A change to our plans meant a day trip to Gravesend, and a chance to tick the famous Tilbury-Gravesend passenger ferry off my bucket list.  It’s even better than Woolwich, and at £3 off-peak return a saving of 16p each way on the Dartford tunnel.  Over a month that’s almost enough for a half of craft in London.

Gravesend beach

Even from Tilbury docks you can see that Gravesend has something more about it than its neighbour Gillingham, though they both suffer from an excess of litter and takeaways. The architecture is in a different class though.

Work colleagues used to be highly sceptical about our weekends away in places like Mansfield, Leatherhead, Chorley and Gravesend, but they all had better heritage, children’s activities and hills than our local area.

I can’t say I fell hard for Gillingham, but this part of North Kent has great hilly urban walks, enhanced here by the chalkstone valley through which Eurostar, though not by the discarded Domino’s boxes.


The Pocahontas statue is quite touching, though it’s not in the most picturesque part of town, which is the ferry area itself and a few Georgian terraces near the former surprise CAMRA Pub of the Year, the Crown & Thistle (currently closed).  The next door off-licence is even more gorgeous.

I’ve been here half a dozen times before; there’s been a fair bit of turnover in the Beer Guide entries over the years.  I always find something new of interest, and today is the first time I get to see the Gurdwara Sikh Temple, and make a mess of the photo.

From one extreme to the other, I then visited the inevitable micropub, the Compass seemingly in the Beer Guide within months of opening.  No concerns about quality though; the Siren Broken Dream is superb (NBSS 3.5) and the company amiable.  The beer range is more extensive than the norm, and a bit stronger.

See also Paul Bailey’s review here.

Special mention to regular Hugh, a real gent who was able to fill me in on some recent pub history, reminding me of the Jolly Drayman, one of the Silver Selection pubs in the first 25 editions of the Guide.  I still have my Bass celebration bottle for doing the 25.

The two other Guide stars are close to the Ferry.  Newcomer Three Daws is the busiest in town (Spoons apart) with a decent lunchtime food trade and a relaxed atmosphere.  Greenwich used to have a few riverside pubs like this, many years ago. I take a chance on the Pig & Porter, and it’s a good guess (NBSS 3).

The Pig & Porter is even better (NBSS 3.5) in the Rum Puncheon, which is as smart as Gravesend gets. Haven’t seen Norman’s Conquest for years; the curse of CAMRA beer of the year.


We didn’t get chance to explore the eastern suburbs towards Milton, home of skate parks, industrial estates and the odd great pub (Ship & Lobster).


  1. Had a walk round Gravesend a couple of years ago, but can’t say I was impressed. There are the odd pockets of nice architecture, but the town centre is very tatty and-down, and it doesn’t make the most of the waterfront. I ended up having lunch in Spoons amongst the mobility scooter pensioners.


    1. I think tatty is fair ! Good point about the waterfront; it looks better from the ferry. I do enjoy the hilly walks but not to everyone’s taste. Yes, mobility scooters are a North Kent speciality.


  2. I remember the Gravesend-Tilbury ferry when it carried vehicles. When my sister and I were still quite young, my parents took us up to Suffolk for the summer holidays, to visit my grandparents who had recently retired there.

    In the days before the opening of the Dartford Tunnel, the ferry provided a convenient route across the Thames, in to Essex and East Anglia, without the hassle of having to drive through London. I remember my father driving our little old converted Austin A35 van down a ramp and onto the ferry. We had to remain in the vehicle for the duration of the crossing – which wasn’t long, as I recall.

    Many of Gravesend’s pubs have attractive tiled facades, although I haven’t seen the one with the Shrimp Brand Ales (Russels), which you photographed. I’m pleased to see the historic Three Daws restored to its former glory. It was closed and boarded up for ages, so I must pay it a visit the next time I’m over that way.

    Thanks for the link back to my post about the Compass. Glad you liked the pub.


    1. Thanks for the info on the ferry Paul. Never knew it was a vehicle route. Took about 5 minutes but was avoiding some large container ferries. Tilbury Fort is worth a look on the other side too.

      Didn’t know Three Daws history. Impressive restoration job as very unfussy.


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