Set up by PhD research and development chemists Andy Reason and Norman Lewis, this artisan gin distillery produces Anno Kent Dry Gin in a small batch copper pot still called Patience, using a blend of traditional botanicals with local hops, lavender from Downderry Nursery, samphire from Romney Marsh and wild flowers. Time a visit for a distillery tour and tutored tasting.
The Queen’s Inn Hawkhurst, Kent, TN18 4EY
The personal touch
Having run a successful outside catering company in the area for well over a decade, Sally-Anne Day and Sharon Retmanski decided it was time to find a proper base and, for a change, get people to come to them to eat. They snapped up the Queen’s Inn Hawkhurst in 2013 and set about refurbishing the run-down 16th-century building, which is hidden by an attractive, wisteria-clad Georgian brick façade, and restoring its reputation as a place to eat, drink and stay. Spruced up in contemporary style, without spoiling the character of the inn, expect to find colourful fabric, modern furnishings and funky objets d’art throughout the bar and, more especially, the eight upstairs bedrooms. The hub of place is the lively bar, with its wood and tiled floors, high ceilings, exposed brick walls, fat radiators, and a blazing wood-burner in the vast inglenook, with sought-after wing chairs capturing the heat. There’s a cosy, chill-out corner filled with deep sofas and comfortable armchairs, the perfect spot for coffee or perusing the menus over a pre-lunch or dinner drink. Step into the restaurant and back a few centuries, the room has low beams, brick-and-timber walls, a plank floor, a brick fireplace, and funky Crown motif wallpaper.
Children are welcome overnight; cots are available and the family room can sleep a family of four with (double sofa bed – £10 per child). They have their own menu (half price Sunday roasts) and there are highchairs available.
Dogs are only allowed in the bar.
The south-facing front terrace/garden (under the wisteria) is the perfect spot for alfresco eating and drinking on warmer days.
Regular live music and occasional Comedy & Curry nights.
The Queen’s Inn Hawkhurst, Kent, TN18 4EY
Do not disturb
Upstairs, wonky, beamed corridors lead you to eight funky bedrooms, most are tucked away in the old part of the inn. Sharon has certainly kitted them out with style and imagination, and there’s much to catch the eye and make you smile. Think, quirky statement wall coverings (one features stamps, another envelopes), cool retro telephones and radios, mad lamps made out of books, cans, old oil containers or antlers, rustic painted furniture, old battered boxes or suitcases for bedside tables, and sacking or jazzy fabric covered chairs. Book No.5 for the 42-inch HD flatscreen TV, the Emperor bed and the deep, freestanding tub in the corner of the room. All have top quality linen and down, decent drinks trays, bold artwork and big mirrors, and smart, fully-tiled bathrooms. Due to the age of the building, a couple are quite compact, others are beamed with period features, but all are great dun and full of personality.
Egyptian cotton & goose down duvets; bathrobes; Orla Kiely bathroom products; Nespresso machines in feature rooms; fresh coffee & home-made brownies.
Retro phones; HD televisions (freeview); radio alarms with i-pod dock; free wi-fi.
What’s for Breakfast?
Cereals; Danish pastries; toast & jam; yoghurt & fruit; smoked haddock & poached egg; smoked kipper; smoked salmon & scrambled egg; full English breakfast.
The Queen’s Inn Hawkhurst, Kent, TN18 4EY
Mastering the menu
Having been used to catering for numbers, chef Sally-Anne soon had the kitchen running smoothly and her varied bar and restaurant menus combine pub classics and more imaginative dishes to suit all tastes and appetites. For something traditional, try the thick, meaty Queen’s burger, served with triple-cooked chips, coleslaw, tomato relish and onion rings, or treat yourself to a leg of lamb steak, purple potatoes, local asparagus and basil pesto. Everything is made on site, including the bread and Sally Anne is committed to supporting very local artisan producers, using smoked salmon from Weald Smokery, just along the road in Flimwell, Foxy’s ice cream, which is made in Bodiam, charcuterie (try the platter for two) from Moons Green Charcuterie, near Tenterden, and 21-day aged steaks and other meat from animals reared and butchered at Park Farm, just south of Hawkhurst. Park Farm’s butcher’s shop is almost next door to the inn, so why not take a few steaks home with you.
On the menu
Scallops, black pudding, cauliflower puree, sherried sultanas
Moroccan spiced lamb shoulder terrine, minted yoghurt dressing
Calves liver, mash, rosemary & onion jus, crispy pancetta, shallot rings
Sea bass, crushed Jersey Royals, samphire, crab & chive sauce
Slow-cooked lamb shoulder, dauphinoise potato, braised red cabbage, lamb jus
Pork chop, baked lemon potatoes, broad bean, chorizo, feta and mind salad
Park Farm sausages, mash, red onion & thyme gravy
Baked vanilla cheesecake
Rice pudding, poached apricots
Good range of sandwiches (homemade bread)
Rib of beef; leg of lamb; pork loin
Time to Eat
Breakfast: 9am – 10am
Lunch: 12 noon – 2.30pm (8pm Sunday)
Dinner: 6pm – 9.30pm (9.45pm Friday & Saturday)
Local, local, local
Meat & sausages – Park Farm Butchers (www.parkfarmbutchers.co.uk)
Wealden Smokery (www.wealdsmokery.co.uk)
Old Diary Brewery, Tenterden (www.olddairybrewery.com)
Rother Valley Brewery, Northiam (www.rothervalleybrewery.co.uk)
English wine – Herbert Hall, Marden (www.herberthall.com)
Moons Green Charcuterie, Northiam (www.moonsgreen.co.uk)
Behind the bar
On the sleek, spotlight wooden bar you will find top-top local brews on tap, perhaps Red Top from Old Dairy Brewery in Tenterden, Level Best from Rother Valley Brewery, and Hophead from Sussex-based Dark Star Brewery. The short, global list of wines offers 10 by the glass and a notable sparkling white wine from the tiny Herbert Hall vineyard in nearby Marden. In addition, there’s Whitstable Bay lager, Pimms by the glass or jug in summer, bin-end wine specials, and soft drinks from Luscombe and Folkington.
Time at the bar
9am – 11pm
Take it back home
Tour the brewery that brewed your favourite pint, visit the shop on the farm that reared your delicious Sunday roast beef, and seek out the roadside stalls selling the local crab and samphire on the inn’s menu, the Food Trail features the local artisan producers and suppliers where you can buy to enjoy at home.
Change of scenery
Looking for a pub for lunch following a country walk, a different venue for dinner, or a good café for coffee, light lunch or afternoon tea, then the best in the area are listed below. If you find a new and exciting eatery in the area that’s worthy of a mention on the Food Trail, then please to do let us know – firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Inn Location - The Queen’s Inn
'Fine ales from the garden of England' is the tagline for this exceptional brewery housed inside two World War II Nissen buildings just off the High Street. As well a core range of beers such as Gold Top and Copper Top, there are seasonal ales and specials such as AK 1911 brewed to a century-old Kentish recipe. The Brewery shop is open Monday to Saturday and brewery tours run on Thursdays and Saturdays.
In a converted barn just outside St Michael’s, this exceptional farm shop sells a range of top quality organic meat and dairy produce from land farmed by the Fenton family for the past 25 years. Rare breed beef, pork and lamb is on offer alongside organic vegetables, and you can refuel at the Silcocks Cafe, which uses the same produce from the farm.
What started out a few years ago with Kit Smith selling fish to his friends in the village has grown into a successful business that has established close links with local fishermen along the East Sussex coast.
In the heart of Rye and close to the coast, this lovely pub specialises in local seafood including Hastings smoked prawns, smoked mackerel and pickled cucumber and fish cakes made from the day's catch. Wash it down with Kentish ciders or Hastings-brewed First In Last Out Gold ale.
Overlooking Bodiam Castle, this artisan bakery and school runs a number of regular workshops and classes and it also has a shop on the High Street in Ticehurst - next door to The Bell.
Established in 2001, this wonderful shop sells high quality free-range and grass-fed beef, pork and lamb reared by Andrew and Anne Clarke who farm some 300 acres of Wealden farmland in the parish of Hawkhurst. The farm participates in an ongoing conservation and education programme and also offers open days by prior arrangement.
As well as its own superb smoked fish, meats and cheeses, this award-winning deli just off the A21 carries a huge range of local, British and international fine foods including pastas, chocolates and wines. There's also the Kiln Room brasserie serving light lunches, coffees and afternoon teas.
Open since 2012, this well-stocked farm shop is situated next to award-winning Staplehurst Nurseries, which supplies local garden centres and London markets. The farm shop sells a range of freshly baked bread, preserves, condiments, fresh fruit and vegetables, cakes, hams and chocolates. The cafe serves deli tasting platter, light lunches and takeaway sandwiches.
With celebrity supporters, including Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, Chapel Down is widely regarded as England’s leading wine producer, with award-winning still wines, sparkling wines and craft beers produced amongst the 22 acres of vineyards at Tenterden. The winery and restaurant is open all year round, with guided tours offered between April and November.
1 Inn Location - The Queen’s Inn
On the borders of Kent and East Sussex and a stone's throw from the Queens Inn, this is a perfect location for keen anglers. There are four main angling lakes and three junior course ponds. Expect carp, tench and golden orfe - among other fish.
Opposite The Colonnade, the Kino Digital Cinema offers a great boutique entertainment venue with HD projection and sound. Kino is the first purely digital cinema in the UK.
An integral feature of the Romney Marsh landscape since the 1920s, the narrow gauge Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway is one of the region's most popular visitor attractions and a charming way to explore the distinctive coastline in this remote, south-east corner of Kent.
Bewl Water, near Hawkhurst, offers a multitude of things to do. There are walks and cycle rides, fishing, watersports and many family-friendly activities, plus a range of great events throughout the year.
Based in a former Salvation Army chapel in Rope Walk in picturesque Rye, Glass Etc is one of Britain's largest shops selling antique and 20th-century glass. A vast stock, not all of it on show, consists of around 30,000 pieces spanning the period c1750-1980.
From the Victorian feel of the High Street to the historic, handsome Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells is not short of shopping opportunities. The Pantiles, which is a colonnaded walkway dating back to the 17th century, consists of almost entirely independent shops - from fashion and jewellery to home and garden. Don't miss the Pantiles Food Festival in mid-May.
Seek out this Battle gallery and you'll discover a treasure trove of affordable art by Sussex-based artists. Examples include paintings of local scenes and original work by award-winning artists. Expect to find ceramics, textiles, greeting cards and collages.
Shire Country Clothing in Battle is the shop to head for to find ladies and menswear, clothing for children, footwear, luggage, hats, gifts and accessories. Brand names range from Dubarry to Hunter & Barbour.
Why not browse the antique shops of the Cliffe or take a rewarding stroll in search of this historic old town's many independent retailers and quaint buildings. The atmosphere here is bustling and friendly and there are plenty of opportunities for a welcome coffee break.
Carole Ridley, Tenterden TN30 6AU
This boutique draws customers from all over Kent and further afield in search of exclusive clothes and accessories. Expect jewellery, hats, bags and shoes - among many items. Carole travels all over Europe and the Far East to source clothes for every new season.
Places to visit
Not far from Cranbrook, Sissinghurst's wonderful garden is the enduring legacy of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson who laboured long and hard to complete this horticultural work of art. There's a lot to see at Sissinghurst, including Vita's tower writing room and nearby lakes and woodland.
Located in the glorious Weald of Kent, this small 16th-century cottage was the home of the greatly admired Victorian actress, Ellen Terry. Explore this pretty, half-timbered building and discover her fascinating theatrical collection. In the garden stands the thatched Barn Theatre.
Between Hawkhurst and Rye, Great Dixter was for many years the much-loved home of the renowned gardener and writer Christopher Lloyd who spent many years helping to establish one of the most exciting, colourful and constantly changing gardens of modern times. One of Great Dixter’s most striking features is the magnificent Great Hall, the largest surviving timber-framed hall in the country.
If you're a big fan of Charles Dickens, described as our greatest Victorian writer, you'll want to head north to Chatham where, at Dickens World, you can sample a 90-minute guided tour experience, taking you back to the time of Dickens and exploring the very different England of his classic novels.
Situated at Rolvenden, Great Maytham Hall's wonderful garden can be viewed on Wednesday afternoons in spring and summer and the visit is well worth it. Great Maytham is where the writer Frances Hodgson Burnett lived around the turn of the century. Her time here inspired the classic tale The Secret Garden and the setting continues to evoke the magic of her writing.
Ten miles north of Hastings, the charming East Sussex town of Rye is filled with picturesque cobbled streets and clay-tiled roofs. Exploring the town really does convey the impression of visiting the set of a period costume drama or film. The National Trust-owned Lamb House, the former home of the American writer Henry James, is located in Rye and open to the public.
One of the most important and fascinating houses in Kent, Godinton House at Ashford boasts an illustrious history dating back to the medieval period. The gardens are especially striking and idiosyncratic. Included here are a newly designed Rose Garden and the Walled Garden with its greenhouses and delphinium collection.
Hawkhurst lies at the heart of a unique landscape blessed with great scenery. The Weald of Kent boasts countless walks of varying lengths and themes and not far away are beautiful Rye and evocative Romney Marsh, both with great routes to sample on foot. The stamp of history is evident in the area too, and there are guided walks through the historic streets of Canterbury and in the Cathedral Precincts. There are also fascinating walks in the steps of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, as well as a chance to try the Darling Buds of May Trail.
Kent has over 300 miles of cycle routes to enjoy – everything from quiet country lanes to more challenging off-road trails. The Royal Military Canal, near Rye, is a favourite destination for many families, with long traffic-free sections making it safe and user-friendly. The Cuckoo Trail is another popular choice, running for 14 miles through East Sussex, from Hampden Park to Heathfield, and nearby Bedgebury Forest offers a good choice of off-road trails for all abilities.
One of the region’s most prestigious annual events is the Battle Arts and Music Festival. The Battle of Hastings Re-Enactment is a colourful, two-day event with living-history demonstrations, culminating in a re-enactment of the famous battle of 1066. Nearby Rye has its own Arts Festival. Kent’s gloriously rich heritage is celebrated across the county. The Tenterden Folk Festival, the Rochester Sweeps Festival, Dickens Festival in Rochester and Broadstairs, Whitstable Oyster Festival and Faversham Hop Festival are just some of the annual events to be enjoyed in the region.
Location, Location, Location
By Road: In Hawkhurst, on the A268 (Rye Road), 3 miles east of A21 at Flimwell.
By Train: Nearby railway station is Staplehurst (London Charing Cross line), which is 10 miles north of Hawkhurst.
Rye Road,, Hawkhurst, Kent, TN18 4EY