Welcome to Kent! Resting right in the southeast corner of England, less than an hour from London, and a short hop on the ferry or 35-minute Eurotunnel journey from mainland Europe, our little corner of the world is waiting to welcome you.
With 350 miles of beautiful coastline to show off, acres of rolling landscapes to enjoy, centuries of history to unlock, and plenty of fresh local produce to serve up, it’s simply in our nature to throw open the doors and share everything we love about our glorious Garden of England.
So, pull up a chair, grab a mug of coffee (or really get in the spirit with a cup of Earl Grey), and allow us to show you around our most iconic spots, from the White Cliffs of Dover to Canterbury Cathedral, not to mention those rolling landscapes and luxe stays in the likes of Royal Tunbridge Wells (yes Royal), and our oh-so-quaint villages.
Oh, and just so you know there's far too much in Kent to pack into one page, so allow us to provide a snapshot of two of our favorite locations, Tunbridge Wells and White Cliffs Country. There's plenty more to explore, but for that you'll just have to book your tickets and come and see it for yourself.
Kent has seen its fair share of battles and sieges, which is probably why this corner of England has the most castles in the entire country. It’s fair to say centuries of history have shaped this land, so it should come as no surprise that it’s in our very nature to share those stories far and wide.
One of our favorites has got to be Dover Castle, a fortress set right on top of the White Cliffs, which has been standing guard here since just after 1066. Romans and Saxons have left their mark here, Henry II’s regal tower still stands, while secret wartime bunkers within those famous chalk cliffs still tell the tale of Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk. But it’s not just Dover Castle that this area of Kent, known as White Cliffs Country, boasts. Other notable mentions are Richborough Roman Fort, the very place where the Romans landed and left England, and Sandwich, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Britain which even has its own original copy of the Magna Carta. The Dover Museum & Bronze Age Boat Gallery showcases Dover's history from Stone Age to the Saxons, while the Bronze Age Boat Gallery holds the internationally important discovery of the world's oldest known seagoing boat. A few miles inland, East Kent Railway is the ultimate family day out, taking you on a scenic journey aboard the historic line that once served the Kent Coalfield.
In the west of the county, Royal Tunbridge Wells has been welcoming visitors since the discovery of its very own Chalybeate Spring in 1606, becoming a fashionable spa town where visitors once came to “take the waters”, including Princess Victoria. In 1909 the town officially became recognized by Edward II, receiving a royal prefix. Today the town’s natural spring still flows and can be seen in the beautiful Georgian colonnaded walkway known as the Pantiles, where boutiques, independent restaurants and the summer jazz festival still draw visitors from far and wide. Not far from Royal Tunbridge Wells, the historic finds continue, with more castles like the fairy tale Scotney Castle just outside the quaint village of Lamberhurst which boasts a Victorian mansion and a 14th century moated castle, and towering Sissinghurst Castle, whose residents have ranged from French prisoners during the Seven Years War to diplomats and famous writers during the 1930s (but we’ll get to that later). Discover the rich history of the area in the self-guided, audio-led walking tour, 'Tales of Tunbridge Wells', visiting 30 key locations and uncovering the stories, anecdotes, and facts of the town.
From Canterbury Cathedral, to the 1930s party castle of Leeds Castle and childhood home of King Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn, there's plenty more to discover, so take a look at some of our other historical gems around Kent.
No tour through Kent’s history books would be complete without a visit to Canterbury Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the country, the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the very place where the grizzly murder of Thomas Becket occurred by order of the King in 1162! Step through the gates of this iconic place and discover the centuries of tales that have helped put this cathedral city on the map.
We mentioned that Kent has a lot of castles, so we’ll share two more for the must-visit list. Hever Castle in West Kent holds an esteemed position in the history books, as the family home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, who was later charged with conspiracy against the crown and was infamously beheaded. Today the castle’s newest exhibition tells the tale of the fraught rivalry between Anne and first wife Catherine of Aragon, with an incredible display of Anne’s Book of Hours and Catherine’s prayer book, on loan from The Morgan Library in New York.
While magnificent, moated Leeds Castle in Maidstone has former owners who include King Edward III and King Henry VIII, it was really its female residents who made their mark on the place. The Queens with Means story tells the untold tales of seven queens from Medieval to Tudor times, while its last owner, Anglo-American Lady Baillie’s influence can still be seen throughout this glamourous castle today. Glide into the 1930s for a sneak peek into the parties and dangerous liaisons that made this one of the most desirables houses of the 20th century.
What would a welcome be without some delectable food and drink to share? Kent is known as the Garden of England, a title which stems from its culinary credentials and food-producing heritage, from orchards laden with plums and apples and a coastline that boasts Dover sole and Whitstable oysters, to a more contemporary plethora of Michelin Star restaurants and even vineyards.
Tunbridge Wells has its fair share of tempting foodie finds, boasting the likes of Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded The Kentish Hare, which truly makes the most of produce from the local landscape, offering Kentish wines and locally reared meat. While nearby Tallow has been nationally recognized for its ever-changing monthly menu and local ingredients, with the recent added luxury and excitement of a Chef's Table. Other notable mentions include Sankey's, a beautiful Royal Tunbridge Wells-based seafood restaurant and old fish market, The Ivy, and annual summer foodie fest, Pub in the Park which takes culinary celebrations to the next level. For a tasty tipple, you can’t go wrong with Royal Tunbridge Wells-based Fuggles Beer Café (beer lovers, what’s that reference?) for a pint of local and international craft brews. Plus, sat right in the beautiful Kentish countryside, there's plenty of wonderful vineyards in and around the area to choose from. Put your foodie adventures into motion and enjoy a bite to eat on the Spa Valley Railway. Choose between an afternoon tea or cream tea, but whatever you do make sure to keep the pinkies up as you journey through the beautiful rolling hills and quaint villages.
If you’re looking for the perfect country pub The Milk House at Sissinghurst offers plenty of cozy corners to enjoy a good old traditional Sunday roast (trust us, this is a bucket list item), while Water Lane in Hawkhurst is our go-to summer spot. Step into the hidden walled garden that will take you right back to The Secret Garden, and discover a menu of produce-led dishes all guided by the seasons, not to mention the chance to get hands on with a cookery class. Continuing on with the sustainable food movement in the area, Green Michelin Star winner The Small Holding offers splendid farm to table dining, serving dishes made from food grown in their very own garden, with love and care that you can truly taste.
Across the county in White Cliffs Country, the area is bursting with fresh food and drink. For street food-style dining, we recommend the local markets, and Deal’s weekly markets and exceptional delis are a real treat. Just a pebble’s throw from Deal, Barnsole Vineyard provides your first intro to Kentish wine, revealing just why the chalky terroir of the area makes for the perfect wine-growing region, producing tipples to rival those of the Champagne region. For a full immersion, the Vines and Hops self-guided tour will take you from vineyard to brewery, taking in local micro-breweries, Time and Tide and Breakwater. For the budding Ina Garten, we recommend some of the area’s fantastic foodie experiences, including cooking and foraging classes at local Wild Kitchen.
Vineyard tours with Vine + Country Tours, Michelin Star restaurants and Shepherd Neame, Britain's oldest brewery; let us tempt you with even more of Kent's foodie finds.
Hungry yet? Our five Michelin Star restaurants will take care of that. These world-class restaurants range from the Fordwich Arms, set in Britain’s oldest village, to the seaside pub of the Sportsman, which has held its Michelin Star for 15 years. Whether you choose to pull up a chair at the simple ten-seater Stark in Broadstairs, settle in at the cozy 16th century Bridge Arms, or pay homage to the Kent coast’s produce at Hide and Fox, you’ll find menus which truly make use of Kent’s wealth of local ingredients.
We’ve been tempting you with our vineyards for a while now, so let’s dive in. Thanks to our rolling landscapes, and the fact that this is one of the warmest and driest spots in the country (another reason to pay us a visit) Kent’s Wine Garden of England has the largest area of vineyards in the whole of the UK. With soil and temperatures to match the Champagne region, it’s really no surprise that vineyards like Gusbourne, Chapel Down, Simpsons, Biddenden and Balfour Winery are offering some of the most exciting wines in the country. While each vineyard offers their own tours and tastings, Vine + Country Tours luxury tastings and private chef-prepared lunches offer the perfect way to explore the region without the worries of the designated driver.
With all these culinary credentials and more in the county, you’d better believe our food festivals calendar is full! From the Whitstable Oyster Festival, which celebrates the pretty seaside town’s most delicious harvest every year, to the Faversham Hop Festival, which swings into action every September to honor Kent’s hop-growing heritage and the beers produced from them by the likes of Britain’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame, whose brews are flowing throughout the festival weekend.
With a name like the Garden of England, beautiful gardens and stunning landscapes are all to be expected in this corner of the world.
White Cliffs Country is known around the world for those magnificent chalk stacks that have been immortalized in song and literature. Seen as the ultimate symbol of England, a visit to the White Cliffs of Dover should be top of your list. Stride along the top of them and get far-reaching views across the English Channel to France, or board a Dover Sea Safari for spectacular close-ups from the water. Along the coast, Samphire Hoe is a unique nature reserve which was actually created from Channel Tunnel spoil more than 25 years ago. Today this spot is a haven for a diverse range of flora and fauna, home to 220 species of birds, 200 species of plants, 30 species of butterflies, and a whole lot more besides.
Many more beautiful views are to be had just along the coast at Walmer Castle and Gardens, the former home of The Queen Mother and the Duke of Wellington! The castle is of course beautiful, but it’s the gardens that this gem is really famous for. Discover wildflower meadows, an enchanted sunken glen, ancient yew hedges and the formal Queen Mother’s garden in the grounds of this Tudor fortress.
For more active adventures, Betteshanger Park in Deal is a country park based in a former colliery, offering off-road cycling adventures, traffic-free trails, and the chance to discover the area's mining heritage in the brand new Kent Mining Museum. While golfers will no doubt have heard of White Cliffs Country for its golfing greens. Here you’ll have the chance to play some of the finest links courses in the world, with The 149th Open Championship course, Royal St George’s right at the top of the list. But that’s not all, this area boasts two more Championship courses, with Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports just minutes from Royal St George’s, and the clifftop course at Kingsdown & Walmer nearby making this the perfect spot for a golfing getaway.
Tunbridge Wells rests in the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a high endorsement indeed. Within the AONB Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest is home to a world-leading collection of conifers, miles of trails for running, walking and cycling, plus sensory walks and high ropes tree top challenges with GoApe, all under the canopy of the forest. The sweeping views continue just along the road at Bewl Water, an 800-acre parkland with a whole host of activities centered on its lake, including thrill-seeking aqua park adventures, wild swimming, stand-up-paddleboarding, canoeing and sailing,
For something a little more relaxed the National Trust’s Sissinghurst Castle Gardens (a must visit for garden lovers) are famous for their colorful garden rooms, abundant planting and romantic vistas, all curated by poet and writer Vita Sackville West with her author husband Harold Nicolson. While fairytale views can be seen from Scotney Castle, a manor with its very own folly created from the ruins of the original 14th century castle. Explore the manor which stills bears the signs of its last occupants in the 1950s, but save plenty of time to explore the romantic gardens and wonderful trails, and take some Instagrammable shots of that medieval castle.
All the walking enthusiasts out there will be pleased to hear that the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk is the perfect way to get a tour of the area, while getting that much needed outdoors time. Starting at the Tunbridge Wells Common at the Wellington Rocks, head on out through one of the loops and discover all there is to see in the area, from fantastic flora and fauna to beautiful buildings. Trace the paths of the land as you walk through public rights of way, getting the most immersive experience possible of the area. Get a glimpse of Groombridge Place, and re-enact your favorite scene's from Pride and Prejudice, filmed right on site!
Lace up those walking boots, because there's plenty more to be discovered in Kent, from Blue Flag beaches, to The Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Take a look at what else there is to discover in Kent.
Further afield Kent boasts a second Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Kent Downs, a nationally protected landscape that stretches from the White Cliffs of Dover to neighboring London and Surrey. Throughout the landscapes you’ll find plenty of long and short walking trails which each take in the beauty of the Kent landscape, but for the full experience, we recommend sparking your curiosity along one of the new art trails, or taking to the saddle with horse rides through the countryside.
We’ve talked about Kent’s coastline, but did we mention it stretches for 350 miles? Along that coast, you’ll find bays made for surfing, sandy beaches perfect for family days out, hidden coves and a whole collection of Blue Flag awarded beaches, the highest accolade given to bays for their water quality, facilities and safety. Now who’s ready to build a sandcastle?
From Charles Dickens, to J.M.W. Turner, creatives have called Kent their home for centuries, so you’ll find plenty of cultural hotspots across the county. Take a look and take inspiration from some of our favorites.
The architecture of Royal Tunbridge Wells alone is enough to inspire photographers and artists, so once you’ve had a chance to tend to your Instagram grid, we recommend heading to the Amelia Scott. Named after social reformer and women’s suffrage campaigner Amelia Scott, it’s the perfect spot to uncover local history, art exhibitions and literature (with its very own Literary Festival). A short walk from The Amelia, the Trinity Theatre offers the chance to step through the doors of a former church and enjoy live music and theatre in an exceptional setting. For pre-theatre treats, we recommend a visit to the Clocktower Bistro for light bites. While nearby Forum is the place to go for live music, with a history of performances from the likes of Oasis, Coldplay, Adele and Green Day. The Tunbridge Wells Fringe Festival is an unmissable weekend of creativity and self-expression, with live entertainment, food and drink, and community spirit that will give you a taste of the area's amazing people and businesses.
From music to literature, visit the villages of Tunbridge Wells and you’ll find picture-perfect spots reminiscent of romance novels, so it’s only fitting that the village of Horsmonden is said to have links to Jane Austen! It was here that Jane Austen's (yes, that Jane Austen) ancestors lived. Scour her novels and you'll find many a mention of Tunbridge Wells as a wonderful place for leisure, well-being and gossip. The quaint village of Cranbrook in Sissinghurst is another hotspot for arts and culture, with great boutiques of locally made gifts and souvenirs, as well as the Cranbrook Museum. There, you'll find the only working windmill in Kent and can discover the museum's ties to the Cranbrook in British Columbia!
Across the county, White Cliffs Country has its own Austen connections. With its walled gardens and beautiful formal manor house, Goodnestone Park is the quintessential English country estate, so it’s really not hard to imagine that this was one of the spots Jane Austen frequented! Wander the estate’s beautifully landscaped gardens and you’ll soon be transported to the Longbourn Estate, but for a true immersion lucky visitors can even rent the on-site Bonnington Cottage, or the manor house for a taste of English country life.
But it’s not just Austen who took inspiration from the county; ever heard of a gentleman by the name of Bond? James Bond? Bond author Ian Fleming lived in the coastal gem of St Margaret’s Bay in White Cliffs Country, and even took inspiration for Bond’s famous 007 tag from the number of the London to Dover coach! Many Bond films have been filmed on these shores, with scenes from Moonraker and Diamonds are Forever filmed right here in Dover
We said Kent has been home to many, many creatives, right? Allow us to paint the picture with sea-side sculpture at Folkestone Artworks, Dickensian links in Rochester, movie magic at The Historic Dockyard Chatham and Churchill's (yes, that Churchill) former home of Chartwell. Read the next chapter in Kent's book...
Believe it or not, Kent is one of the most filmed locations in the UK. Across the big and small screen you’ll often see our county playing a starring role as the backdrop to many a filming favorite. Fancy taking a peek behind the movie magic? Allow us to share just some of Kent’s on-screen highlights. In the north of the county, Call the Midwife fans will recognize The Historic Dockyard Chatham as Poplar, and true fans can even pay the set a visit on the Official Call the Midwife Tours. When the Darkest Hour hit the screens in 2018 it came as no surprise that they chose to film right here in Kent at Chartwell, Churchill’s beloved home, which is open to the public. And the period dramas just keep on coming with the Other Boleyn Girl, Wolf Hall and The Hollow Crown all featuring Dover Castle, Leeds Castle and Penshurst Place.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of the literary links, but we’d better share our most famous former resident, Charles Dickens. In the north of the county Rochester boasts plenty of Dickens connections from his time in the town. The Guildhall Museum has a permanent Dickens exhibition where lovers of his work can find out which of the town’s buildings and people made it into his novels, while Eastgate House actually has Dickens’ Swiss writing chalet on display, brought over from his former home in one of the neighboring villages. To say this town celebrates its Dickensian links is an understatement; visit in winter and you’ll have the chance to witness the Rochester Dickensian Christmas Festival.
The east of the county has been inspiring artists for centuries. Painter J.M.W. Turner forever immortalized the skies of Margate, which the artist declared “the loveliest in all Europe”. His frequent visits resulted in him painting many Margate sunset skies, which visitors can enjoy for themselves on a visit to this artistic coastal town. Right on the edge of the beach, the Turner Contemporary art gallery is one of our favorite cultural hotspots, with an ever-changing calendar of exhibitions, and views across the beach to the wide skies that Turner loved.
Along the coast, the town of Folkestone is home to the UK’s largest urban outdoor exhibition of contemporary art, with a whole host of magnificent sculptures dotted along the beaches, through the harbor and into the town. Spend the day spotting these incredible pieces, which include works from Yoko Ono, Antony Gormley and Tracey Emin, stopping off in the town’s Creative Quarter where you’ll find plenty of boutique shops and galleries. We recommend rounding off the day with a visit to Folkestone Harbour Arm, a hub of street food, live music and some of the best views around.
As you may have guessed, we don’t do things by halves here in Kent, so you’d better believe our accommodation is pretty special. Fancy staying in a castle? We got you. The gardens of a cathedral? That too. Manor houses and quaint little cottages? Of course. It’s in our nature to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
Yes, you can actually stay at a castle here in Kent. Whether you choose to stay in Hever Castle's Astor Wing, connected to the castle and named after William Waldorf Astor, who moved across the pond from the USA in 1903, or the Medley Court Holiday Cottage on site, your stay at Hever castle will deliver nothing but a 5* luxury experience. Step through the gates of Leeds Castle as an overnight guest and you’ll have the opportunity to stay in the Maiden’s Tower, a luxe B&B with views across the courtyard to the castle. Peace and tranquility can also be found in the on-site holiday cottages, which have their own beautiful original features and gorgeous views of the grounds.
And remember when we mentioned Dover Castle and Walmer Castle? You guessed it, you can actually stay right within the grounds. Peverell's Tower and The Sergeant Major's House offer the chance to stay within Dover Castle's historic walls, while The Garden Cottage and The Greenhouse at Walmer Castle are straight from the pages of a glossy home magazine.
From castle to cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral Lodge in the heart of historic Canterbury is revered for its location within the cathedral’s precincts. Spend a day exploring the city, wining and dining in one of the many independent restaurants, before waking up to views of that magnificent cathedral.
For foodies, we recommend wrapping up your stay with a little fine dining. Hotel du Vin in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells offers luxury boutique bedrooms, and a fine dining menu, perfectly complemented by an exceptional range of wines. Plus, treat yourself like royalty for the night and stay in the same exact room as Queen Victoria herself! Just outside of Ashford in West Kent, the 17th century Boys Hall has undergone extensive renovation to deliver beautiful cozy rooms that can only be matched by the restaurant which serves up some of the finest dishes around. While the Pig at Bridge Place is a 29 bedroom gem in the heart of the countryside. While away the day in the surrounding kitchen garden and grounds, before tucking into dishes from the 25 mile menu and settling in for the night in one of the manor house bedrooms.
The area has an abundance of luxurious and comfortable places to rest your head for the night, like the 18th century Spa Hotel, fit with an indulgent spa to get that well deserved down time after your travels. The Tunbridge Wells Hotel, nestled right in The Pantiles, offers a convenient location with the added bonus of great food and drink, and splendid bedrooms. Just down the road at One Warwick Park, you'll find contemporary elegance within a magnificent building, with local treats and treasures all around. Stay the night in family-owned hotel The Beacon, with breath-taking views over Happy Valley, exquisite dining experiences, and bedrooms built with you in mind. For a trip back in time, the romantic, Victorian-era Salomons Estate is waiting on 36 acres of rolling gardens, parklands, and woods. Wander the grounds and soak in the breath-taking natural beauty, all just an hour's journey from London. Go even further back in time to the 14th century with an overnight stay at The Star and Eagle, a charming hotel and pub nestled in the heart of the Kentish Weald.
And it doesn't stop there, you can explore even more accommodation in Tunbridge Wells.
For self-catering breaks and family stays, Kent’s many, many cottages are here to welcome you. Scattered across the county Keepers Cottages offer the perfect home from home stay, with many offering beach-side breaks in White Cliffs Country, or country retreats. Bloom Stays is another go-to for comfy stays, with cottages ranging from contemporary coastal properties, to beautiful shepherds huts with big views and home comforts. While Greenhill Glamping in the Alkham Valley offers breath-taking views, pretty shepherds huts and restful retreats in the countryside.
Inspired? We hope so. But in the meantime, we’ve got so much more to share, sign up to our newsletter or take a look below and start planning your getaway to Kent.