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For years my dear friend Charlotte has been raving about The PIG – near Bath, so when The PIG - at Bridge Place in Kent opened in April this year, my mum Barbara and I just had to go!
We arrived to what was formerly Bridge Place Country Club, built around 1638 it was one of the ‘great houses’ of East Kent and latterly famous for its rock heritage that once played host to Led Zeppelin, The Kinks and The Moody Blues.
It was a Monday, I worried it might not be very busy and maybe it would be one of those hotels where everyone whispers during supper and all that you hear during breakfast is the sound of knives and forks. My thought could not have been further from the reality of what was a hip vibe, relaxed and busy place, even though we were seemingly in the middle of nowhere in the delightful Nailbourne valley.
The new Coach House is attached to the main house. Our supersized suite was luxurious and comfortable with views overlooking the kitchen garden and the fields beyond. It had a super king-sized bed, a sofa, TV, an area for making drinks with a fridge and loads of wardrobe space. Best of all was the fantastic bathroom with a walk-in deluge shower, a large roll top bath and two large hand basins. It felt so comfortable you wanted to move in! For ‘anything we needed’ we had an old fashioned dial-up telephone and to tune in to the latest news or have a bedroom dance-off, a bedside Roberts Radio.
With its ‘shabby chic’ interior, the room was decorated in olive grey lit up by freshly picked colourful wildflowers on the windowsill. Within the Coach House there are 12 additional bedrooms; four on the ground floor and eight on the first floor.
Crossing the brook on the hand-crafted wooden bridge there are seven Hop Pickers’ Huts all created from reclaimed materials dotted beside a meandering wooden walkway. Each hut houses a double bedroom with a cosy bathroom and a wood-burning stove. Next to the kitchen garden is The Barn; a large upstairs/downstairs room with a vast bathroom. It has bedroom views over the garden and the adjoining spa in the Potting Shed. The newly restored gate lodge provides two further dwellings, THE PIG-at Bridge Place has a total of 31 rooms.
Close to my heart is local food. It was refreshing to learn that the business grows their own produce for all their hotels. The working kitchen garden employs six gardeners working throughout the year round to solely supply the needs of the chefs at the hotel. They keep hens, quails, pigs, sheep and bees. The extensive vegetable garden includes a greenhouse, a mushroom house, polytunnels, fruit cages and there is a smoke house.
Meals are prepared in their open kitchen, their busy chefs never seem to have a quiet moment with menus on what is fresh and seasonal from the garden. The county of Kent is the perfect location for a hotel obsessed with provenance, the people of this county are proud of what they produce. Located in the heart of the ‘Wine Garden of England’, the hotel serves fabulous locally produced local wine, beer, gin and cider. We enjoyed a very laid-back drink in the pizza and bar area at the end of the kitchen garden. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the cider from Kent went down very well indeed. Was this really a hotel or were we at home in the garden?
There are many areas where you can relax with seating in the wildflower meadow, in the garden and of course in the courtyard. It was a balmy summers evening and we were given a choice to dine inside or outside.
We chose inside so that we could see the chefs at work in the open kitchen and at the same time soak up the buzzy atmosphere. The menu was diverse and as were our choices! Mum opted for some light bites of quails scotch eggs, brown crab risotto balls and crispy oyster mushrooms. I tried the roasted red zebra tomato with black elephant garlic and olive salsa followed by chargrilled Brogdale pork tomahawk with green beans, cider brandy and mustard sauce. Each of our meals was served and paired with a selection of local wines and all expertly served by their resident Sommelier, Luke, who was clearly very knowledgeable.
Before our scheduled whistle-stop tour of Canterbury, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of fresh juice, kipper, eggs and maple bacon. The charming city with its famous cathedral, tales of Chaucer and so much history, the heritage and architecture was captivating.
Canterbury has many cobbled streets, quirky timber framed buildings and home to World Heritage Sites. There’s lots of independent retail shops, cafes and restaurants and many of the cafes and restaurants have tables outside and roof terraces so you could enjoy the views and the sunshine. One of the star attractions of course is Canterbury Cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England that forms part of a World Heritage Site. It is certainly beautiful and is situated in the heart of the city. The highlight of our visit was a river tour on the Stour in a punt.
The 40-minute guided tour firstly takes you to a small Franciscan island, known as The Greyfriars, which is home to a beautiful 13th century chapel which spans the river, it is the oldest example of Franciscan architecture in the country. We then passed under the 12th Century Eastbridge Hospital and the King's Bridge (1134). We punted down river passing medieval industrial buildings that included The Old Weavers House, The Kings Mill, and the Cromwellian iron forge. After some wonderful views of the cathedral, the tour passed through the Dominican priories, built by the Blackfriars in the 14th century, ending up in Solly’s Orchard, the site of the old Abbots Mill in the city. We returned passing The Marlowe Theatre, to our starting point which is also home to the infamous ‘Ducking Stool.’
A 20 minute drive from the hotel lies the harbour town of Whitstable, the ‘Pearl of Kent’ as it is famous for oysters. Here you can enjoy the working harbour and local seafood. A unique and special place, and one of the prettiest seaside towns in Kent, is Deal. Deal's unspoilt seafront, full of dangerous smuggling haunts in the 1800s, now has a wonderful collection of colourful buildings complemented by fishing boats that are hauled up onto the shingle beach.
There’s plenty to see and do in this area of Kent or you can just kick off your shoes and relax at the hotel, eat, drink and be spoilt like pigs.
They say, ‘you don’t know what you’re missing until you find it’ and this rings true to the ‘PIGS’ hotel brand. Once you have stayed here, you know what you have been missing. Now I want to return and experience their other hotels.
THE PIG-at Harlyn Bay will open in spring 2020 and THE PIG-on the South Downs will open in summer 2020.
(I think I have now developed severe FOMO… Fear of Missing Out!). Thanks Charlotte!
Where is it?
The Pigs at The Bridge is three miles south of Canterbury and just 56 minutes by train from St Pancras.
There are currently six PIG hotels; THE PIG, THE PIG-near Bath, THE PIG-on the beach; THE PIG-at Combe, THE PIG-in the wall and THE PIG-at Bridge Place.
Room rates start from £145 for a Cosy Room, a rate that continues to endorse The Pigs’ offering of affordable luxury. For bookings please visit https://www.thepighotel.com/book/ or call 0345 225 9494.
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Thermae Spa Pic credit: Matt Cardy and Thermae Bath Spa
Kate's lovely room in the Coach House
Hard at work in the kitchen
Kate in the Courtyard
The PIG at Bridge Place