It’s no secret that Kent is a place of considerable natural beauty, from the lush green countryside to its long stretches of unspoilt coastline. As if that wasn’t enough, hidden amongst all of this natural wonder are some of the best pubs in the country, most of which are ideally located so that you can enjoy a pint while gazing out at Kent in all its splendour. <o:p></o:p>
Roaring fires in winter, sun-dappled beer gardens in summer, there’s nothing quite like a Kentish country pub. The garden of England has more than a few to choose from, so which should you prioritise? We’ve picked the best to help you narrow it down.<o:p></o:p>
Venture out of Whitstable along the coastal road towards Faversham and you’ll come to a pub by the side of the road that looks utterly unremarkable. Granted it’s not the “grotty rundown pub by the sea” that its own Twitter account claims, but it’s still not somewhere you’d usually associate with a Michelin star or the accolade of the best restaurant in the UK. Yet this windswept, weather-worn pub boasts both of those things. The food here is the closest to a life-affirming, if not life-changing, experience you can have in a pub. The emphasis is on local ingredients, the welcome is warm and the oysters are otherworldly. The word is out now that The Sportsman is one of the pubs to visit in Kent, so if you plan on eating, you’ll be wise to book well in advance. <o:p></o:p>
The Little Brown Jug is a charming countryside pub that makes the best possible use of its plentiful outside space. Not content to merely offer outside benches for those finer days, The Little Brown Jug also has Tiki huts dotted around its garden – although it’s more of a meadow than a garden. The huts can be booked in advance, giving you a more private bit of personal space for you to enjoy the rural location and the locally sourced food, including a smokehouse menu during the summer. When the weather leans more towards inclement, the pub’s interior is everything you could ask for in a country pub: expansive bookcases, wood fires and that glorious mixture of leather and dark wood in every corner. Rain or shine, this is the place to spend lazy weekend days that run on into the evening.<o:p></o:p>
Just across the train tracks before you turn onto Hever Road, the ivy-covered Grade II listed Wheatsheaf sits back off the road, looking like the country pub from your dreams. If you’ve been driving these roads saying “I’m sure we’ll find somewhere decent to stop soon,” coming across The Wheatsheaf might be accompanied by blinding light and choirs of angels. The pub still retains the feel inside that you’d expect from a 14th Century hunting lodge: huge fireplace, tapestries, wooden beams and high ceilings in the dining room. Tables outside are in a charming garden, but even in sunny weather, the inviting interior may be a little too hard to resist.<o:p></o:p>
If you’re a bit overdone on leather and dark wood by now, The Milk House makes for the perfect antidote. This is the Kentish pub given an informal and refreshing update, with food and rooms added to the offering. The décor here is completely in keeping with the name: white, pale, more country meadow than hunting lodge. It’s tremendously popular with locals, buzzing all nights of the week, and is a pub that has clearly committed itself to doing the simple things very well. Local beers and cask ales feature heavily, the perfect way to sit back and relax after exploring nearby Sissinghurst Castle.
It may not be the closest pub to France (that’s the Coastguard, just down the road), but the Zetland Arms sits so close to the edge of the Channel that you’ll swear you can see Calais. Sitting out front with the smell of the sea and the sound of the water, you’d be remiss to order anything but fish, but the menu is solid whichever way you turn. And if it’s too blustery to sit out front or in the suntrap out back, there’s something remarkably lovely about gazing out the window at a windswept beach while you’re safe and warm inside, enjoying local beers and excellent food.
Explore Kent while staying at the Mercure Dartford, which has an onsite spa and is near Brands Hatch<o:p></o:p>.