I adore exploring the UK. My favourite weekends are ones where we head to a new part of the country to do a lot of beautiful drives and eat all the vegan food. I swear every time I go somewhere new it instantly becomes “my favourite place” and I have dreams of packing up and leaving Leicester for a shinier pasture.
About a week ago we did another little UK jaunt down south to Kent to see my little sister who just started school in Canterbury, and we also spent an afternoon visiting friends who live near Ashford. I’ve been to Kent before – down near Port Lympne – but it was very cold and rainy when we visited and we didn’t do too much exploring, so I would consider this a new place for me. And it did not disappoint. I can see why Kent is called the “Garden of England” – the rolling hills, forests and beautiful gardens make it such a lovely place to visit.
Airbnb: Elham Valley
I am a huge fan of Airbnb, and whenever we travel it’s usually the first site I check to see what kind of accommodations exist where we’re heading. There’s something so nice about being in a home rather than a hotel, and you can usually stay in places where the locals hang – rather than really touristy areas. For our trip to Kent we stayed at a house simply called Elham Valley, which, no surprise, was in the Elham Valley.
Our room was above a garage and on a plot of land with two houses that also belonged to the owner. It was in the middle of nowhere, which is just what I wanted. There was so much space and greenery and overall just a really serene location to hang for a couple days. I have to say it was difficult to find at first though!
The room itself was perfect for us and had all the amenities we would need for a couple days. The only thing it didn’t have was a shower, so we both took baths which was actually pretty nice as we don’t currently have a bathtub at home.
There were loads of walks nearby and (I think) 10 acres of land that the property sits on, so if you like to explore by foot this is a great find. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to do any hiking as our 2 days were jampacked with visits to friends and family.
Our first day down south was spent with my little sister and she wanted to visit Dover Castle, so after picking her up in Canterbury we headed further down south to the historic location.
It was a stunning day, and the castle itself is beautiful, perched on the white cliffs of Dover. I particularly liked the more recent history involving WWII. There are loads of tunnels underneath the castle that were built during the war but unfortunately the day we went it was a 40 min wait to get in, so we passed on that and walked around the grounds instead.
The other great thing about Dover Castle? Their snack shop sells two vegan sandwich options! I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a heritage sight cater to vegans, which just goes to show you that things are definitely changing.
Other than Dover Castle, we mostly just did a lot of driving. There are so many beautiful areas in Kent to see, and I love the little, winding, narrow roads that weave through the countryside and historic villages. We also visited Rye Harbour which was very pretty in a stark, solemn kind of way. The beaches are full of pebbles rather than sand, and there was something so beautiful about the little wet, polished stones. I also love the way they sound when the waves pull them back into the ocean – like marbles clanking as they roll over each other.
The Monument, Canterbury
On our first night we headed to The Monument in Canterbury for dinner, based on several Twitter recommendations. This pub is completely vegan which makes it easy (or maybe not so easy) to choose a meal and drink. It is pub food (aka vegan junk food), but we are partial to a bit of decadence so it was perfect for us.
There were SO many choices though! I finally settled on the vegan kebab that was made with the most tender seitan strips and served with lovely, crunchy chips and a big dollop of garlic mayo. It was so delicious. Andrew went for the tofish burger, and it was probably the best vegan fish I’ve tried (usually pubs get it so wrong). We also had a side of delicious fried pickles. There were so many other yummy things on the menu that I wish we could go back and try one of everything – especially some of the scrumptious looking desserts.
The Three Chimneys, Ashford
For lunch the second day, we met up with our friends who live in the countryside nearer to Ashford and went to a local pub for lunch. They didn’t have a dedicated vegan option on the menu, but when we called ahead they said they could easily accommodate us. The dish they made for us was a cous cous ratatouille, which we also added mushrooms and onions to. It was delicious! It tasted just like something I would make at home, and was a nice, healthy option after all the junk food we ate at The Monument. The pub itself is so cute too – it’s in a beautiful area and is one of those ancient pubs where you have to duck whenever you enter a new room as the ceilings are so low.
Abbot’s Fireside, Elham
For dinner that second night Andrew and I stopped in the village immediately before our Airbnb and looked at the menus of the 3 pubs that existed in the village. One of those pubs was the Abbot’s Fireside and we were pleasantly surprised to see they had clearly marked vegan options on the menu so of course that was our choice for dinner.
The pub was adorable. Absolutely so so so charming. It was built in 1451, and again it had lots of little rooms that were connected by low hanging ceilings, a beautiful little beer garden and two resident cats who were incredibly friendly.
For the food, we went with the only vegan starter on the menu which was a veggie fritter, and swapped out the salad dressing for sweet chilli sauce. It was perfect. For my main I chose the wild mushroom ragu and oh my, even though it doesn’t look like much it was DELICIOUS. So many mushrooms, and such a thick, moorish sauce. Andrew opted for the mushroom veggie burger and asked for it without cheese. However, I think the bun may not have been vegan :-/
Overall we loved our stay in Kent – I certainly think the clear, warm, autumnal weather helped! I just wish we’d had time to try more of the vegan restaurants that were recommended to us!
Be sure to also check out my Kent travel vlog below