The month of May is National Walking Month, which out of many celebration and awareness events that are celebrated (we’re looking at you National Chocolate Day), is one of the healthiest – we can’t think of much better than getting out in the fresh air on a gentle or brisk stroll in the spring air.
To bring together everything that this month celebrates, we’ve put together some of the best walks and places to wander in Kent. Plus, as May is the start of Kent Sport's Everyday Active Challenge, which encourages Kent residents to log their daily steps to help smash an overall county target of 40 million steps in a month, there couldn't be a better time to slip on those walking shoes!
Please be sure to check the websites of any attractions before visiting as many will have new guidelines in place and require you to pre-book.
Springtime is certainly harnessed by many of us - giving us a chance to see some colour and get outside again in the sunshine, so how better to do this than heading on a bluebell walk at Balfour Winery? With two slots available on the 2nd May, you will start off in Nannette's Vineyard, before taking in their ancient oak woods and savour the carpets of bluebells. And, yes you may be wondering - this is finished off by a tutored tasting of their wine lineup so it'll be a day for all of your senses!
There’s nothing quite like finishing off a countryside ramble in a pub garden, either grabbing a quick refresher or putting back on those calories burned. With Kent’s most famous brewer having a selection of pub walks to choose from, each starting and ending up at one of their country pubs, you can stride out on your Sunday wanders safe in the knowledge that you'll have a pint and bite waiting when you get back.
The Royal Spa town is well worth a walk around regardless, with its rolling hills and beautiful historic centre - seek some countryside solace at The Commons. However if you’re looking for an out of town experience, then head out on the (only if wish to make it as long) 27.5 mile route. From stops such as Groombridge Place to sites painted by JMW Turner. With this varied and beautiful walk you may just end up walking further than expected! If you need a little more inspiration, take a look at some additional, possibly shorter routes at Visit Tunbridge Wells.
Surrounding yourself with trees to relax whilst you walk is a fast track way to recharging those batteries. At Bedgebury National Pinetum, their beautiful landscape is ideal for beginners as well as being home to longer trails for the seasoned walker. Immersed in the noises of nature too, there'll be a natural soundtrack to your stroll during early summer with all sorts of birds and insects. Picnics are encouraged at Bedgebury, so plant yourself on a fallen log among the shade of the giant redwoods along Dallimore Valley. What's better is that this particular trail is all-ability accessible, and if needed, people with limited mobility can book Bedgebury's all-terrain vehicle for free.
There’s a perfect combination in a countryside walk and ice cream. Around Solley’s farm yard, you can head out on a trail which gives visitors the chance to learn more about the nature that inspires their ice cream through to how their working farm is utilised all year round. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, then there are plenty of routes across the rolling country and through the small villages. Once you’ve either tackled a 2km, or even a 7km route, you can restock on the calories you’ve burned by stopping at the ice cream parlour – what’s not to like!
With more favourable weather in Kent during May, the coast becomes an even more reliable option for a wander. Throughout Kent are sections of England’s Coastal Path, which runs across the country. One of two favourites is between Kingsdown and Walmer. Along the 2.5-mile route, you can enjoy the peaceful and historic Walmer Castle gardens, stop off at the iconic Zetland Arms, and of course take in some fresh sea air. While the second, which circles St Margarets Bay, is ideal for a hybrid walk, with a mixture of countryside and sea views combined with inclines and gentle patches. Discover the home of 007 author Ian Fleming and a dramatic alternative view to the White Cliffs!
Surrounding the 14th century manor house Penshurst Place and its gardens, visitors can find a myriad of public footpaths and walking routes to take in the views and surroundings of this ancient countryside estate. If you're not after ramping up those steps, take a simple route by parking at the visitor car park before making your way up the concrete-track hill where a circular walking route begins. Make sure to have a refreshment stop off at the Porcupine Pantry Café before perusing the Gift Shop and Plant Centre. If you've got a little more time, there's a stunning countryside walk that takes you over to Chiddingstone Castle...
If you've headed here from Penshurst Place or not, with 35 acres of Kentish countryside, Chiddingstone Castle is another of Kent's iconic spots to truly relish in springtime. A simple wander around the grounds means you'll take in views of the Kent Weald, with the imposing castle backing your garden views. Yet, if you're after something a little more bracing, take a 4 mile trail around the local area spotting locations such as Ide Hill and Greensand Ridge, or perhaps you'd be daring enough to do the 11 miles back again to Penshurst Place!
An 11 mile or 4.5 hour walk from Chiddingstone to Penshurst Place
Gentle strolls await in Thanet, as the home of the sandy beaches and quaint seaside towns has plenty of trails to discover. You may have heard of the iconic Viking Coastal to the Turner and Dickens walk, but there are even more to ramble on. If you fancy scratching under the surface of Margate a little more, then the self-guided town route is for you – covering the Surfboat Memorial to The Tudor House. For those with a little more time and energy – there’s the Pilgrimage journey, quite literally! The Way of St Augustine can be done in 2 days and covers around 17 miles, from the Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate to Eastbridge Hospital in Canterbury.
Sitting on the coastline, and with the Downs on its doorstep, the town in south east Kent is the perfect base for Walking Month, but if you're more inclined for the easier strolls, head out on the UK’s largest outdoor exhibition of contemporary art - Folkestone Artworks. Not only is it the place to spot some of the country's and worlds top artists it also happens to be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Head over to their website and download the map to find 74 sites.
Connecting with spirituality is not a hard task in Kent, as the county is full of historic sites and guide Faye Smith aims to bring women a journey of purpose and reflection on her guided walks. The first on offer is a full weekend itinerary (20th to 22nd May) with a pilgrim route that follows the way of St Augustine through the Kentish countryside and along the River Stour from Ramsgate on the East Kent coast to Canterbury with its glorious cathedral and St Augustine’s Abbey marking your end point. If you only have one day, consider the full-day pilgrimage walks also for women of any or no faith, which are either Canterbury to Dover at 19.5 miles or a 10 mile walk on a stretch of the famous Via Francigena from Sheperdswell to Canterbury - these are on the 12th and 29th May.
With no less than 11 acres of stunning woodland to wander and get those steps racked up, Reuthe's, The Lost Gardens of Sevenoaks will spark wonder in spring. With specialist plants such as suitably flowering rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias your walk won't feel difficult at all - and don't worry if you stop to take pictures, that'll still count toward the goal! Equally, if you cover all 11 acres you might need some fuel, so head to their Basecamp Café which is open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.
Did you know that some of your favourite Kent attractions such as Ightham Mote and Chartwell have acres of walks just waiting to be trodden? The National Trust have helpfully put together a list of their properties that feature both short and longer walking routes. For instance, Scotney Castle have guided walks led by volunteers that take in the hidden gems of the estate, and towards Sevenoaks, you can take in magnificent viewpoints on a walk circling Emmetts Garden.
And no, we don’t mean training for these routes! If you need to travel to these starting points, or stop earlier than you predicted then there will be a train nearby to take you home! Be sure to find your nearest station at Southeastern’s website.