in its 17th century building, with great beer garden, is very close to the start/end of the Cudham walk.
- Walk 26: White Rock Inn, Underriver