At Easter (2022), we spent a week exploring Kent. Here’s a quick round up of our favourite things that you should do if you visit the “garden of England”.
1. Explore a seaside town
Kent has a lot of coastline, it’s all sticky outy at the East end of the the South coast of the UK, so it’s got a northern coast and a southern one and a bit of an eastern tip too. That means there are many beautiful, picturesque little towns scattered along it. Some of them are nicer than others, some are a little bit run down and tired, but they all have special quirks of hidden gems. We spent a wonderful day wandering around Whitstable and another in and around Hastings.
Whitstable is particularly known for its fishing heritage and harbourside market. We spent ages browsing the stalls and little cabins, himself resisted oysters and we call failed to resist fudge.
Hastings is actually in East Sussex, but only just barely, it almost counts. Of course, it’s terribly famous for a big old fight between Harold and Guillaume le batard (also known as William the Conqueror – guess who won?) Although the battle actually happened in, well, Battle. Sneaky huh? Today, Hastings is a nice enough resort town with some particular highlights. We had a great round of mini-golf (it’s not a holiday without mini-golf) and I even got the ball in at the 19th hole at the end – winning a useless single extra game. We enjoyed a trip up the funicular railway and long (loooong) walk along the promenade. The sea wall at the top of the beach has some gorgeous murals on it and, of course, there are plenty of chippies to choose from.
2. Indulge in local delicacies
See above, Kent is coastal. This means there’s lots of fish and seafood. Large boy tried mussels and loved them, himself just loved then. I had some gorgeous crab and enjoyed some local beers and cider from a vineyard. We all totally loved the amazing cheeses we bought in Whitstable at The Cheese Box.
3. Potter about the villages
Kent has some pretty big important towns, like Dover and Maidstone, and butts up against the edge of London. It’s also got the critical M20 motorway providing routes in and out of the UK, through Dover and Folkstone, to and from continental Europe. But hop just a few miles away from the bigger places and roads, and you’ll find some absolutely stunning, chocolate box, picture postcard villages. We enjoyed some quick visits to Bethersen, Tenterden, Woodchurch, and Rye. There are quirky little pubs galore and post mills, clad in wood, and oast houses and bowling greens and all the requisites of a proper English village.
Kent is within easy striking distance of London. You can get a train from Ashford to Victoria in just over an hour, meaning that all the delights and attractions of London are effectively right on your doorstep.
Spending a day in London and only one day is very hard. There are so many possibilities. So we asked the boys. For them there was only one possibility – the Natural History Museum.
Did I mention how Kent has lost of coast? Well, you know when there’s lots of coast there also tends to be lots of beaches (in general, not always of course).
We visited Whitstable, Camber Sands, and Hastings beaches and they were all wonderful if different. Camber Sands is huge and wide and feels almost endless. We were there on a quiet day and it was just a little bit too windy for kite flying. Whitstable is strewn with the evidence of the local industry – oysters and other shellfish. Hastings is much more touristy, but nevertheless provided a beautiful sunset.
5. National Trust
The National Trust is literally a British institution. We got membership about four years ago and we absolutely love it. There are so many places to visit all over England, Wales and you can use your card in Scotland too.
There are over 20 locations in Kent alone.
Of all the options, we chose to visit Sissinghurst. Partly because it was close by where we were staying, partly because the cafe looked good, and partly because there’s a family-famous photo of me standing next to one of the big pots in the garden when I was 2.
Leeds Castle is very famous for being the template of all movie castles. We bit the bullet and paid the large quantity of cash to visit for our last day. We should probably have just done another National Trust day really. The boys loved the adventure playgrounds and the falconry, but the birds of prey weren’t very numerous and all the extra refreshments and so on cost even more. If we lived locally and could make use of the free returns for 12 months, it wouldn’t have felt so steep. But it did seem quite costly for just a day out.
6. Leeds Castle
However, it’s got a reputation for a reason. It does look like a film set.
7. Chatham Dockyards
We had to leave our holiday cottage by mid-morning so we had an extra full day of exploring before heading home. Himself was responsible for this choice and it was an excellent one. It was another case of getting a year’s re-entry as well and unlike Leeds Castle, you can just drop in for a couple of hours. So, when we come home from France in August, we might grab another quick visit on the way past.
The variety of marine vessels and technologies available to visit is huge. From a submarine, to a clipper, to lifeboats and massive hammers for errrrm hammering stuff. I was entranced by the roof of the dry dock, almost 200 years old and looking more like a cathedral than anything else.
What about you?
Do you have any other recommendations of places to go or things to do in Kent?