Some superb insights into old England await at Tonbridge and West Malling. Idyllic manor houses and a postcard-pretty castle sit in an ancient landscape where woods and fields undulate towards villages and hop farms. Tonbridge also prides itself with some intriguing Jane Austen links to the town.
At the centre of this fascinating portion of Kentish life sits Tonbridge, a market town since the Middle Ages that still buzzes today. Here, tucked in beside the River Medway, is 11th century Tonbridge Castle. This is Kent's best example of a motte-and-bailey gatehouse, where audio tours and interactive exhibits bring history to life.
From the castle, take the cycle route 5 miles west through tranquil woodland and countryside to Penshurst Place, a fortified manor house that’s rich with medieval and Tudor charm. The gardens overflow with fragrance and blooms, while neighbouring Penshurst village is quintessential, historic Kent.
Just 6 miles north of Tonbridge, you'll find one of Kent's most charismatic buildings, the moated manor house, Ightham Mote. Built in the 14th century, its half-timbered façade rises from the waters; a wood panelled Great Hall, cosy book-packed library and stunning courtyard lie within.
At Aylesford Priory, the Friars offers a fascinating insight into life within the centuries-old order of the Carmelites, while there's a profusion of scent at Downderry Nursery where you can stroll among swathes of vivid, fragrance-rich lavender and rosemary.
For a fun-filled family outing, head to the Hop Farm and experience a range of fascinating features and wonders including taking a Dray ride with the Shire horses, finding out about llamas, reindeer, goats and pigs in the recently expanded Animal Village or learning hop-picking heritage in the interactive Hop Story Museum.
The recently restored Hadlow Tower is well worth a visit too. Situated in the beautiful Medway valley, Hadlow retains its original core, including a medieval church, but it is the Castle Tower which makes it unique.
Discover more at www.tmbc.gov.uk