Winter Warmer Pubs
A good pub beer garden is a fine, fine thing, but when the winter months come calling, it’s the inside of a pub that suddenly becomes a lot more enticing. A cosy interior with comfortable seating and a roaring open fire or woodburner is what it’s all about. We’ve put together a list of some of the most cosy winter warmer pubs in Kent, where you can kick back and relax as you listen to the fire crackle and where the atmosphere is as warm as everything else.
The George & Dragon, Sandwich
The George and Dragon in Sandwich was originally built in 1446, and it retains so much of its traditional charm that it’s like stepping back in time when you walk through the doors, although there is a modern touch to the place reminding you that we are (thankfully) in the 21st century, after all. With craft beers and an impressive wine list as well as a lovely menu, this is the kind of pub where you can sit and while away the hours in complete comfort.
The Bricklayers Arms, Chipstead
The Bricklayers Arms can be found in Chipstead, a delightful village just outside of Sevenoaks. It sits on the edge of a lake, so immediately there is the added bonus of beautiful views, but besides that, there is a level of comfort and tranquillity that makes this one of the cosiest pubs in the area. Serving Harvey’s Best Bitter from the barrel and with real ‘pub grub’ on the menu (with locally sourced ingredients forming the bulk of the dishes), the Bricklayers is a favourite for locals and visitors alike. The name comes from Churchill, who was a master bricklayer and who lived at Chartwell, just a few miles away in Westerham.
The Milk House, Sissinghurst
Sissinghurst is such a beautiful part of Kent, and any pub located there will naturally have its fair share of visitors. But the fact that the Milk House is traditional, comforting and true hub of the local community makes it all that much more special. This building was once a 16th-century Tudor hall and the owners don’t want that fact hidden – there are gorgeous wooden beams that exude history and a large open fireplace that one can’t help but want to sit by when it’s roaring away during the winter. Local wines are a big feature on the menu and there’s a wide range of food to choose from including items from the ‘grazing menu’ if you only want something light to nibble on.
The Three Chimneys, Biddenden
The Three Chimneys is one of those idyllic country pubs that is like a magnet for those who are seeking somewhere warm and peaceful to have some time to themselves, or to spend quality time with loved ones. With exposed dark oak beams, a large open fireplace, and aged hops hanging from the ceiling, this pub has much more history than you might imagine. It looks the part and it feels the part too, and you will always be welcome to come through the door, out of the cold, and into the heart of this most Kentish of Wealden village pubs. Surrounded by stunning scenery, the Three Chimneys dates back to the Seven Years War (1756 – 1763), when French prisoners who were kept at nearby Sissinghurst Castle were allowed out every now and then – but only as far as the local pub; not a bad deal!
The Green Man, Hodsall Street
Hodsall Street is a tiny village near to Meopham, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with its central pub, The Green Man. This pub is what anyone looking for the quintessential Kentish country pub would imagine – and yet here it is in real life. Ideal for stopping off on a wander through the Kentish countryside, this has become something of a destination pub in recent times, thanks in part to the enormous and tasty menu and the ambience of comfort and ease. Lovely at any time of the year, the Green Man really comes into its own during the winter – with an open fire, low ceilings, beams and a team of friendly staff, it’s a gorgeous place to be. There is often live music at the Green Man, so you can pop in for a moment and stay for a while.
The Smugglers Inn, St Margarets at Cliffe
St Margarets at Cliffe is the closest village in Kent to France, so of course, bygone smugglers loved to be there. It’s no wonder that the village pub was known to be a smugglers’ haunt, and no wonder that it was always so popular. Today, the Smugglers Inn is just as interesting a place to visit as it was back in days of yore. For real ale lovers, the ale changes on a rotating basis allowing you to try a variety of different beers just by stepping over the threshold. Although the interior of the pub is welcoming and cosy, you can still sit outside during the winter thanks to the patio heaters and covered garden area.
The Little Brown Jug, Chiddingstone
A proper country pub on a proper country lane is always something of a joy, and the Little Brown Jug, situated near to Penshurst in the Kentish Weald, is exactly that. If you have been out for the day visiting Hever Castle, Penshurst Place, or perhaps Chiddingstone Castle, the Little Brown Jug is the perfect place to rest your tired feet and sit for a spell. The pub is bigger than it seems from the outside, but that doesn’t mean it’s not cosy, which it certainly is thanks to the lighting, the intimate corner seating, shelves filled with books, old pictures on the walls and of course the traditional roaring open log fires. Enjoy comforting food in the restaurant or, for the hardier visitor, try one of the three heated huts out in the garden.
The Chaser Inn, Shipbourne
Whether you come to the Chaser Inn in Shipbourne for a meal, or just to sit and sip something festive, it is always going to offer you a warm welcome, an even warmer atmosphere and a gorgeous setting. This is where you can find epic Sunday roasts and walk on polished wooden floorboards covered in lush rugs. It is luxury in a local setting – you can look out over the village green and church – and the food is hearty and substantial; great for filling up after a long walk in the country. The dining room itself is large enough so that you won’t feel cramped (the ceiling is timber vaulted), but not so large that it loses its cosy appeal.
Five Bells Inn, East Brabourne
Once upon a time, it was only the most hardy (or most local) people who would venture into the Five Bells Inn – not because it was’nt welcoming (it always has been exactly that), but because it is located in a pretty remote location. Today, however, thanks to sat navs and cars that can contend successfully with country lanes, the Five Bells doesn’t have to worry about being forgotten about and is found regularly and enjoyed immensely by travellers from near and far. The inn dates from the 16th century when it was the ideal resting place for pilgrims on their way to Canterbury, or travellers venturing towards France. It rests neatly on the famous Pilgrims Way, and makes the most of its unique and enviable position by being utterly charming and unforgettable. Passers-by aren’t often able to resist its open fire and beamed ceilings, especially on a chilly winter’s day.
The Wheatsheaf, Bough Beech
The Wheatsheaf in Bough Beech near Edenbridge is a Grade II listed building and an impressive one at that. The owners have tried to stay as true to its original heritage as possible, which means that the pub remains as hospitable and charming as it ever was – with a dash of real Kentish atmosphere and cosy surroundings thrown in. The Wheatsheaf offers comfort, great dining and a good choice of drinks. Look out for the ‘graffiti’ stating ‘1607 Foxy Holanby’ (possibly a local squire) and take the time to check out the roof timbers, wherein there is a rare medieval crown post. Once part of the Hever Castle estate – a hunting lodge, it would seem – there is history in abundance here, and that history even includes a rather famous visitor…none other than King Henry VIII himself.
The George and Dragon, Speldhurst
Perhaps one of the oldest cosy Kentish pubs on our list, the George and Dragon at Speldhurst dates back to the 13th century. As well as the requisite crackling open log fires and fine examples of how things used to be built (the gorgeous oak beams are a prime reminder of the way things were), the George and Dragon is all about community. No wonder it is so well loved by everyone who steps foot within its ancient walls. The ingredients for the wonderful food served up here come from Kent where possible, and sometimes from Sussex (the Ashdown Forest, to be precise) – as long as it is produced within a 30-mile radius and is of excellent quality, it’s considered to be part of this fine pub’s warming menu.This is where you can order a pint of Larkin’s bitter (it’s only made three miles from Speldhurst), a good pie and settle in for the night. Or, if you want something a little more decadent, why not try the local rosé with Kentish lobster?
The Poet at Matfield, Matfield
If you like gin, you’ll love visiting the Poet at Matfield. There are 27 different types of gin available here, and although you (probably) won’t want to try them all in one go, that does give you the perfect reason to return to this most delightful of cosy pubs. The Poet at Matfield was recently awarded the Muddy Stilettos award for best destination pub in Kent; it’s fairly hidden away, and you may not come across it if you don’t know it’s there – once you do know, however, you’ll want to return again and again. The building is Grade II listed, so you know it’s going to be stunning before you even step foot inside and you wouldn’t be wrong. This is the picture-perfect country pub for a freezing cold winter’s day, with its dark wooden beams and exposed brickwork. There is, of course, an open fire (no self respecting pub in these parts would be seen without one) to sit by and warm your chilled bones after a bracing countryside walk.
The Compasses Inn, Crundale
The wonderful open fire at the Compasses Inn is huge and it manages – despite being slightly tucked around a corner – to warm the entire bar and restaurant area. You feel, as you walk through the door, as though this is truly the place to be, thanks to the smell of great food and the welcoming atmosphere. Crundale itself is in an area of outstanding natural beauty, which adds to the loveliness of the place, but it is the pub itself that offers the most charming and relaxing of experiences. And to make things even more interesting, some of the vegetables and fruits used in creating the mouthwatering dishes on the menu actually come from the pub’s own garden.
The Cricketers Inn, Meopham
Since Kentish cricket is said to have originated in Meopham in 1776, it seems only right that this most central of village pubs is named after the sport. The bar’s red ceiling really does bring home the cosiness on a nippy winter’s day, and when the evening rolls around it seems to bring out something rather festive, even if Christmas is too far away to think about, or has been and gone for another year. The log fire is slightly raised, which is a nice touch as it means that no matter where you choose to sit in the bar area, you can still enjoy not only its warmth but its look too. You don’t even have to be a fan of cricket to make the most of being here (although there is plenty of cricketing memorabilia around for those who do love the sound of leather on willow) as the food and ambience is enough without the need for the great game as well. If you want to feel the wind on your cheeks – even during winter’s chill – there is a lovely heated terrace which overlooks the famous Meopham windmill.
The Kings Head, Wye
The Kings Head in Wye is the epitome of relaxation. Whether you choose to stay the night in one of its lovely rooms, pick a table in the restaurant to enjoy some of the locally sourced, seasonal food, or if you want a spot by the fire to sip a good drink and nibble on some bar snacks – the choice is yours. And you can bring your dog too, as they are always welcome here. After a long country walk in the crisp winter air, there is nothing better than finding the ideal country pub to warm up in for a few hours and the Kings Head definitely offers the chance to do that, and then some.
The Bull, Wrotham
The Bull is an important part of life in the picturesque village of Wrotham. First licensed in 1495 by Henry VII, it was a good choice and remains one today. Located just off the Pilgrims Way, travellers would be happy to stop here for a pint of ale and the chance to tell their stories. Today, things may be more modern in the outside world, but inside The Bull remains just as atmospheric and just as full of stories as it ever was. The ‘Smokehouse’ menu is a particularly nice addition to what has always been a great choice of food and even if you don’t go there to eat, it’s still a fantastic place to take the weight off your feet and get out of the winter weather for a while.
The Parrot Inn, Canterbury
Historic Canterbury is packed full of ancient buildings, but the Parrot Inn is one of its oldest – or at least parts of it are since it was built on Roman foundations. In fact, the pub was constructed at the same time as the cathedral, although it was completed a lot sooner. It may even be where the workers who laboured on the cathedral went after a hard day’s work for some refreshment. The Parrot Inn is tucked neatly away down an authentic cobbled street, and once inside, the age of the building is easy to spot – thick oak floorboards, atmospheric open fires, beams that may well predate Canterbury Cathedral…and then there’s the filling, warming food and drink (including six real ales) on offer. All in all, the perfect place to get in out of the cold.
The Waggon At Hale, Chatham
The Waggon at Hale is a little different to other cosy winter warmer pubs having been stylishly done up with a modern decor. There’s still a lovely fire to sit by though, still a great selection of food and drink, and still a family friendly atmosphere and a wonderfully friendly welcome when you walk through the door. The Waggon at Hale has it all, a little different to most, but wonderful all the same.
The Honest Miller, Brook
Imagine entering a country pub and finding a jolly landlord, an inspiring menu, log burners and plenty of room to settle down in. You’ve just imagined The Honest Miller. When you arrive, more often than not you will be personally greeted by the landlord, and even if he can’t come and say hello straight away, he’ll certainly make his way over to your table before you leave. If you’ve expended a ton of energy going for a country walk, you can recharge here – the food portions are certainly generous and the prices are very fair. Take as much time as you need, you won’t feel rushed here – oh, and if you can’t quite manage your food, just ask to take it home, it’ll be a nice treat later on.
The Castle Inn, Chiddingstone
The Castle Inn has recently been renovated and has reopened to showcase its traditional charm. The pub’s heritage has been reclaimed and there is a definite feeling of history when you enter the building. Originally built in the 15th century, here you’ll find locally sourced food all home cooked and served by the people who know and understand it the best. Coming soon, there’ll be beautiful rooms to stay in too, should the feeling for an extended stay strike, but for now, you can still enjoy the ambience of a truly traditional Kentish pub that has stayed true to its ancient roots. Chiddingstone itself is mostly owned by the National Trust, so to find that this pub has been renovated so sympathetically is a treat indeed. Sit by the fire and learn about the area’s history; you’ll be surprised by the amount of information you’re likely yet to know.