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Touring Kent

Kent has much to offer from its cathedral city of Canterbury to its houses associated with famous people—Sir Winston Churchill, Anne Boleyn, Vita Sackville-West and others. The county also has castles on the coast, gardens, attractive villages, and oast houses. Long known as the garden of England, there are still orchards, gardens, and farms to be found.

Chartwell by Barbara Ballard Sir Winston Churchill’s house, Chartwell, is just the way it was when he occupied it from 1924 until his death. The house and museum are full of memorabilia. In the attractive garden is his garden studio with a display of his paintings. Lovely views over the weald, water gardens, a lake, and a restaurant add to the experience.

Hever Castle by Barbara Ballard Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, Hever Castle, dates from 1270. Within the walls of the original home a Tudor manor house was built by the Boleyn family. The house has a collection of furniture, art, and tapestries added by William Waldorf Astor who bought it in 1903. In the grounds is an estate village built by Astor and rented out to private groups, formal gardens, yew maze, and water maze.

Leeds Castle by Barbara Balard Leed’s Castle is part of an exclusive group, the ‘Treasure Houses of England.’ Its roots go back to the Doomsday Book. The royal residence was home to six of England’s queens and Henry VIII. Its park was developed in the Middle Ages. A collection of more than 100 historic dog collars is found in the castle gatehouse. It’s fascinating. There’s a maze with a surprise at the center, an interesting aviary and waterfowl, and a park and gardens to enjoy. Part of the castle is surrounded by a moat and is connected via a walkway to the later part, most of which is not on view.

Penshurst Place by Barbara Ballard Penshurst Village by Barbara Ballard Penshurst Place dates from 650 years ago and is still basically the medieval house it first was. A 1341 Baron’s Hall with a 60-foot high beamed roof is a highlight. Also on show are tapestries, paintings, and furniture from the 15th through 17th centuries. The gardens were laid out in the 14th century and have continued to be worked on throughout the centuries. A mile of yew hedges divides the different garden rooms. Children will enjoy the toy museum, playground, and woodland trails. The small village is charming.

Knole House by Barbara Ballard Knole is a grand house set in a deer park. It, too, is one of the ‘Treasure Houses of England.’ Home to the Sackville family since 1603, it has amassed a collection of historic paintings and furnishings that includes state beds and silver furniture. The architecture of the house is a mix of late medieval and Jacobean. There is carving and plasterwork of interest.

Ightham Mote by Barbara Ballard Ightham Mote is a moated manor house dating from medieval times. A great hall, Jacobean staircase, chapel, crypt, drawing room, and billiards room are on the tour. Much conservation work has taken place during the 2003-04 years in this very atmospheric home. There are gardens, lakes, woodland walks, and country walks to enjoy.

Finchcocks, a Georgian baroque manor house, is for music lovers. It is home to a collection of eighty historical keyboard instruments, many of which are played for visitors when the house is open. The house hosts many musical events. The walled garden has been restored, and the grounds provide views over hop gardens and parkland.

Squerryes by Barbara Ballard Squerryes Court and Gardens dates from the 17th century. The historic gardens encompass ten acres and include a lake, parterres, and a dovecote. Old Master paintings, furniture, porcelain, and tapestries grace the interior.

Down House is the home of Charles Darwin. On view is his “frozen in time” study and restored family rooms. There’s an av tour and information on the house in an interpretation room. Smallhythe Place was the home of the famous Shakespearean actress, Ellen Terry, from 1899 to 1928. Personal and theatrical memorabilia can be seen along with her costumes.

Chiddingstone Castle courtesy Risto Hurmalainen Chiddingstone Castle was changed from its roots into a fantasy castle in 1803, but work was never completed leaving a mix of old and new architecture. The house became derelict but was restored in the 1980s. Collections include some portraits, Japanese lacquer, and Egyptian antiquities. There are walks in the landscaped park.

Cobham Hall, now serving as a private girls’ school, is a red brick house built in a mix of styles: Elizabethan, Jacobean, Carolean, and 18th century. It’s worth visiting to see the beautiful Gilt Hall decorated by John Webb.

Godinton House by Barbara Ballard Godinton House and Godinton Gardens offers visitors views of a medieval hall, Tudor staircase, furniture, porcelain, topiary, ponds, terraces, a clematis collection, daffodils, and walled and formal gardens surrounded by a yew hedge.

Hall Place and Gardens courtesy Risto Hurmalainen Hall Place and Gardens is a Grade I listed home with award winning gardens. In the house are a panelled Tudor great hall and minstrels’ gallery, long gallery, and drawing room. The gardens include topiary, herbaceous borders, an herb garden, and sub-tropical plant house.

Goodnestone oak tree by Barbara Ballard Goodnestone Park Gardens has a walled garden, old-fashioned roses, perennials, annuals, vegetables and caged fruit to enjoy. It’s all set in a park with ancient trees.

Sissinghurst by Barbara Ballard Sissinghurst Castle Garden is world famous for its gardens, designed and created by author Vita Sackville-West and husband Sir Harold Nicolson. Parts of an Elizabethan mansion and a tower with rooms are in the grounds. The gardens are built as a series of themed rooms.

Groombridge Place Gardens by Barbara Ballard Groombridge Place Gardens includes traditional gardens as well as ancient woodland. A white rose garden, herbaceous borders, a secret garden, an oriental garden, a knot garden, and a topiary garden add up to a fascinating mix. In the woodlands is the Enchanted Forest, guaranteed to please children. Included is a dark walk, tree fern valley, village of the Gros, serpent’s lair, and others. The moated house is not open to the public.

View from Emmetts over the countryside by Barbara Ballard Great Comp garden by Barbara Ballard For carpets of bluebells, daffodils, rhododendrons and azaleas visit Emmetts Garden. Great Comp Garden offers ruins, terraces, woodland walk, and collections of trees, shrubs, perennials, and heathers. Scotney Castle Garden and Estate is considered a romantic garden. The 1830 castle gives views of the ruins of the 14th century moated castle. Plants in the gardens include wisteria, rhododendrons, azaleas, clematis, and roses. There are walks in the surrounding woods.

Deal Castle by Barbara Ballard Walmer Castle moat by Barbara Ballard The castles of Kent include, among others, Dover, Walmer, Tonbridge, and Deal. Walmer was built as a Tudor fort but changed into a home for the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports. There’s an audio tour and gardens. Deal was built by Henry VIII and consists of rounded bastions, battlements, passages, and a basement. There are interactive displays and an exhibition.

Dover Castle by Barbara Ballard Dover Castle is known for its location on the white cliffs (grey except in the sunshine). The grounds are extensive with a medieval keep, inner bailey, Royal Regimental Museum, Roman lighthouse, Anglo-Saxon church, 13th century underground fortifications, walks along the walls, several exhibitions, and a separate tour of bare underground tunnels where secret WWII activities took place.

Rochester Castle courtesy Risto Hurmalainen Rochester Castle was built in the 11th century with 12-foot thick walls and a 100-foot high keep. Also in Rochester is Restoration House, the surviving part of a pre Civil War townhouse, where Charles II stayed. The interiors are noteworthy and there are walled gardens. Rochester Cathedral was founded in 604 and melds Norman and Gothic architecture. There is a medieval crypt, and remnants of a 12th century chapter house.

Canterbury Cathedral by Barbara Ballard World Heritage Site Canterbury Cathedral is infamous for the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170, thus ensuring its place in a list of pilgrimage sites. There are medieval tombs of Henry IV and Edward the Black Prince and many archbishops in the cathedral. A crypt dating from the first Saxon church on the site survived rebuilding. A quarter mile east of Canterbury cathedral close is St Augustine’s Abbey, a World Heritage Site. It was founded in 597. An audio tour and museum enhance the visit. St Martin’s Church, also part of the World Heritage Site, is England’s oldest parish church.

Canterbury Weaver Cottages by Barbara Ballard Canterbury’s museum is located in the medieval Poor Priests’ Hospital and two adjoining buildings. Exhibits date from pre-Roman times to the present. There are guided walking tours of the city and river tours.

Old Maltings building in Hythe by Barbara Ballard A cottage in Pluckley by Barbara Ballard Kent is replete with interesting towns and villages. Hythe and Goudhurst are two. Tunbridge Wells was a Georgian spa town. Its most notable area from its heady days is The Pantiles, a colonnaded walk of shops and eating spots. There’s a museum and art gallery with history on display. Pluckley is a charming small village, said to be one of England’s most haunted. It was used in the TV series, The Darling Buds of May.

Kent is the jumping-off place for visits to the continent with both the ferries and the chunnel connections. It’s well worth putting off a visit to France to savour the treasures of the county.

Kent Attractions

For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.

Bayham Old Abbey
Tel. 0 1892 890 381

Bedgebury National Pinetum
Park Lane, Goudhurst
Tel. 0 1580 879 820
Web: Bedgebury National Pinetum

Belmont House
Four miles south of Faversham; junction 6 of M2.
Tel. 0 1795 890 202
Web: Belmont House

Betteshanger Country Park
Sholden, on A258 two miles from Deal
Tel. 01634 899910
Web: Betteshanger

Bewl Water
One mile south of Lamberhurst off A21
Tel. 0 1892 890 661

Broadview Gardens
Hadlow College, Tonbridge Rd,Hadlow
Tel. 0 1732 853 211
Web: Broadview Gardens

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury City Centre
Tel. 0 1227 762 862
Web: Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Museum with Rupert Bear Museum
Stour St, Canterbury
Tel. 0 1227 475 202

Cantebury Westgate Towers Museum
St Peters St, Canterbury
Tel. 0 1227 789 576

Canterbury Tales
St Margaret’s St, Canterbury
Tel. 0 1227 479 227
Web: Canterbury Tales

Chartwell (NT)
Mapleton Rd, 2 miles south of Westerham, off the B2026
Tel. 0 1732 866 368 (infoline)

Chiddingstone Castle (HHA)
Four miles from Edenbridge near Bough Beech
Tel. 0 1892 870 347
Web: Chiddingstone Castle

Chislehurst Caves
Old Hill, Chislehurst
Near Chislehurst station and Bickley Arms pub
Tel. 020 8467 3264
Web: Chislehurst Caves

Cobham Hall (HHA)
Cobham Hall
By the A2/M2 west of Strood
Tel. 0 1474 823 371

Cranbrook Museum
Carriers Rd, Cranbrook
Tel. 0 1580 712 475
Web: Cranbrook Museum

Deal Castle (EH)
Victoria Rd, Deal, south-east of town centre
Tel. 0 1304 372 762

Dover Castle (EH)
Dover, on a hilltop by the famous white cliffs, east of the town centre
Tel. 0 1304 211 067

Downe House (EH)
Luxted Rd, Downe, near Biggin Hill
Tel. 0 1689 859 119
Open: Wed-Sun and BH on various dates; check with English Heritage

Eagle Heights Wildlife Foundation
Hullberry Farm, Lullingstone Lane, Eynsford
Tel. 0 1322 866 577
Web: Eagle Heights Wildlife Foundation

Emmetts Garden (NT)
Ide Hill, Sevenoaks
Tel. 0 1732 868 381
For photos and more information see our article Emmetts Garden

Fort Amherst
Dock Rd, Chatham
Tel. 0 1634 847 747
Web: Fort Amherst

Godinton House and Gardens
Godinton Lane, Ashford
Tel. 0 1233 620 773
For photos and more information see our articles Godinton House and Godinton Gardens
Web: Godinton House and Gardens

Goodnestone Park Gardens
near Canterbury, off the B4026
Tel. 0 1304 840 107
For photos and more information see our article Goodnestone Park Gardens
Web: Goodnestone Park Gardens

Great Comp Garden
Comp Lane, Platt, two miles east of Borough Green
Tel. 0 1732 886 154
Web: Great Comp Garden

Groombridge Place Gardens (HHA)
Groombridge, Tunbridge Wells
Tel. 0 1892 863 999
For photos and more information see our article Groombridge Place Gardens
Web: Groombridge Place Gardens

Guildhall Museum
High St, Rochester, Kent
Tel. 01634 848 717

Hall Place and Gardens
Bourne Rd, Bexley, Kent
on A2 near junction 2 of M25 near Dartford crossing area
Tel. 0 1322 526 574
Web: Hall Place and Gardens

Hever Castle and Gardens
Bough Beech near the B2027 and Edenbridge
Tel. 0 1732 865 224
Web: Hever Castle

Historic Dockyard and Museum
Dock Road, Chatham, near the rail station
Tel. 0 1634 823
Web: Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust

Ightham Mote (NT)
Mote Rd, Ivy Hatch, Sevenoaks
Tel. 0 1732 810 378

Kent and East Sussex Railway
Station Rd, Tenterden station, Tenterden
Tel. 0 1580 762 943 (timetable); 0 1580 765 155 (general enquiries)
Web: Kent and East Sussex Light Railway

Kent Life
Cob Tree, Lock Lane, Sanding
M20, jct 6, follow signs for Aylesford
Tel. 0 1622 763 936
Web: Kent Life

Kent Police Museum
Historic Dockyard, Dock Road, Chatham
Tel. 0 1634 403 260

Knole (NT)
Six miles east of Sevenoaks
Tel. 0 1732 462 100

Leeds Castle and Gardens
Six miles east of Maidstone
Tel. 0 1622 765 400
Web: Leeds Castle

Lullingstone Castle Gardens
Web: Lullingstone Castle Gardens

Lullingstone Roman Villa (EH)
.5 mile south-west of Eynsford, off the A225
Tel. 0 1322 863 467

Marle Place Gardens
Brenchley, Tonbridge
Tel. 01892 722 304

Mount Ephraim Gardens
Tel. 0 1227 751 496
Web: Mount Ephraim Gardens

Old Soar Manor (NT)
1 mile east of Plaxtol, just south of the A25 off A227 east of Sevenoaks
Tel. 0 1732 810 378

One Tree Hill (NT)
.25 miles south-east of Seven Oaks between Underriver and Bitchet Common
Tel. 0 1959 561 585

Penshurst Place and Gardens
Penshurst, near Tonbridge
Tel. 0 1892 870 307
Web: Penshurst Place

Petts Wood and Hawkwood Estate
A208 Orpington Rd; Gosshill Rd, Chislehurst; Birchwood Rd, Petts Wood
Tel. 0 1959 561 585

Rare Breeds Centre and Country Farm Park
Woodchurch, M20, jct 10 on the B2067
Tel. 0 1233 861 493
Web: Rare Breeds Centre and Country Farm Park

Restoration House (HHA)
17-19 Crow Lane, Rochester
Tel. 0 1634 848 520

Rochester Castle (EH)
The Lodge, Rochester-upon-Medway
Tel. 0 1634 402 276

Rochester Cathedral
The Precinct, Rochester
Tel. 0 1634 401 301
Web: Rochester Cathedral

Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
New Romney (train boardable at 7 stations—see map on website)
Tel. 0 1797 362 353
Web: Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

Royal Engineers Museum
Prince Arthur Rd, Gillingham
Tel. 0 1634 822 839

Scotney Castle Garden and Estate (NT)
One mile south Lamberhurst village near Tunbridge Wells
Tel. 0 1892 891 081

Sissinghurst Castle Garden (NT)
Sissinghurst, 2 miles north-east of Cranbrook, on the A262
Tel. 0 1580 710 701 (infoline)
For photos and more information see our article Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Smallhythe Place (NT)
Smallhythe, two miles south of Tenterden
Tel. 0 1580 762 334

South Foreland Lighthouse (NT)
The Front, St Margaret’s Bay, Dover
Tel. 0 1304 852 463

Spa Valley Railway
West Station, Nevill Terrace, Royal Tunbridge Wells
Tel. 0 1892 537 715
Web: Spa Valley Railway

Squerryes Court and Gardens (HHA)
Near Westerham
Tel. 0 1959 562 345
For photos and more information see our article Squerryes Court and Gardens
Web: Squerryes

St Augustine’s Abbey (EH)
Canterbury, east of cathedral close
Tel. 0 1227 767 345

Toys Hill (NY)
Five miles south-west of Sevenoaks; 2.5 miles south of Brasted; 1 mile west of Ide Hill, Kent
Tel. 0 1959 561 585

Tonbridge Castle
Castle St, Tonbridge
Tel. 0 1732 770 929

Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery
Civic Way, Mount Pleasant Rd, Royal Tunbridge Wells
Tel. 0 1892 554 171
Web: Tunbridge Wells Museum

Turner Contemporary Art Gallery
Rendevous, Margate, Kent CT9 1HG
Web: Turner Contemporary

Upnor Castle
Upper Upnor, off the A228
Tel. 0 1634 718 742

Walmer Castle and Gardens (EH)
South of Walmer, on coast on the A258
Tel. 0 1304 364 288

White Cliffs Gateway
Signposted from roundabout one mile north-east of Dover at jct of A2/A258
Tel. 0 1304 202 756

Winchelsea Court Hall Museum
High St, Winchelsea, Kent
Tel. 0 1797 229 525

Kent Tourist Information Centres

Ashford TIC
18 The Churchyard, Ashford
Tel. 0 1233 629 165

Broadstairs TIC
68 High St, Broadstairs
Tel. 0 1843 865 650

Canterbury TIC
34 St Margaret's St, Canterbury
Tel. 0 1227 766 567

Clacket Lane TIC
Motorway Service Area, Junction 5/6 M25 Eastbound, Westerham
Tel. 0 1959 565 063

Cranbrook TIC - (summer only)
Vestry Hall, Stone St, Cranbrook
Tel. 0 1580 712 538

Deal TIC
Town Hall, High St, Deal
Tel. 0 1304 369 576

Dover TIC
Townwall St, Dover
Tel. 0 1304 205 108

Edenbridge TIC
Stangrove Park, Edenbridge
Tel. 0 1732 868 110

Faversham TIC
Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre
13 Preston St, Faversham
Tel. 01795 534542

Folkestone TIC
Harbour St, Folkestone
Tel. 0 1303 258 594

Gravesend TIC
Town Centre, 18a St George's Sq, Gravesend
Tel. 0 1474 337 600

Herne Bay TIC
12 William Street, Herne Bay
Tel. 0 1227 361 911

Hythe TIC
En Route Building, Red Lion Sq, Hythe
Tel. 0 1303 267 799

Maidstone TIC
The Gatehouse, Palace Gardens
Mill St, Maidstone
Tel. 0 1622 602 169

Maidstone TIC (M20)
Motorway Service Area
Junction 8, M20, Hollingbourne
Tel. 0 1622 739 029

Margate TIC
12-13 The Parade, Margate
Tel. 0 1843 583 334

New Romney TIC
Magpies, Church Approach, New Romney
Tel. 0 1797 364 044

Ramsgate TIC
17 Albert Court, York St, Ramsgate
Tel. 0 1843 583 333

Rochester TIC
95 High St, Rochester
Tel. 0 1634 843 666

Sandwich TIC
The Guild Hall, Cattle Market, Sandwich
Tel. 0 1304 613 565

Sevenoaks TIC
Buckhurst Lane, Sevenoaks
Tel. 0 1732 450 305

Tenterden TIC - (summer only)
Town Hall, High St, Tenterden
Tel. 0 1580 763 572

Tonbridge TIC
Tonbridge Castle, Castle St, Tonbridge
Tel. 01732 770929

Tunbridge Wells TIC
The Old Fish Market, The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells
Tel. 0 1892 515 675

Whitstable TIC
7 Oxford St, Whitstable
Tel. 0 1227 275 482

Insider Tip:

Visiting Sissinghurst Castle Garden is by timed ticket and is very busy at times during the year. If you can go off-season, you will not have as long a wait.

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Some of our Kent Articles
Belmont House and Gardens
Godinton House
Godinton Gardens
Emmetts Garden
Goodnestone Park Gardens
Groombridge Place Gardens and the Enchanted Forest
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Squerryes Court and Gardens
Hall Place and Gardens
Great Comp Garden
St Mary the Virgin Church, Elham, Kent
Lullingstne Castle and the World Garden
St Mary the Virgin Church, Wingham, Kent
Other England Articles

The Studio at Double Dance
A great self-contained Bed and Breakfast annex in Kent

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