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Rural Bliss, Family Values and a Committed Food Ethos await at The Ferry House

The Ferry House’s location is acknowledged to be “the nearest faraway place to London”, and they’re not wrong. Under an hour from the capital and almost the same from the major Kentish boltholes of Sittingbourne, Faversham, Rochester, and Canterbury, The Ferry House is located at the Eastern tip of the Isle of Sheppey. It is, simply, the accessible rural bliss you never knew you needed but will strive to find again and again. 

 

By Samantha Ready

 

My own journey to rural overnight escapism took me over the main bridge to the Isle, through Leysdown and then opened out to miles of beautifully bumpy, winding country lanes to Harty, the location of the Burden family’s farming land for generations and home to their rather unique inn offering; The Ferry House.

Set between two wetland bird reserves just a stone’s throw from the Swale estuary, an arrival wander along the waterside, through bridle paths and past wading birds, bats and crops, reinforced my first impressions, the setting is truly beautiful, and the realisation of a rural bolthole was an obvious next step for a family with such knowledge, skill and passion for farming and produce.

The Ferry House is like that super talented, honour-roll sibling. As if the vista were not enough, its offerings reads like a who’s who of Kentish acclaim; beautiful barn and marquee wedding venue with estuary views – check. A restaurant that takes their own farmed produce from “plot to plate, field to fork and grain to glass” as a shining example of food steps over food miles – check. A plethora of unique accommodation from the old 16th-century inn estuary-view rooms, newly built comfy-luxe havens in the coach house alongside self catering holiday cottages – check. Oh, and a range of delightful massage treatments to complete your away-from-it-all-back-to-nature-bliss-out stay – check, check, check!

Coined by the owners as “Home is where ‘Harty’ is”, the staff here really do make you feel like home, and the team is like an extended, supportive and equally passionate family. 

Arriving early (a rarity when having to negotiate an Operation Brock riddled cross-county journey) my guest and I were enthusiastically greeted outside by therapist Katie who, in a slightly, TV-comedy-esqe manner, proceeded to appear from numerous doorways, greeting us, checking us in, offering a welcome drink, and showing us to our room. When I say room, this once again ticks that rural bolthole, luxe haven box. There was a wonderful (and super comfy) four-poster bed, custom made wooden storage and the pièce de résistance, an enormous copper bathtub in the contemporary bathroom. 

With a laughing promise that she wouldn’t be cooking dinner later, she did majestically reappear in her natural treatment room domain less than an hour later to conduct our blissfully relaxing, restoring and detoxifying full body hot stone massages, one of the six purposely chosen massage treatments on offer. Always a tell of a good treatment, Katie, who has over a decade of experience, began with a foot ritual, before moving through the carefully prescripted movement of hot stones and massage strokes, checking on temperature, pressure and alleviating tension with ease – what a way to start (or end!) a stay!

Tempted to just take post-massage root in the bath, the promise of dinner in the inn’s AA Rosette and previous Taste of Kent award-winning restaurant accompanied by the gorgeous sweeping sunny Spring skies across the estuary, was enough to lure us back to gentle reality.

With a firm belief that local is best, the menu here can’t get more local than its own back garden. Here, you’ll find freshly picked produce from the large kitchen garden, which has grown from one lettuce bed back in 2013 to over an acre of lovingly cultivated herbs, vegetables, fruits and even a secret orchard today. Eggs are from one of the 100 Harty hens; beef and game from their own family-farm and local estate. Even the spirits are local, as award-winning Copper Rivet’s acclaimed range of vodka, gins and whisky are distilled with the estate’s own grains – the by-product of which are returned to the farm to feed the cows and to cultivate some rather lethally good sloe gin which is served as farewell digestif! Anything they can’t grow, farm or forage themselves is sourced from a handpicked selection of Kent’s best local producers to ensure that every bite is bursting with as much provenance as it is flavour.

Utilising the produce grown by head gardener Natalie Read, head chef James Pilcher offers a changing daily menu bursting with estate-led dishes either as a 2-course (£35) or 3-course (£40) option. Tempted by the pan-fried partridge breast, which like all game on the menu is shot on the estate, my guest was eventually swayed by the smoked haddock brandade croquette, a breaded dish offset with brown crab bisque and bronze fennel. I opted for the carbonara ravioli to be presented with a delicately crimped pasta shell which gave way to soft estate egg yolk (all certified free-range) topped with a delicious 30-month-aged Parmasan.

Mains are a hearty incarnation of Harty produce. Dishes such as smoked Kentish lamb shoulder ragu battle for attention alongside confit duck leg and garden Crown Prince squash. Our picks were the Kentish pork loin, served rolled with black pudding bon bon and pommes anna laced with fresh apple; and the 10oz Harty Estate sirloin. Butchered from cattle that graze the nearby salt marshes, the beef was perfectly seared and textured, served with fried garden onion and home-made chips.

Not ones to turn down pud, especially when it boasts freshly picked rhubarb, we both opted for the garden rhubarb dish; served stewed and steamed accompanied by a vanilla custard soft serve and crumbled butter tuile. A Copper Rivet Vela espresso martini finished off the evening in yet more local style.

A restful night’s sleep, bolstered by a hearty dinner and that aforementioned massage, made way to a golden sunrise across the fields of yellow rapeseed interspersed with bouncing new baby lambs and subtle birdsong. We ventured back to the main house for breakfast. The Kentish breakfast, which frankly kept me full until dinner, was a heaving offering of local pork sausage, crisp bacon, fresh hen’s eggs, The Ferry House buttery hash browns and local mushroom and tomatoes, all served with fresh bread and farmhouse butter, it served as a welcome reminder that good food shouldn’t be reserved for dinner!

As the sun shone out over the rippling water and the days’ action began picking and pruning in the poly tunnels in the kitchen garden it was with an unexpected reluctance that my guest and I bade farewell to The Ferry House. Taking rather longer than necessary to meander back along the rural lanes and off the Isle we both agreed that the year-round changing scenery, perfect setting and fabulous hospitality were each reason enough to return to this hidden gem. Offering a unique stay, a stunning wedding venue and such an important food ethos, your reason to visit is taken care of too!

The Ferry House Inn

Harty Ferry Road

Harty

ME12 4BQ

www.theferryhouse.co.uk

Insta @ferryhouseinn1

Facebook @theferryhouseinnharty 

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