The Red Lion at Snargate features on CAMRA's National Inventory of unspoilt Heritage Pubs .Known locally as Doris's, after its legendary and long-serving landlady it is a pub where time really has stood still. The building itself is believed to date back to 1540, but unlike many old pubs of a similar age, the inside has not been modified and there are a series of inter-connecting rooms. The walls are decorated with a series of original World War II posters, and other memorabilia, and the rooms are also home to a selection of traditional pub games, such as "Devil Amongst the Tailors" and "Shut the Box". Although there is a set of three handpumps on the bar-counter, they have not been used for many years. Instead all beers are served direct from casks kept stillaged behind the bar. Local beers feature prominently on the menu, with Maidstone brewer's Goachers being a firm favourite.
I have known the pub over many years, and whilst I don't often visit it, I do so whenever the opportunity arises. Last Saturday, my son Matt and I joined a couple of friends in travelling by train down to Romney Marsh in order to visit the Red Lion. After alighting from the Marsh-Link train at Appledore Station, we had a slightly hair-raising, 30 minutes walk along the busy A2080 before arriving at the pub shortly after opening time.
Doris's daughter Kate was behind the bar, and we were pleased to see a good selection of Kentish ales on tap, awaiting our attention. Eric went straight in on the 6.5% Audit Ale from Westerham. The rest of us plumped for a beer called Red Top, from the Old Dairy Brewery. The latter is a brand new micro-brewery, based somewhere in Kent (their website doesn't specify where), that only commenced production at the beginning of the year. The Red Top was a copper-coloured, quite malty brew, with a distinct hoppiness to balance. It certainly seemed to slip down well. Later on that lunchtime I also sampled the Goachers Mild as well as their Imperial Stout, before returning to the Red Top for my last pint of the session.
The pub was packed; a mini-bus party from Whitstable having arrived shortly before us. There was also a good sprinkling of "locals", including a chap from Tunbridge Wells plus a cyclist from nearby Warehorne. Doris herself put in an appearance shortly afterwards, although she left the serving to Kate and her partner. Apart from crisps and nuts, the Red Lion doesn't serve food, but Doris was quite happy for us to sit in the games room and eat the sandwiches we had brought with us.
We stayed until closing time at 3pm. We were not particularly relishing the prospect of waking back along the busy A2080, so were therefore extremely grateful when we were offered a lift back to Appledore Station by a group of regulars. We piled into two cars, and in next to no time were deposited safe and sound back at the station. We had nearly half an hour before our train was due, so we popped into the adjacent, and very welcoming, Railway Hotel for a quick pint of St Austell Tribute before catching our train.
That wasn't quite the last pint of the day. We had decided to travel back to Tonbridge via Hastings; breaking our journey in the seaside town. I won't recount our afternoon and evening in Hastings apart from saying that we ended up in the FILO (First In Last Out), an old established home-brew pub in the Old Town. It was a good place to finish up at after what had been a most excellent day out.