Column #23 Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, United Kingdom
October 1, 1996
Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, United Kingdom
In the heart of one of the most scenic stretches of countryside in England is a quaint little town called Tunbridge Wells. Life began here in 1606 when some guy named Dudley, Lord North sipped a drink from a spring and claimed the water to have special health giving properties. I’ve tried the stuff — direct from the original Chalybeate Spring — and can only figure that Dudley had more than a few lagers first…
The rest is history. The British began to flock from all corners of the country — all for a drink of this mysterious brew. As word spread the famous followed. Queen Victoria as a child. The author and dandy Richard ‘Beau’ Nash. Then, in 1909 Edward VII passed through and gave the place royal sanction. Simple little Tunbridge Wells — a nowhere place with an itty bitty spring — became “Royal” Tunbridge Wells. It’s all so perfectly British.
Today, in the center of this history (or nonsense, if you share my perspective) is a pub called The Duke of York. It’s located smack in the middle the famous colonnaded shopping strip known as the Pantiles, not more than twenty tards from where Chalybeate Spring still dribbles away. I’ve been stopping in here for almost ten years to use the dart board on the far back wall. I really don’t know why I keep coming back…
The setup is atrocious. The path from the oche to the board has been walked for so many years that it noticeably dips in the middle. Because of this there is no question that the throwing distance is couple of inches short of regulation. The lighting is way too low. Chalk is nowhere to be found. And the place smells like it’s been serving up beer for almost half a century. The amazing thing is that it sort of has been — the building was constructed just three years after Dudley sloshed through town.
As a pub, it’s a thing of beauty. Dark wood interior. Brass appointments. A fire burns next to the board in the wintertime. It’s as British as a British pub can get. A beer will run you two quid — about three dollars (US).
…I guess I continue to visit the Duke because I just love to throw darts in England. Winning here is like winning nowhere else in the world. There is just no feeling better than trashing some poor soul at their own national pastime. And some guy named Nigel made me feel mighty good tonight!
Getting to Tunbridge Wells will take you about an hour by rail from London. From Gatwick Airport the time is about the same. Either direction, the journey through the Kentish countryside is worth the effort — stately homes, formal gardens, castles, ancient abbys, and even hop farms dot the landscape. It’s a trip worth taking.
And the Duke of York is definately a stop worth making.
From the Field,
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