A Walk Towards Allington, Kent

As you'll be well aware my husband and I do quite a lot of walking and after we got back to the UK (and before my husband relocated up to Edinburgh) we were doing walks I'd never done around my home town. Invariably a lot of those also involved a stop off at a pub somewhere on route. One place we've walked around a lot, for example, is the village of Loose and the surrounding area, close to my parents home. The pub in the village, The Chequers, is also a great spot for a rest mid-walk or just for a drink and something to eat if you are in the area. They also have a beer garden, perfect for this lovely weather we're currently enjoying in Kent.

Another walk we did though stemmed from previous visits to Maidstone to see family whilst we were still living in Singapore. These visits included stays at a hotel on the riverside on the outskirts of town conveniently with a pub attached to it and a theory that we should be able to walk there along the river from the town centre. Obviously with the promise of a drink too. 

The walk began at my parents as we first had to walk into town so we could then walk out of it again on the opposite side. This meant it actually turned into quite a long walk, but it's good exercise! This first part of the walk was quite ordinary, no pretty scenery as you're simply walking through residential areas and the town centre, and Maidstone is really like many other towns and not especially picturesque. However once you get to the river footpath and head out of town the views do begin to change and improve.

View from the river path

Allington castle

The walk along the river took us past towpaths with various boats moored alongside, some clearly lived in, others for people's weekends and free time. There were some nice riverside houses which actually looked very nice, I had no idea they were there! We also spotted numerous ducks, some swans and a rowing club and on the walk back later some rowers practicing on the river.

Perhaps the highlight of the walk though was spotting Allington castle on the opposite bank. I knew Allington had a castle but it is rarely opened to the public as it's privately owned, again I had no idea you could see it from the river. As a consequence I also know very little about it.

Some subsequent research and I've learnt that the first castle on this site was built during the reign of King Stephen in the first half of the 12th Century. It was then expanded but was an unauthorised castle built without royal approval and its demolition was ordered in 1174 during the reign of King Henry II when it was replaced with a small unfortified manor house. The current castle was built between 1279 and 1299 when a licence was granted to fortify the house by Edward I. Eventually though the castle fell into ruin through neglect and a number of separate fires but in 1895 the castle was rented by a retired London barrister who began the lengthy process of restoring the castle. The cost of restoration proved too much for this barrister and in 1905 the castle was bought by the cartographer Sir William Martin Conway who spent the next thirty years restoring it. In 1951 it became the home of a community of Carmelite Friars, they eventually left in 1999 and it then became a private home again. Since I did this walk my parents actually got to visit the castle on one of the rare occasions it was opened up to the public. I'd have loved to have joined them too but sadly I was at work so couldn't. From what they've told me since it certainly sounds like it is well worth a visit, maybe one day. Regardless though it's lovely to think this beautiful castle is just on the outskirts of my home town (and it's not the only castle that's just a stone's throw away from Maidstone) particularly as it came so close to complete ruin and potentially disappearing forever.

By the time we reached the castle we were almost at our point for a break and a refreshing drink and just a short walk further on we came to the Allington lock on the River Medway. The locks were built in 1792, they mark the tidal limit of this river which ultimately is flowing on its way to meet the Thames Estuary. At this point you'll also arrive at the conveniently located Malta Inn. The Malta Inn is now part of a pub chain attached to a hotel chain. Whilst my husband has stayed at the hotel there and there's nothing wrong with it it's still now a slightly disappointing pub to end up at once you've done the walk, in my opinion. I admit maybe my childhood memories are a little rose tinted and vague now but I certainly recall it being a much nicer spot when I was younger. We thought we'd have lunch there too but the menu was quite limited with no light options (not even from the starters), we knew we were eating a larger meal later so only really wanted a sandwich or something but the pub sadly didn't offer anything like that on its lunchtime menu. Nonetheless the walk there was pleasant and the pub still provided us with a much needed drink.

After our drink we walked back the way we had come, back past the castle, the rowing club and the ducks enjoying an afternoon swim. Whilst I was a bit disappointed with the pub the walk was really nice especially as it was one I'd never done before. When we went it was still quite cool but now perhaps some better weather has arrived it would be a lovely thing to do on a weekend.


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