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Secret Drinker's best Shepherd Neame inland Kent pubs

The fantastic response to my top five seaside pubs, added to the fact many locals are already planning for the glorious day they can reopen, has persuaded me I must also bring you my top Shepherd Neame inland pubs.

Just imagine the joy of sitting in a beautiful pub garden, a freshly pulled pint in your hand, while the sun blazes down and the birds twitter sweetly in the background.

Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewer, has pubs all across Kent
Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewer, has pubs all across Kent

I took some flak for daring to dream of the time we can revisit a lovely seaside boozer and gaze upon the waves again, but why shouldn’t we have something to look forward to?

If seven out of 10 people reckon the thing they’ve missed most during lockdown is the pub then just imagine getting back to these five fantastic pubs.

The only rule I set to be an inland pub is that if you look out of the window you can’t see the sea.

My No.5 goes to a lovely little village pub in ROOT’m – yeah, yeah, I know it’s spelt Wrotham.

Once I’d got the name of village sorted I was free to start enjoying the Rose & Crown but the fellow drinking Guinness through a straw was a first for me, and that’s even without his flowery waistcoat!

The Rose & Crown is in the pretty village of Wrotham, just off the M20
The Rose & Crown is in the pretty village of Wrotham, just off the M20

Quirky, verging upon Vicar of Dibley’esque, I quickly warmed to the bar-hugging locals and despite the kitchen wall/tartar sauce moment the food was great.

Like so many Sheps pubs the Rose & Crown revels in its history and has a great deal to be proud about. If you’re ever in the neck of the Kent woods where everything is pronounced that little bit differently this is definitely worth trying. Here's my full review

The pub at No.4 on my list isn’t a million miles away from Wrotham as the crow flies.

On Linton Hill, the historic Bull Inn has leather sofas, a modern menu and an inviting garden with great view
On Linton Hill, the historic Bull Inn has leather sofas, a modern menu and an inviting garden with great view

I haven’t reviewed the Bull Inn at Linton, near Maidstone, yet but called in en-route to a meeting one weekday evening.

The views from the back of the pub across the beautiful, sprawling Kent countryside are spectacular. Judging by the decking the pub has undergone fairly major redevelopment work, outside at least, to take full advantage of this asset.

Inside it retains the feel of real local and I liked it, but there can be no denying the main event are the views. If the current heatwave continues and you’re allowed back soon, do yourself a favour and drink in the scenery, with a pint of Shep’s best bitter.

The 600-year-old Woolpack Inn can be found in the shadow of the Norman castle at Chilham
The 600-year-old Woolpack Inn can be found in the shadow of the Norman castle at Chilham

By its own admission, pub No.3 is sitting pretty in something of a chocolate box village.

The Woolpack at Chilham certainly looks the part and the welcome I received was warm and inviting. You do have to pay for what you get, but this pub’s got history flowing from every hop-covered beam. Tracing its landlords back to the 15th century is a neat trick and I was howling like at wolf at how good the beer was.

And, as I said at the time, if the pub is good enough for hairy mutt Hagrid then it’s good enough for me. The staff weren’t bad either and Lizzie was clearly appreciative of the part she was allowed to play in this great pub’s history. Save up and treat yourself to a great fish finger sandwich. Here's my review

The Foresters Arms is a kaleidoscope of colour
The Foresters Arms is a kaleidoscope of colour
The pub is just a short walk from both the bus and train station at Tonbridge
The pub is just a short walk from both the bus and train station at Tonbridge

Even I am surprised by the pub featuring at No.2 in my top 5. From the outside you could be forgiven for passing the Foresters Arms in Tonbridge and missing it.

However, that would be a great shame – I might have only called in by chance, but I ended up having a fantastic evening at this eclectic, full-on boozer. Simply walking through the door challenges your senses and I even ended up loving the grungy, retro feel.

It’s pizza or nothing, but again, it could do no wrong for me and I’m happy to recommend the food too. Though the barmaid did make me play an impromptu game of hunt the Hurlimann? Find out how that ended up here

The No.1 pub on my list - the Crown Inn at Sarre
The No.1 pub on my list - the Crown Inn at Sarre

And, in top spot, another pub I haven’t had the chance to review yet, though I did have the pleasure of popping in just hours ahead of lockdown.

The Crown Inn at Sarre, near Birchington, can boast a fantastic history dating back more than half a millennia. You might take the list of famous names with a pinch of salt but one thing that’s beyond question is the quality of the food – bangers and mash to die for.

I love the rustic, down-to-earth feel but this large than life pub gets all the details right. Excellent, warm-hearted customer service combined with great food and drink – and Clive behind the bar who reckons he responds best to ‘Oi’, what more could you want?

I need to write a full review as soon as possible.

These five watering holes are all great in their own way, but there are, of course, scores of other great Shepherd Neame pubs so please feel free to let me know your favourite.

Twitter @drinker_secret or email secretdrinker@outlook.com

Secret Drinker's favourite Sheps pubs by the sea

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