You’ve got a free weekend and a hankering for an escape from the ordinary. Where are you going to go and spend that weekend? West Kent, of course. West Kent is our little corner of luxury, our gorgeous green escape and an answer to work stresses and cabin fever. Here you’ll find foodie escapes, indulgent breaks and a touch of class. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to don the sunglasses, pack up and head on your way for a stylish getaway.
And as for the planning, well we’ve obviously got that covered. Here’s our pick of the best of the best, from the top foodie finds, to the best accommodation and the must-visit locations.
We’re going to level with you here. We’ve probably got more suggestions than you can fit into one weekend, but with any luck you’ll be able to craft your own bespoke itinerary, and maybe even plan your return.
Foodies, you’ve got some time for yourself, so what are you going to do? We LOVE Kent Cookery School for indulging our culinary credentials and sharpening our skills. Whether you choose one of the evening street food courses, or date night with a twist on a couples cooking course, you’ll walk away armed with hints and tips and with a stomach full of sensational Kentish food. If you really want to up the ante, we recommend the Kent Cookery Course for a lesson in preparing the finest local and seasonal ingredients.
Remember when we said a visit to West Kent was all about a little luxury and class – live music in a castle’s orangery has got to be case and point! Head to historic Chiddingstone Castle on a Sunday afternoon and you’ll be treated to anything from live jazz, to funk and Latin. Arrive early and wander the grounds for a taste of the royal treatment – we recommend stopping off at the tea rooms for a little treat too.
What were we saying about West Kent being the perfect place for a country escape? This unique experience will have you leaving behind the stresses and getting back in touch with nature. Set in the heart of the woods, forest bathing is a restorative experience to connect with nature and help improve your physical and mental well-being. Tansy’s unique experiences are just the thing to help reset, detox and reconnect.
From the newly refurbished The Amelia, which brings together culture, arts, heritage and well-being, to the large commons which offer green space and a place to relax, Royal Tunbridge Wells is the place to go for a little R&R. Visit the many, many boutique shops in The Pantiles (those colonnaded walkways are dreamy), or head to Trinity Theatre for a taste of the dramatics in the beauty of a former church. While the packed calendar of festivals includes Gin and Jazz on The Pantiles and Pub in the Park – delish.
Ok, we know, we know, we’ve given you more must-visits than you could visit in a week, let alone a day, but this has got to be your summer go-to. Castle Farm Lavender brings Provence to the beauty of the Kent countryside, and as this trip is all about letting go of the stresses of the everyday, it’s got to be on your list. With rolling fields of blue and farmland for miles and miles, your IG grid will thank you for this one, because it is a true-blue hidden gem.
Ok, where do we even begin with this one? First up we’ve got Gusbourne, where picnics in the vineyard are just one of the many, many spectacular ways you can spend your Saturday. Just down the road, family-run Biddenden offers tastings of their many sensational wines, along with tours through vines. Chapel Down’s Explorer Experience gives a behind-the-scenes tour, tutored tasting and lunch in their incredible Swan Restaurant. And if you fancy California dreaming in the heart of Kent, Balfour Hush Heath Estate’s state-of-the-art tasting room is the place to go for light bites, and sipping and sampling with a side of views. Yes, we know, you’ll never be able to visit them all in one weekend, but we couldn’t not share.
The art of crafting gin is something Maidstone Distillery takes great pride in. Each spirit is hand-crafted using botanicals to create a truly artisan product distilled in the 450 litre beauty of a bespoke still. Better stil (ahem) these guys open up their doors and welcome visitors in to take the tour, view that beautifully shiny equipment and learn the story of grain to glass. Once you’ve completed your learning, we recommend sitting in the tasting room for a tipple or two. It would be rude not to.
Elwick Place in Ashford has got to be on your West Kent visit list. For dining delights, Unita 4 is one of our absolute favourites, with freshly made pasta, vegan delights and seasonal favourites all on the menu. While their pasta classes will have you learning the art of traditional pasta making in no time. For brunch it’s got to be Macknade where local produce is at the heart of everything they do, while next door Matches is a must for a little sport and craft beer – shuffleboard, anyone?
In Tunbridge Wells Soprano Wine & Tapas is our go-to for cocktails, Salsa music and a taste of Spain. For Candle-lit dinners and gastro delights, White Bear is calling, while Sankey’s is famous for its seafood and American style décor. If you’re looking for more of a relaxed scene, beer connoisseurs head to Fuggles for craft beer delights from near and far, not to mention their famous cheese toasties!
Ok, it may just be us, but we reckon the accommodation makes the holiday so it seems only right to treat yourself to 5* luxury, right? Known for its Gatsby-esque parties in the era of former owner Lady Baillie, believe us when we say, Leeds Castle knows how to host! Stay within the castle walls in the Maiden’s Tower, cosy up and retreat from the world in one of their luxury holiday cottages, or spend the night under canvas with their Knight’s Glamping stays. Trust us, you’ve never had an experience like this before.
Minutes from Ashford International and just across from the Curious Brewery, the location doesn’t get better than this! Stay the night in one of the Hampton Ashford International’s brand new rooms and you’ll have a luxurious Hampton bed, free hot breakfast and the rest of West Kent right at your door.
If you’re in search of a picturesque village, West Malling is one of our favourites. Check in at No 64 at the Joiners and stay in one of the chic boutique hotel rooms, complete with touches of French elegance throughout. In West Malling, we recommend timing your trip just right to catch the monthly farmers market, or heading along the high street for dinner and drinks at the Farm House, tucking into a luxury brunch at The Swan, or cocktails at the Cow Shed.