SETTING the record for earliest hostile stare on arrival at a pub, ladies and gentlemen raise your glasses to Lullingstone Castle in Swanley.

Uncharacteristically dry for the evening – it didn’t matter, there was precious little ale to long for – I was trying to avoid the lunar potholes of the Castle car park when I happened to come into view of the ‘garden’.

The eyes of a dozen Shaun of the Dead extras hit me in unison and I could see the spittle-lined mouths begin to gape. It was not the best start.

Not being in possession of a dune bug, navigating the cavernous terrain of the parking area was tough. It is easy to imagine it doubles as a moat in the winter.

That would be as close as this pub comes to being a castle, too. There is that old cliché that a man’s home is his castle, so I guess on that criteria the Lullingstone qualifies too.

Certainly some of the chaps lining the bar looked like they may spend more time there than at home, while the exterior looks more like a pair of depressing conjoined houses than a pub.

Inside it is not so homely. Devoid of atmosphere and downtrodden, it smells like the inside of a toilet. Actually that’s not quite what I mean – it smells sort of like toilet cleaner. Which is good, I suppose. Clean.

Depressing tables set on concrete outside in the shadow of Asda are at odds with the sign which welcomes you to Swanley; ‘the home of flowers’.

Inside, wallpaper is gauche and the bar seems to be the home of the glottal stop.

Pool tables are always a winner in a pub, so the Lullingstone Castle scores some points here.

The choice of beers is very standard, there are quite a few lagers and just the one ale on tap.

The biggest thing going for the castle is that it is dirt cheap. A pint of John Smiths is £2.49, a spirit and a mixer £1.99 and desserts two for £4.49.

My blackcurrant and soda, and an orange juice for my companion came to just £1.40. The Tropicana on the shelf did just seem to be for display, though, as the barmaid’s hand slipped straight past it in favour of a cheaper bottle.

Lullingstone Castle, High Street, Swanley BR8 8BE

How it rated:

Decor ** (Drab)

Drink ** (A decent range, but not for ale lovers)

Price ***** (Incredibly cheap)

Atmosphere ** (A bit rough and ready)

Staff *** (Friendly enough)