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Ellie Graham
17th July 2023

The time of year has come when the only thing we have on our minds is venturing out into the great outdoors, walking boots on and cameras in hand, taking a moment to appreciate all of the natural beauty around us. And it doesn’t get much better than Tunbridge Wells, where your days can be spent exploring stunning landscapes and rich flora before settling down for the afternoon with a drink in hand and a hearty meal on its way.

Dotted across the area, you’ll find perfect places to unwind, from historic houses, castles and gardens to jaw-dropping countryside trails, unforgettable restaurants and pubs to unbeatable overnight stays. That’s right – not only will your days practically plan themselves with the abundance of things to see and do here, but you can keep the relaxation coming and book yourself in at one of the many magnificent places to stay.

Delve into Tunbridge Wells this year and experience the people and places that make it so special, seeing for yourself just how much it’s in their nature to offer you, family, and friends the trip of a lifetime.  

Scotney Castle

Explore the landscape

Let’s begin with those beautiful landscapes we mentioned, which seems only fitting as we find ourselves within the glorious outdoors of West Kent. To get your fix of picture-worthy views, let’s start in the beautiful spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, hopping aboard the Spa Valley Railway and being whisked away on an old steam train through rejuvenating countryside, stopping off at iconic natural landmarks such as the High Rocks as well as the charming villages of Groombridge and Eridge. Year round, you can delve into their brilliant experiences, like the Kent Cheese Train, Murder Mystery Dinner, and a Wine Tasting at Wildwood Vineyard. 

Got a taste of times gone by? Keep the historical adventure alive with a walk around one of the two National Trust properties here. Whether it be Scotney Castle, with its stunning country house, romantic garden and 14th century moat, or Sissinghurst Castle, fascinating in its rich history and world famous for its gardens, you can find walks in and around both. The trails that surround the castles offer incredibly unique views, letting you see the estates in a whole new light, nestled within endless green fields, sat below breathtaking skyscapes, and giving the Kent countryside that splash of character and charm that stays with you forever.

For those of you keen on conifers, Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest should be at the top of your list, as here you’ll find some of the largest redwood trees in the U.K., alongside Pilates, GoApe, and horse riding. As you wander the woodland trails, cycling, walking, or running your way through vast acres of enchanting land, you’ll see the pinetum at its best. Stop off at their café for a cake and coffee once you’ve explored the area, taking a moment to relax as you gaze out at the lake and see just how much it’s in Tunbridge Wells’ nature to show off its own beautiful natural surroundings. Plus, with Shepherd’s Huts and Bell Tents available on site, you can round off your visit with a glamping trip and unwind to the maximum as you immerse yourself in the outdoors.  

Oh, and did we mention that, while here, you’ll be right within the High Weald AONB? So where else to get a taste of it than in Cranbrook, the Capital of the Weald. As you stroll through the historic market town, you can’t miss the Union Mill, standing high and mighty above buildings and streets since 1814 and still grinding corn for visitors to see. For an even deeper look into the history of the area, be sure to head to the Cranbrook Museum, where stories and tales of the people here tell themselves through the building itself and the artefacts within.

Redwood in Bedgebury Pinetum

The Halfway House, Brenchley

All roads lead to...country pubs!

While those beautiful walks and trails are enough alone to make any trip to Tunbridge Wells unforgettable, how about going that extra mile and getting through the walk knowing that you’ll have a pub meal waiting for you at the end of your journey? For those of you looking for something a little challenging (to make that drink at the end of the road feel even more well-deserved!), we recommend the circular walk from The Hare at Langton Green. Start your four-mile route at the charming 18th century pub, setting off on your adventure through ancient paths, witnessing lovely views and historic houses, imagining the people and places that came before you. Arrive back at the quintessentially British (and dog friendly!) pub, ready for a meal to suit any tastebuds, whether you’re looking for vegan, gluten free, locally sourced, or anything in between.

And if you fancy something a little less strenuous on the legs, the loop around the Halfway House in Brenchley is great for all fitness levels, offering easy access walks without having to miss out on those stunning views of the Tunbridge Wells countryside. Venture along footpaths and trails, basking in the beautiful outdoors and enjoying the escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’re in safe hands back at the family-run pub, where you can taste some locally made delights in their sunny garden, sampling delightful brews and enjoying a stress-free afternoon.

For a whole host of other walks, the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk offers a whole host of routes, passing through the High Weald AONB, quaint villages and (most importantly) pubs! 

And if your palette is suited to fruitier flavours, the stunning Salomons Estate’s 36 acres of land offer ample walking routes, allowing you to stretch your legs and enjoy the outdoors. Treat yourself that little bit extra and book in for an afternoon tea at the estate, indulging in a fantastic selection of cakes and sandwiches, teas or even prosecco – go on, you’re on holiday!

Salomon's Estate

The Small Holding - Key and Quill

Food for you and the planet

So, we’ve shown you the amazing walks, hikes, adventures, and pubs that you can venture to while here, but what about those days when all you need is to settle down and enjoy a hearty meal, where you can taste the love and care that’s gone into your dish? We’ve got you covered there too.

Rediscover the connection between land and table at Green Michelin star-awarded The Small Holding. Here, organic farming, local growing, and seasonal eating are at the core of what brothers Will and Matt Devlin set out in 2018 and continue to do today. While here, you can taste the true meaning of farm to table, as their team of gardeners, farmers, and chefs work together to bring you a dining experience like none other. A visit any time of year will bring a whole host of new delights, with hyper-seasonal produce being used to curate an incredibly diverse and delicious set tasting menu. Did someone say hogget kebab with sumac and chili? We’re booking ourselves in as we speak!

For even more deliciousness from the land of Tunbridge Wells, it doesn’t get much more picturesque than what you’ll find at Water Lane. Behind the iconic green door, you'll find a Victorian walled garden with restaurant, shop, workshops, and events. A visit here will leave you full and feeling good, safe in the knowledge that your food was good for both you and the planet. Guided by the seasons, their menu is packed with fantastically flavourful dishes, whether you’re in the mood for mutton kofta with yoghurt and mint, or your belly’s craving a berry and almond tart. While here, be sure to stop off at their shop and pick up an ethically sourced gift for friends back home (or just another treat for yourself, we won’t judge!).

Water Lane Gardens, (c) Maria Bell Photography

SpaSpa at The Spa Hotel

Dreamy places to spend the night

With all this excitement going on in Tunbridge Wells, we’ve got a feeling you’ll need to stay an extra night to make the most of all that the area has to offer. And yep, you guessed it, we’ve got just the spots to choose from for you to rest your head for the night.

Just a short walk from Royal Tunbridge Wells town centre and the Spa Valley Railway we told you about earlier, The Spa Hotel is waiting with doors open, dinner ready, and pillows fluffed. Originally built in 1766 as a country mansion, the hotel has lost none of its elegance and gained an impeccable reputation amongst locals and visitors since then, offering an amazing stay and hosting unforgettable weddings. And it wouldn’t be true to the name if there weren’t premium spa treatments and facilities to enjoy, both of which you can indulge in when you stay the night in this beautiful building, set on 14 acres of breathtaking grounds.

Somewhere else that knows a thing or two about hosting and caring for your needs is The Beacon, a family home on the outskirts of Royal Tunbridge Wells, giving you the serenity of the countryside with the easy access to all those beautiful walking trails we’ve been talking about. Rustic, charming, and romantic, you’re in for the stay of your dreams as you enter the country house, set within stunning gardens, offering views across Happy Valley (you can’t go wrong with a name like that!).

(c) Lottie Topping

Remember we mentioned that you can spend the night on site at Bedgebury Pinetum? Well, the outdoors adventure doesn’t stop there. Caracol Camping, nestled within the natural beauty of the High Weald, is  an absolute oasis of peace and quiet. Now’s the perfect chance for you to disconnect from the outside world by getting outside for the night. With 8 fully furnished bell tents, equipped with all the facilities you could ask for, this is a must visit for any nature lover that has a penchant for the finer things in life – we see you, locally sourced hampers with goodies from the farm shop!