Hands on history and culture

28th March 2021

Once upon a time, there lived a family of hungry historians searching to fill their exploring boots with timeless tales, fascinating facts, charming culture and archaic adventures. Has your curiosity sparked? It’s time to start writing your next chapter right here in The Garden of England…

Bold, brave and brilliant, our wonderful county is peppered with eclectic experiences steeped in history and culture. Standing guard of the North lies magnificent Medway, one of Kent’s most recognised areas for its captivating military and maritime past found at the fascinating Historic Dockyard Chatham and Royal Engineers Museum. With its cluster of exciting towns each with a unique story to tell, famous streets eager to be wandered, and creative culture bursting at the seams, there’s so much to be uncovered in this small but mighty slice of Kent. The home to Dickens, one of the World's literary greats, the cultural links run deep in this corner of Kent, so it's no wonder the area is hoping to be 2025's City of Culture, with a rich programme of events already planned. What's more, The Rainbow Effect temporary art exhibition will see 10 local artists curate artwork to be installed across Medway, all with the aim of reinforcing Covid-safe messaging. 

So, what are you waiting for? Turn the page to your very own historic, and culture-fuelled story in The Garden of England…

Discover more experiences...

Inspiring women at the Dockyard

The treasure-filled Historic Dockyard may look somewhat familiar. Not only the heart of Chatham’s legendary ship building heritage, the site also doubles as the official filming location for popular TV series ‘Call the Midwife’. Step along in famous footsteps as you’re led by your very own costumed midwife at the Official Location Tour. Get those pillbox hats at the ready! Fancy discovering more about some of the real women who have worked around the dockyard? The Hidden Heroines exhibition tells the untold stories of the valuable roles women played throughout the Dockyard’s 400-year history.

Set the scene…

Guided Photography Tours

Spending the last few months indoors has left social media feeds crying out for a spot of colour. Luckily for you, beautiful Medway boasts a plethora of picturesque spots just waiting to be snapped up. With Louisa Hubbard Photography Tours, you’re sure to discover a beautiful backdrop to compliment your feed. Whether in romantic Rochester or charming Chatham Dockyard, your camera will never fall too far from your hands when strolling these postcard-perfect places. Ready, set, snap!

Capture the moment…

Mrs Bakers Medway Theatre Company

Home to some of the country’s most prolific novelists and artists such as Charles Dickens and Billy Childish, Medway truly is the epitome of avant-garde art and creativity. Offering an experiential taste of Medway’s past and present, there’s no better place to explore the town’s creative flare than with Medway Art Tours. With a range of exclusive, interactive cultural experiences, be led by your very own costumed guide, immerse yourself in the hidden delights of the town, and unveil the secret histories of the area’s fascinating past-we’ve got great expectations for this one!

An extraordinary adventure…

Local History

Situated on East Kent’s coastline, the quaint and quirky seaside town of Deal is not only a beautiful spot for windswept wandering, the hidden gem is also brimming with shady smuggler’s stories just waiting to be irradiated. Head along to The History Project’s Evening Smuggling Tour and journey into the town’s gripping, shady past. Creep down the winding, mazy lanes, discover remains of old tunnels, scope out secret hiding spots and be smuggled into the 18th Century with this wonderfully immersive experience. Just along the coast, Sandwich Guildhall Museum tells the rich story of Sandwich through the ages. Housed in a building that dates back to the 16th century, the museum holds plenty of intriguing artefacts, including the 1300 A.D. Sandwich Magna Carta and items dating back to the Mesolithic period! Plus, round off your historic break with a stay at the Bell Hotel in Sandwich and you'll be in for a treat as this local icon dates back to the Tudor times! 

English Heritage

From the home of the Duke of Wellington at Walmer Castle (where you can fittingly see a pair of Wellington's own boots), to Down House, the very house where Charles Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species, English Heritage properties across Kent have got plenty of tales to tell. Plus, with history at the clifftop fortress of Dover Castle ranging from the Romans and the Norman Conquest, to World War II and the Cold War, it an absolute must-see on any historical tour of Kent! 

Unlock the next chapter…

Step along the past…

Travel through time as you wander along Penshurst Place’s 2500 acres of historic parkland. Once used by Henry VIII as a hunting lodge, the glorious greenery sure has a tale or two to tell. The beautiful surroundings are nestled within the Weald of Kent, offering the perfect dose of tranquillity for visitors. Calm the mind whilst exploring the idyllic grounds surrounding Chiddingstone Castle and uncover the fascinating heritage of the area with every step! From the end May you can delve into the house's incredible collections, ranging from Jacobite, Japanese, Buddhist and ancient Egyption artefacts for a real cultural tour. 

CHALKUP21 Art & Architecture Trail

Calling all the culture vultures! Discover 21st century art and architecture at its finest whilst strolling along the Strait of Dover, full of surprises at every turn. Stretching from ‘The Wing’ at Capel all the way to delightful Deal Pier, the 17- mile CHALKUP21 trail encompasses the beauty of modern-day coastal architecture. Take a deep breath of fresh seaside air, stretch out those legs and soak in the spectacular sights that are dotted along the way.

Beautifully backdropped…

Watch and learn

Abundant in engrossing history and heritage, charming Canterbury diffuses character with its archaic architecture, cobbled streets, 12th Century Cathedral and quirky independent shops. If you’re a little hesitant to lace up those exploring boots and head out on an adventure to East Kent, Canterbury Guided Tours is bringing the vibrancy of city life to your living room. Delivered live through zoom, viewers can experience the beauty of this magnificent city in a safe and secure way. We know you've heard of Pocahontas, but there's more to this intriguing figure than the Disney tale! Visit the Pocahontas statue at her resting place at St George's Church in Gravesend, scan the QR code, and the statue will relay the real story of the Princess' life from Jamestown, to London and finally to Gravesend. 

Kent's Cathedrals

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the oldest cathedral in England, the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the very place where the infamous murder of Thomas Becket occurred and a site of awe-inspiring architecture, a tour of Canterbury Cathedral is an absolute must in Kent. Not only that, but with workshops and special experiences, including visits to the Stained Glass Studio and the Stone Masons Conservations Studio, it’s the perfect place to get hands on with Canterbury’s history. Believe it or not, Kent is also home to England's second oldest cathedral, Rochester Cathedral, so it's no surprise when we say a visit here is another must! Perfect for families, the cathedral offers worksheets and trails for your tour, so keep an eye out for monuments, beasts and patterns in the architecture while here! 

The frontline of England 

Kent is known as the frontline of England, so it's no surprise that our county has some intriguing first and Second World War heritage. For an in depth look into the county's wartime history Frontline Kent's 10 day plan is the perfect place to start, taking in fortresses, military and maritime history. For a hands on insight into The Battle of Britain, the Battle of Britain Memorial is a must. Not only the does the memorial honour the Few who fought so bravely in the skies over Kent, but the Scramble Experience gives an eye-opening look into what they faced during the autumn of 1940. From the RAF, to the Corps of Royal Engineers, the Royal Engineers Museum tells the story of how these brave men have helped the British Army live, move and fight for 300 years. While visiting, keep an eye out for 25 Victoria Crosses, Wellington's map of Waterloo, a piece of the Berlin Wall and even a Harrier Jump Jet! Coming soon, Shorncliffe Trust is set to present the area's unique military history as the birthplace of the modern British Army, from the Napoleonic War to the Second World War, with a brand new heritage centre. 

National Trust

Experience fairytale castles, royal residences and the homes of national icons with the National Trust this year. Chartwell, the home of Winston Churchill offers the chance to understand more about the statesman's private life, from his painting within the manor's glorious grounds, to his pets. Sissinghurst Castle presents the story of literary icon Vita Sackville West, her fascinating relationships and love of the beautiful gardens she curated. Knole portrays six centuries of history, built by the Archbishops of Canterbury, owned by the Tudor Dynasty (Henry VIII even hunted here), and later the aristocratic treasure of the Sackville family. Acres of gardens and countryside are waiting to be discovered, with more than enough activities and trails to keep little ones smiling. 

Leeds Castle 

This one really needs no introduction, but with a 900 year history ranging from Tudors, to the twenties, The Loveliest Castle in the World certainly earns a place on our historical list. From the end of May the castle will be showcasing the intriguing tale of The Field of the Cloth of Gold, a tournament held over 500 years ago between Henry VIII (yes, he's got quite the connection with Kent) and King Francis I of France. Building the bonds of friendship, the pair met in a field in Calais, surrounded by grandeur and within a gold pavilion. This spring uncover the truth behind the meeting, the politics, the extravagance and the role Leeds Castle played. 

Before you embark on your historical and cultural adventures, please do check our partner websites as many attractions and locations now request that you pre-book. There may also be new procedures in place in order to keep their staff and visitors safe. Take a look at our guidance on how to best Respect, Protect and Enjoy our wonderful Kent attractions and landscapes…

Stay a while

Travel safely 

Travel with Arriva

As restrictions start to lift and the government’s plans to ease out of lockdown come into effect, Arriva are here to support our local communities. Plan your journey, track your bus in real-time, buy, store and activate tickets all in on one handy app. Search Arriva UK Bus app in your app store which is free to download or visit www.arrivabus.co.uk/app. You can also plan your journey, buy tickets and check out the latest news and offers online at www.arrivabus.co.uk. All Arriva buses are COVID-19 secure, to find out more please visit  www.arrivabus.co.uk/help/coronavirus

Travel with Southeastern

As our worlds begin to open up again, Southeastern Railway are looking forward to welcoming you back on board their trains. Whether you’re continuing to travel for work, starting to think about returning to the office, planning to meet friends and family or are looking forward to visiting one of the wonderful destinations in Kent, Southeastern are there to help and support you every step of the way. Travel looks a little different from before and Southeastern want to reassure you that they are doing everything they can to help make you feel more comfortable, such as cleaning trains more frequently with anti-viral products, regularly wiping high touch areas and supplying hand sanitiser points at busy stations. So whenever you are ready and when it feels right for you, whatever journey you are taking, Southeastern want you to feel you can travel safely and with confidence.