Autumn breaks

Sophie Hewitt

26th July 2021

Leaf-crunching walks, vibrant views, auburn leaves and gorgeous sunsets, take one look at our Instagram feed come 1st October and you’ll soon see that an autumn weekend break in Kent is absolutely glorious. If you’ve seen our manor house grounds and rolling gardens in summer, allow us to present the equally Insta-worthy autumn in Kent, which promises scarlet Boston Ivy climbing castles, food festivals celebrating our culinary credentials and vineyards ready for harvesting.

Whether your autumn staycation plans have you dreaming of autumn walks, cosy pubs, or fantastic food and drink, allow us to share some of Kent’s best loved fall locations, and a few hidden gems along the way.

Festival fun in Maidstone

Kent’s hopping heritage is legendary, so the Hops ‘n’ Harvest festival at Kent Life has become a real favourite. With music, animal encounters, locally brewed ales and ciders, traditional hop picking and more, this is the perfect family festival. For a Bavarian celebration, Oktoberfest in Maidstone’s beautiful Mote Park offers a traditional taste of Munich culture at the start of October. Descend on the Beerhall Tent, grab your steins and indulge in food and games to the sounds of an authentic Oompah band all set within acres of rolling parkland. After an evening of food and celebrations, head to the Hilton Maidstone for a relaxed stay.

A golf break

After watching the sun-baked Open Championship final at our very own Royal St George’s this summer, we know we won’t be the only ones picking up the putter and heading to the Kent coast this autumn. Set on the Sandwich coast, adjacent to Royal St George’s, the Championship links course of Prince’s is one of our favourites, and judging by its placement in the Today’s Golfer Top 100 following extensive renovations, we’re guessing we’re not alone. After 27 holes of unique links golf, the Lodge at Prince’s is a welcome retreat with sea views and within easy reach of London by train with Southeastern.

Autumn colour

Remember when we mentioned that scarlet Boston Ivy creeping across the front of a castle? Yes, Hever Castle has long been one of the faces of autumn in Kent and, after a visit to the grounds in October, you’ll soon see why. Don those wellies, crunch those leaves, and discover trees adorned in gold, glorious displays of red, and a castle that can only be described as at its romantic best, right at the heart of the grounds. And speaking of romantic, take one peek at the luxury rooms in Hever Castle’s B&B and we know you’ll swoon. Whichever wing of the castle you stay in (seriously, how can you pass that up?) you’ll be guaranteed countryside views, a delicious breakfast and rooms fit for royalty.

An outdoor gallery

Oh, you didn’t think we’d stop there with our autumnal castle boasting, did you? Head to Leeds Castle this autumn and you’ll have the chance to see those famous gardens transformed into a sculpture garden. 30 floral inspired sculptures will be set next to trees in the Princess Alexandra Gardens, at the water’s edge along the Lady Baillie Mediterranean Terraces and in amongst blooms in the Culpeper Gardens for a striking stroll around the grounds. Artists from Kent and further afield will bring their own touch of creativity to the grounds, with each piece using a variety of materials, from recycled plastic to industrial steel. For the ultimate experience, book a garden tour and dinner in the Castle View Restaurant, before turning in for the night in the Maiden’s Tower bed and breakfast within the castle walls.    

Out in nature

Ask anyone in the know about their favourite autumn locations in Kent and we guarantee Bedgebury will be up there. And it’s not just because this stunning spot is home to a world-leading collection of conifers. At Bedgebury the 350 acres of lakes, conifer and broadleaved woodland, and trails provide awe-inspiring colours come autumn. What’s more, with its brand new wellbeing trail through the forest, a mindful walk here is the perfect antidote to a year of screen time. For full relaxation, we recommend a stay at Kent and Sussex Cottages’ Blackthorn Barn in nearby Goudhurst for a real rural retreat for two.

A tranquil paradise

A true hidden gem, Godinton House and Gardens is another tranquil place to retreat and experience nature. Twelve acres of gardens, ancient parkland, stately oaks, chestnuts, and manicured lawns and borders, autumn at Godinton offers peace, quiet and a riot of colour. While in the nearby town of Ashford, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to sample seasonal food and drink, with street food at Coach Works, or a fine dining experience at the exclusive The Gastronomist Club in Elwick Place.

Autumn gems

Sevenoaks offers some real hidden gems, so if you haven’t had the chance to visit Great Comp Garden, you’ll be in for a treat come autumn. Seven acres of rare plants can be found here, with ornamental grasses, a myriad of colour and beautiful borders found in the garden, and the welcome of tea and cake in the Old Dairy tearooms. Just a short drive away, Penshurst Place boasts Grade 1 listed formal gardens circling a 14th century manor. The gardens alone are worth visiting for, but the estate walks through the expansive parkland are another favourite (just look at our Instagram). Round off your wanders with a hot chocolate and cake in the Porcupine Pantry and you’ve got the perfect Penshurst Place visit. Weekenders, stay at the luxurious Bloom Stays’ Bushes Oast and you’ll experience waking up to gorgeous Wealden views, not to mention the chance to tick off a stay in an oast house (a Kent bucket list item, if ever there was one).  

From garden to fork

Belmont House just outside of Faversham has a kitchen garden that epitomises our title as the Garden of England. With fruit trees laden in autumn colour, beds of vegetables and even a nuttery, its spoils are both beautiful and delicious. With 3000 acres to explore, the farmland and woodland grounds of the estate are more than enough to keep you busy, but the elegant 18th century house is a must-see while you’re here. Just a short drive away Macknade is the culmination of all that lovely Kent produce, offering up fresh fruit, cheeses, veg, cakes and more, in the South East’s leading food hall. Tuck in to everything from tacos to pizzas at the Macknade Food Village, or head into Faversham and dine and stay at Shepherd Neame’s The Sun Inn and enjoy a fireside drink of their freshly brewed ales.

The Wine Garden of England

Vineyards in autumn? Now that’s a sight worth seeing. Tour some of our favourite vineyards and you’ll see a spectacle of autumn colour, harvesting and vines laden with grapes. If you don’t know where to start (Kent has quite a few vineyards), The Wine Garden of England website is the perfect guide, but we love Chapel Down, Gusbourne, Hush Heath, Biddenden and Simpsons, for their award-winning wines, magnificent views, tours and tastings.

Travel with Southeastern

Visiting the Garden of England couldn’t be easier by train – just sit back, relax and enjoy the Kent countryside as you travel. Just a short hop on the train and you can explore the beautiful Kent countryside, historic buildings and stunning coastal views – not forgetting plenty of pit-stops for an ice cream! Plus, with Southeastern's list of favourite spots for a relaxing stroll that are all just a hop away on the train, we recommend lacing up your walking boots and discovering Kent's autumnal countryside, from coast to rural locations for a real local escape.