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Signs of Tunbridge Wells and Pubs without Music

On September 13, 2008

After a long day in the Cleveland Airport and a long night on a plane (broken up by an excellent vegetarian in flight meal, I highly recommend choosing veg when flying as it arrives sooner and is most always tasty), I arrived in Gatwick and was pleased to find it not to be the bugaboo I had feared. Still, as my chauffeur pulled into Tunbridge Wells I found myself lagging far behind, even the sight of a functioning train station (usually one of my favorites) did nothing to reengergize me.  So, we searched for a coffee shop where I could get a double shot of green tea, a banana and an energy drink laced with vitamin B.  It is a sign of how low I was that I took pictures of neither the train station nor the very agreeable coffee shop.  Feeling better the search was on for an adapter for my laptop power cord (found at Curry’s, thanks to an extremely helpful young man) and a charger for my UK side cellphone (found at a Car Phone Warehouse).  Despite the fact that we were in a decidely retail oriented section of Tunbridge Wells (the Car Phone Warehouse was inside a mall), what I saw of the burg was enough to make me think I wouldn’t mind going back plus it gave me two of my favorite pictures of the trip…

and then it was on to find Snargate in Kent, home to the Red Lion and its owner, Doris.

A banana will only hold you so long plus we needed directions – besides, any reason to stop at a true British pub – so we found ourselves taking a break at

The Railway Hotel
Appledore, Ashford, Kent TN26 2DF, UK

While it did have a TV (made palatable by the fact that it was showing a short retrospective of British rowing at the Olympics) there was no music (although there may have been later).  Two of the most sought after and – to my mind – authentic attributes of a pub are the lack of a television and the lack of loud, piped in music.  It’s becoming more and more difficult to find pubs without a TV but as long as it’s on sports or news, that can be accommodated.

We had a delicious meal consisting of a ploughman’s lunch for my friend and fish and chips for me which we rotated between us, along with a beer for him and a cider for me.  Our meal was had at a picnic table in the hotel’s garden from where we could hear a slight row going on in the kitchen.  The tiff did nothing to take away from our dining, it was in fact a delightfully Fawlty Towers moment.  The service was quick and hospitable so whatever was going on in the kitchen was just an added dollop of atmosphere.  We inquired from the manager about the location of the Red Lion and were pleased to find that it was just over the railroad tracks – which meant we had a drive of less than two miles before we could once again stop for a pint.

Doris and the Red Lion are a legend locally and amongst those looking for real ale served in distinctive, traditional settings. The Red Lion dates back to the 16th century and has been owned by Doris’s family for almost one hundred years.

Red Lion
Snargate, Romney Marsh, Kent, TN29 9UQ

Ale is pumped from casks, a jar of pickled eggs sits on the bar and the interior is dark and low ceiling, just like a pub should be.  The front room was full of people who obviously weren’t strangers to one another, Doris sat on a stool to the side while a younger woman served up our drinks.  We sat in a room to the back, full of what appeared to be authentic memorabilia from the war to end all wars and the war that followed it.  My friend and I were able to identify an air raid siren and a case for keeping your gas mask handy.

There is also a room with a dart board to the right hand side of the front door.  We emerged some thirty minutes after entering ready to find Canterbury and our bed & breakfast for the night, Castle House.

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