As we were running out of ideas for places to visit near my son’s home I collected him and drove back to Canterbury for a walk around Harbledown village not far from where I live. Harbledown developed along the main route into Canterbury but a bypass has made it much less busy so I was able to park the car by the side of the road; we had a short walk through the site of the Hospital of St Nicholas, a leper hospital founded in the 11th century by Archbishop Lanfranc. There is a so-called holy well there, called either The Lepers’ Well, The Black Prince’s Well or Thomas Beckett’s Well, the water from which was supposed to cure leprosy and other ailments. There are now almshouses on the site of the hospital but members of the public are allowed to walk round the grounds from where there are views over the surrounding orchards and parts of the village; unfortunately St Nicholas Church is largely kept locked. There is a path from almost opposite the Parish Church of St Michael and All Angels on Church Hill that leads to a small National Trust open space called Golden Hill, so we walked along to that for another view of the surrounding countryside. Then it was back to the main street to meet my husband at the pub for lunch.
The pub looks Victorian and is built on the side of the hill and in the summer it’s a good place to sit on the terraces outside to have a drink or eat, although there are a lot of steps. We were shown to a table on the first floor so had a view of the road and the late Georgian looking cottages opposite: some people might find it difficult to climb upstairs. We had what was effectively our own little room so felt very safe. There is a large function room on this floor which, in normal times, can be booked for parties and special birthdays. The young waiter was very efficient and helpful and we chose – Aubergine Katsu Curry for my husband, Chicken Katsu Curry for my son and, because I liked the sound of the small plates, I had one plate of asparagus wrapped in ham (2 bundles of 4 spears) served with two poached eggs and salad leaves (£6); my other plate was mixed colour heritage tomato bruschetta and more salad leaves (£5). I think the curries were £12’ish each. It was all absolutely delicious and my choice in particular was very large. As it was a Tuesday we could have had 2 fish and chips for the price of one (£12). The dessert menu sounded really good but we’d all had enough to eat so will try them out on another occasion. My only slight criticism is that my small plates were served on pieces of slate and not on plates. The Ladies toilet was spotlessly clean. The seating downstairs was more pub-like than upstairs so I think for future visits I will try to book an upstairs table again as it felt more spacious. It’s probably advisable to book for evenings or lunchtime at weekends but we didn’t book on this occasion.
I can recommend The Old Coach and Horses. Anyone coming to stay in Canterbury will be spoilt for choice for places to eat out but Harbledown is only a short walk from the centre of the city and is a really interesting place to explore and it’s easy to venture into the surrounding countryside on the many footpaths. The pilgrims who walked to Canterbury would have had their first glimpse of Canterbury Cathedral from Harbledown. The no. 3 bus stops very close to the pub for those who don’t have a car and/or don’t want to walk.