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Ringlestone Inn, Ringlestone Road, Harrietsham, MAIDSTONE, ME17 1NX [Map]
This is a lovely old pub with a fascinating history but a few miles from where I was born. I've visited it on many occasions since the late 1980's, several years before I'd discovered the delights of drinking proper beer. I'd never really considered adding it to my guide until late 2000 when my good friend Simon from my school days held his wedding reception in the very pleasant house over the road, now owned by the pub. A couple of old friends and indeed an old neighbour used to work behind the bar
The name Ringlestone, or 'the ring stone', dates back to before the Domesday book, and interestingly a ring does still exist set into the front wall of the pub for the purposes of tethering animals. You don't really see that many animals tied to the tether these days apart from the odd horse and if you've a dog they might let you bring it into the pub if its well behaved. The atmosphere within is certainly more relaxed than during the early part of this century when the front door was locked and the landlady used to keep a gun behind the bar. If you knocked the front door, the landlady would look you over carefully before letting you enter!
I was a little concerned at one time that the whole pub might go over to becoming a restaurant but fortunately I was wrong and drinkers are still welcomed to this day an can either sit at the bar or in the main front room by the open fire sitting on little chairs around candlelit tables. The interior walls are bare brick and flint, the latter a sure sign that we're in chalk downland country. The floor is also made of bricks that were no doubt made in one of the many brickworks that once littered the North-Kent coast. Local Shepherd Neame beers are served along with other brews from Abbot and Theakstons - I'm sure I saw one of the wonderful Goachers brews on sale once. They also specialise in country wines.
Many people travel to the pub for the food, much of it made with locally sourced ingredients. They specialise in sausages and pies - I tried the duck and damson and it was delicious. They also offer a good range of vegetarian options, excellent salads and if you're there at lunchtimes a hot and cold buffet. You're welcome to eat within the restaurant or out the back in the lovely landscaped gardens. If like me you like ponds, you'll want to make sure that you wander around the garden!