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Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

Kingston, Washington
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Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

I've been sifting through the myriad posts looking for a place to base my wife and myself for a week in Kent. My head is all scrambled now so I'm hoping you good people can help clear it up.

We'll spend pretty much all of our time going from castle to castle and abbey to abbey as that's where our interest lies. We'll head to Canterbury but might even roam into Somerset if the mood strikes. My plan (as with all of our other trips to the UK) is to set some guidelines (one must-see place per day...or less) and then let the road, weather and chance determine where we actually end up visiting on any given day.

So if you had to choose the idyllic village in Kent in which to base yourself for a week of this kind of touring, which would it be and why?

I know a lot of this has been said before but I'm hoping to pick up on a rare treat that someone might not think another would appreciate. We love quiet. We like to be able to walk a couple of minutes to the local and have a meal and a real ale. We don't care to stay in large towns or cities. Perfection is a village the size of Gunnerside or Muker in the Yorkshire Dales. Bodiam was a nice place from what I could see through the pouring rain (yes, I know it's in East Sussex).

Thanks for reading. Happy Monday!

Kingston, Washington
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31. Re: Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

Thank you, BayB0y. We'll obviously be beyond pleased with a repeat of March 2012 but honestly, we enjoy England even when it's cold and wet...though I admit that getting soaked to the bone at Bodiam Castle last year tested our resolve :-)

Canterbury is one of our "Must Do" stops in March. My wife was an English major in College and "The Canterbury Tales" is one of her all time favorites so we're planning a whole day for the Cathedral and its environs. I slept through the Chaucer part of my class so now I have to go back and read it to make sure I can keep pace with the wife.

32. Re: Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

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Kingston, Washington
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33. Re: Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

After many (too many) hours in Google Earth looking at all of the recommended villages and towns (and an unknown amount of those we found on our own flying from one place to another), we settled on Charing. Actually, we settled on staying at The Bowl Inn a mile or so outside Charing. It's nice and secluded, seems to be centrally located to all of the things we want to see, and got great reviews here on TA.

It wasn't an easy decision though. I was really stuck on Chilham and my wife really wanted someplace more touristy. But as all good warring tribes do eventually, if they don't eradicate each other, we came to a truce and compromised.

Now it's time to locate all of the antiques shoppes and places that sell Irn-Bru so I can have an enjoyable holiday :-)

Thank you all for the recommendations. You've been a big help!

kent
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34. Re: Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

Toofpik.... Charing and Chilham are not that far apart, and Charing Heath has wonderful walks, but bring wellies! Red Lion pub is good for lunch.

Kingston, Washington
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35. Re: Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

Thank you, mcpinder. I've added the Red Lion to our list of restaurants. We're not much for walks but will look into Charing Heath just in case it strikes us in the proper way.

Canterbury, United...
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36. Re: Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

I've only driven past The Bowl Inn a couple of times and never visited, but I can say for sure that it's in a lovely corner of the county, high up on the North Downs. You will be isolated though, even from Charing itself, as the narrow lanes up the long steep hill are not something I think you'll want to tackle on foot. Fortunately you've chosen an inn so it is as much a country pub as as it is accommodation. It's only a minute or two's drive down to the A20 for easy access to the main road network. On the bend on the hill down to the A20 is one of my favourite views in Kent where you can see for miles!

On the road north from the Bowl Inn you are also very close to The Plough at Stalisfield Green which, although I've not been there, consistently gets great food reviews on TripAdvisor.

Definitely try to visit Faversham which is only a few miles north; it's a very attractive, historic market town. You can brave the narrow country lanes north via Stalisfield Green or take the A251 main road which is a lovely drive too (and relatively narrow considering it's classified as a main road). http://www.faversham.org/visit_faversham.aspx

Kingston, Washington
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37. Re: Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

Thanks, BayB0y. I'll mark the spot on the hill for the view for sure. I checked it out on Google Earth Street View and it looks lovely. I can't wait to see it in person.

We looked at a lot of places in the villages and towns and none of them struck us as being quite right. When we saw the location of the Bowl Inn, and realized how isolated we would be, we knew it was the right place. The reviews here say that there's no real dinner there in the evenings so we'll be venturing out for dinner every night. I've added The Plough to my restaurant list and will check out Faversham for other places to eat as well.

On our first trip to England in 2007 we ended up on one of those narrow lanes in the Cotswolds and it scared the spit out of me when a car was coming at me in the other direction. Then I got to experience these narrow lanes in the Scottish Highlands the next year and those crazy B roads in Rep. of Ireland the year after that. I have to admit that though they can be daunting, I find them exhillarating (though it's because I find it an adventure, not because I'm flying down the roads at 90MPH). We don't have narrow roads like that here so for me, they're a part of the appeal of staying in the English countryside.

We're doing things differently on this trip in that we're only making plans for 4 or 5 of the seven days we'll be in Kent. Usually I have a full schedule but when my wife started talking about taking two of those days to head into France to see Versailles, it dawned on me that we were going to again have no time to breathe and just relax.

All I'm planning for is a day in each: Dover area, Canterbury, Leeds area, Bodiam and Battle again (hoping to get a good photo of Bodiam this time so I can finish off my medieval dining room at home) and maybe a day to hit castles in other places in Kent or East Sussex. I think having the two free days will allow us to adjust depending on the weather and perhaps take in a nice walk or two.

I hate to ask a ton of questions but I also wouldn't turn down any suggestions if they happen to pop into your heads. So feel free to bombard me with anything you see fit. One thing I definitely need advice on is good ale. I had some great real ales in Yorkshire a couple of years ago and am hoping to find new ones to tempt my taste buds. Nothing too dark like a Guiness but I'd rather err on that side than end up with something like a Budweiser type.

kent
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38. Re: Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

Toofpik... I'd second BayBOy's recommendation for food at The Plough.. had a few meals there and thought it very good food.

If you are going the Leeds Castle, I wouldn't recommend the food. There are a few pubs in Leed village, food ok but nothing special. I'd recommend going to Bearsted instead for a meal. There are 2 pubs on the village green, the White Horse and the Royal Oak. Of the two, the food at the Royal Oak is much better ( in my opinion anyway!) There is also an outstanding fish restaurant right next to the Royal Oak, called Fish on the Green.

I am always a bit wary of recommending restaurants.. in case the chef has a bad night, but these are all consistently good!

You might get recommended to try the Ringlestone Inn... lovely pub, but can be inconsistent, although they have a good choice of ales and wines.

Kingston, Washington
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39. Re: Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

Thanks, mcpinder. I appreciate the information.

I totally understand being wary of recommending places to eat. Aside from inconsistency, people are obviously different about what they think is good and bad. Considering I eat more McDonalds and Taco Bell than anything else, I'm sure my standards don't rise to most people's :-)

Canterbury, United...
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40. Re: Best Village Base for Castle Visits and Quiet

Real ale - well as Kent is the main hop growing area in the UK then it has a great tradition of brewing. Start at The Bowl Inn as its own website looks promising! Gadds is from one of the leading small-scale Kent breweries, they do all sorts from golden to dark. Harveys is a well-respected ale from Sussex. The Plough at Stalisfield Green's website has a great local selection including from the Hopdaemon microbrewery.

The big player in this area though is Shepherd Neame whose beers, can be found throughout Kent in its own pubs and in supermarkets. The Shepherd Neame brewery in Faversham is one of the UK's top regional independent breweries and claims to be the oldest too. You can tour the brewery there. The beer gets a knocking from some, but it has always tasted fine to me! http://www.shepherdneame.co.uk/brands