James Bond's Kent
Your licence to thrill
Sharpen your wits, pick up the clues and follow 007 across Kent for an exhilarating adventure with the county’s many Bond connections waiting to be explored!
Bond Author, Ian Fleming had a holiday home in Kent and when he wrote ‘The spy story to end all spy stories’ he drew inspiration locally – even the 007 tag came from the number of the London to Dover coach, now a National Express service.
Ian Lancaster Fleming (1908-64), writer, journalist, naval intelligence commander, spy and traveler, was also a bon viveur and sportsman – and he loved to escape to Kent to indulge his passions.
Come with him, first to Royal St George’s Golf Club, Sandwich, many-times host to the British
Open Golf Championship. From the 1930s, Fleming liked nothing more than to spend weekends on the links while staying at the now-demolished Guilford Hotel, Sandwich Bay. After the war, he often motored down from London in his Ford Thunderbird on a Friday, in time for 9 or 18 holes before tea and, of course, a dry martini in the clubhouse – ‘Shaken, not stirred’.
Tee off for a treat and relive the classic match between Bond and Auric Goldfinger, played on a beautiful day in May with larks singing over ‘the greatest seaside golf-course in the world’: Royal St Mark’s in Goldfinger was none other than Fleming’s real-life club, Royal St George’s, and it has changed little since his time. It was also to be the stage for the author’s final curtain call.
Elected captain for the club 1964/5, he was present for a committee meeting on August 11, 1964, and suffered a heart attack. He died in Canterbury the following day.
After browsing the historic charms of Sandwich so familiar to Fleming, head south along the coast to St Margaret’s. This one-time little fishing village became a seaside resort of the rich and renowned from late Victorian times. Fleming would stay in the Granville Hotel, the same place to which Bond and Gala Brand repair in Moonraker after they have escaped the cliff-fall.
To enjoy the spectacular panoramic views across the English Channel, enjoyed by Ian Fleming why not lunch on fresh seafood at The Coastguard pub and restaurant in the beautiful setting of St Margaret’s Bay? From here you can stroll to the north end of the shingle beach and pick out the white house with green shutters: Fleming’s former weekend and holiday home, White Cliffs, which he bought in 1952 from his friend, Noel Coward.
Throughout the next decade, during which he wrote his Bond blockbusters, Fleming and his wife Ann visited White Cliffs and entertained famous pals like Somerset Maugham and Evelyn Waugh. Fleming loved to gaze through his telescope at shipping in the Channel – the very stretch where the evil Drax flees in his submarine after the Moonraker rocket has been launched.
Our expedition now ventures inland for an unexpected turn of events. in 1960-62, Fleming owned the Old Palace at Bekesbourne, below Canterbury, nearby are two very different sources of inspiration. Higham Park (not open to visitors) on the edge of Bridge was once home to the flamboyant motor-racing driver Count Louis Zborowski, who designed and built cars fitted with aero engines – he named three Chitty Bang Bang. Zborowski was killed, aged just 29, racing at Monza in 1924. But Fleming, a later visitor to Higham Park, was so fired by the romance of the cars that he wrote the children’s tale, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for his son Caspar.
Travel a short distance south from Bridge to Pett Bottom and we’re fully back in 007 territory. The Duck Inn was one of Fleming’s favourite ‘locals’ – find his preferred seat, marked with a plaque, in the picturesque gardens. In You Only Live Twice it is revealed that James Bond spent his early years, under the guardianship of an aunt, in a small cottage beside ‘the attractive Duck Inn’ at the ‘quaintly named hamlet of Pett Bottom.’ That very cottage is now part of the pub. Relax over a drink or lunch and let your imagination picture the youth that became the iconic special agent.