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Little adventures in Kent

Lana Crouch
22nd November 2021

Got big plans for exciting expeditions with your little adventurers? Looking for a break that’s good value, and offers even better memories? The Garden of England offers countless experiences that are guaranteed to keep little ones entertained, so you can enjoy quality time with your troop, without the cries of “I’m bored!” every five minutes.

East Kent Railway

If you’re looking for a day trip that offers the chance to chug through the Garden of England’s glorious, green landscape in style, we think we might just be on the right track with this first suggestion. Climb aboard the East Kent Railway and make the most of their five-mile round trip through the Kent countryside. Here, you’ll travel on a preserved, heritage train before making a perfect pit-stop at the Railway’s fantastic visitor centre located in one of two preserved signal boxes. Home to both a model railway and two miniature railways, both with ride-on trains, it’s the ideal place for families to let off some steam!

Bourne Valley Retreat

Fun-filled family escapes offer the ideal opportunity to tire out little legs, but once the sun has set, we just know you’ll be left yearning for somewhere relaxing to retreat for the night, ahead of tomorrow’s exciting expedition. Nestled in the heart of the Weald of Kent, Bourne Valley Retreat is the ultimate base from which to explore your surrounding landscape, as well as tap into your wild side. With a plethora of family-friendly walks, cycle routes, and pubs right on its doorstep, Bourne Valley’s 5-metre bell tent ‘Mariette’ will soon have you feeling right at home! Plus, with its very own Mud Kitchen, Bug Hotel, and a toasty fire pit (perfect for toasting marshmallows) on site, there’s plenty to keep little ones occupied, giving grown-ups some very well-deserved down time.

Coast and Country Rambles

Little footsteps can make for some very big adventures here in the Kent countryside, and this next experience offers the ideal starting point for those families looking to stride out in the Garden of England. Allow the team at Coast & Country Rambles to melt away the stress of planning your family trail, with easy-to-follow guides and routes tailored to you, whether you want to see pretty villages, historic sites or just miles of uninterrupted views. With accommodation ranging from cosy country pubs to shepherds huts, you're also guaranteed a soft bed for the night and a breakfast to set you up for the next day.

Parlour Plays

We’re lifting the curtain and giving a standing ovation for our next family adventure - due to launch over the coming months. The theatrical team at Parlour Plays will offer audiences a wonderfully wide range of street theatre, storytelling, and interactive theatre experiences. From staged adaptions of literary classics including Kipling’s Jungle book and Dickens’ A Christmas Carole, to performances in unexpected venues such as pubs, gardens, and houses, Parlour Plays’ range of performances will be perfect for families looking to add a touch of drama to their next day trip.

Reuthe's, The Lost Gardens of Sevenoaks

You may be familiar with the term ‘take a walk on the wild side’, but have you ever enjoyed ‘an amble with alpacas’? Those looking for an animal adventure with a slight twist should head straight to Reuthe’s, The Lost Gardens of Sevenoaks where a scenic stroll with the cutest of tour guides awaits you. As part of this hour-long private experience, you’ll have the chance to meet Reuthe’s alpaca's with the site’s expert "Alpaca Whisperer" before allowing Nuzzle and Scratch to lead you off on a gentle walk through historic ancient woodlands and gardens. Ideal as a one-off experience or integrated into one of the site’s fabulous children's parties, this is the animal experience you just didn’t know you were missing out on until now…

Shorncliffe Trust

Known as the frontline of England, it's simply no surprise that our county has some intriguing first and Second World War heritage. If you’ve got a hungry historian on your hands, we think you’re going to want to ear-mark this next experience for a future trip to the Garden of England. 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. Watch this space…

White Horse Farms

It’s time to giddy-up, grab your loved ones, and get to Gravesham for this next animal adventure, which will guarantee that a day spent at White Horse Farm rides it’s way straight into the family photo album thanks to their Shire Horse Experience. Yes, you’re invited to spend half a day with White Horse Farm’s gentle shire horses, where you’ll have the opportunity to groom and care for the horses, before harnessing them up ready to enjoy an unforgettable carriage ride through the picturesque lanes nearby. With space for up to eight people per carriage, there’s plenty of room for the whole family to climb aboard this adventure - just remember to bring your selfie stick to fit you all into that obligatory group shot! Your carriage awaits…

Coastal Explorers

When it comes to learning about the wildlife of the coast, there’s nothing quite like discovering it up close! With Visit Thanet’s Coastal Explorer Packs at the ready, you and the little learners can identify what lives under the sea (don’t sing it), pick up fascinating facts, and even get creative with some beach art. For a wild weekend, venture off to the Monkton Nature Reserve and uncover a 16 acre hidden oasis formed from a former chalk quarry. While mini historians can go on the trail of the brightest and best who have visited or called The Isle of Thanet home, from Turner to Dickens, by following Digital Interpretation plaques along the coast.

Bedgebury Pinetum

If you’re looking after a little one who’s harbouring the greatest of loves for the Gruffalo (we can sense a flurry of nods through the screen right now…), you absolutely have to make a beeline for Bedgebury Pinetum the next time you’re planning a short break. With miles of cycling, mountain-biking, walking, and running routes, as well as an adventure play trail (… not forgetting the Gruffalo Spotters Trail!), pack a bag and prepare to make lasting memories with the family at beloved Bedgebury on your next staycation to West Kent. 

Canterbury Christchurch University

Searching ahead for a summer staycation that caters for all the family needn’t be stressful, we promise! If you like to get your group plans in order this side of Christmas (prepared parties, we salute you!), why not consider one of Canterbury Christ Church University’s well-placed properties as your next base? From late June through to early September, this city-centre campus opens the doors to a whole host of accommodation from single en-suite bedrooms through to self-contained apartments or houses. With many versatile locations right in the heart of historic Canterbury, Christ Church makes the ideal home from home for families exploring this charming city in the summer. While the students are away, families will stay…

Go Ape Bedgebury

Remember we mentioned making a beeline for Bedgebury earlier? Well, how about taking things up a notch, and whizzing through this world leading collection of conifers via zip line? Head high up into the treetops as you take to the ropes with Go Ape Bedgebury Pinetum. It’s time to take on your fears and climb to the top - perfect for the whole family to discover their inner Tarzan (he’s in there, we promise). Alongside the classic Go Ape Challenge course for over 10’s, Go Ape Bedgebury is also home to an Adventure course for explorers as little as one metre tall, making it the perfect place to get their first taste of action and adventure in the great outdoors.

Howletts Wild Animal Park

An unforgettable experience awaits young adventurers at the award-winning Howletts Wild Animal Park, home to over 390 animals, including Kent’s only giant anteaters, the largest herd of African elephants in the UK, and more gorillas, leopards, and monkeys than any zoo in the county. This 90-acre parkland is devoted to the conservation of endangered species and returning them to wild protected areas. For explorers over 1.2 metres tall, the park’s Treetop Challenge, an exhilarating high ropes course, will give them a view of the park from a monkey’s perspective!

Penshurst Place & Gardens

Yes, it’s a perfectly preserved manor house with some of the finest gardens in the county, but did you know Penshurst Place is also a top day out for children? With a toy museum (arguably the best kind of museum there is), woodland trails, bike hire and an adventure playground, this beautiful estate is a firm favourite for a historic day out. While this marvellous Manor House closes during the winter season, it’s gift shop and cafe remain open, as well as a handful of special ticket events, including Penshurst’s panto-style storytelling, plus archery and falconry experience days. Plenty to see you through until spring days spent in the garden!

Solley's Ice Cream Parlour

You scream, I scream, we all scream for… Solley’s Ice Cream! Yes, we know that’s not technically how the song goes, but with ice cream that tastes this good we really think it should. Enjoy a sweet day out to remember when you pay a visit to Solley's Ice Cream Parlour (open daily from 4th April - end of September). Jump on board one of the daily tractor rides throughout the summer months, or stride out on Solley's marked trail, taking you on a journey around the farm with plenty of chances to learn more about how this family farm works throughout the seasons and the abundance of wildlife on site. And of course, no visit to Solley's would be complete without pausing at the Ice Cream Parlour for a well-deserved sweet treat for the journey home. Seriously, this is a public service announcement to sample a scoop of their salted caramel at your earliest convenience…

Westwood Cross Shopping Centre

A generous dose of fashion, a large measure of irresistible food, and a double serving of family fun. Sounds like the perfect multigenerational day out to us, and where better to head for it than Westwood Cross Shopping Centre on the Isle of Thanet? With over 50 stores and restaurants, a 10-screen cinema, a casino, and a bingo centre, there's plenty to do here day and night. And (yes there's more), this shopping centre is open until 7.30pm every weekday so the fun doesn't have to stop when the sun goes down! The perfect spot to indulge in a little retail therapy…

Dover Castle and Walmer Castle

Now, we couldn’t talk about a family staycation in the Garden of England without mentioning at least one of our castles could we!? Absolutely not! A total must for history lovers, Dover Castle played an iconic role in Tudor, World War and Cold War history, and English Heritage brings the past to the present from underground wartime tunnels (where yes, they even brought back the SMELLS from 1943…) to interactive Tudor thrones for teaching little ones. Over in Deal, Walmer Castle is a lesser-known gem with stunning gardens and a fascinating history you can discover away from busy crowds. For families making a trip to this slice of Kent’s Heritage Coastline over the coming weeks, you’ll want to make the most of Dover Castle’s Christmas Adventure Quest. The perfect way to step into the season.

Kent Craft Hive

If your house is overflowing with pasta pictures and papier-mâché, the Kent Craft Hive is sure to earn a big, colourful, felt-tipped tick from kids looking for a creative outlet in Kent. Block printing, mosaic making, pottery, tile making, beekeeping... the list of experiences on offer here is extensive, so if lockdown has helped to flex those creative muscles, you know where to go for a bespoke workshop. Held in a dedicated barn within a beautiful garden, Kent Craft Hive is all about learning new skills, crafting, and getting creative while out in nature.

Kent Wildlife Trust

Wandering wildlife? Check. Sweeping scenery? Check. Picture-perfect views? Check. Grab those binoculars and reconnect with the natural world right here in Kent. Allow your wildlife-loving troop to be led through some of the county’s finest reserves by a knowledgeable guide, discover secluded spots off the beaten track, and see what curious creatures you can discover lurking along the way, on a nature-spotting safari with Kent Wildlife Trust.

Southeastern

If you’ve sorted the itinerary and scored the hottest home-from-home around, but are feeling apprehensive about the prospect of spending a few hours in the car with Grandma squished between two squabbling siblings, we think we might have just the thing to melt your pre-holiday jitters. Running services to and from over 180 stations, Southeastern provides the perfect way to travel around the county without a car. With some great value deals for families including their ‘Kids For A Quid’ offer, travelling around the county is both quick and affordable. What’s more, whizzing through the Kent countryside by rail offers endless opportunities for playing a spot of ‘I Spy’ to pass the time…

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