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Article by Sarah Hamilton-Walker | 16th August 2018

Captivating Kent

Whether you like historic houses, glorious gardens, bustling towns, fun family attractions or the sunny seaside, Kent has something to offer everyone – and nothing more so than beautiful countryside.

 Known as the Garden of England there are many such glorious green spaces to visit – in fact there are more than 180.

Make sure to put on your list Riverhill Himalayan Gardens with its mix of quirky and traditional planting, Lullingstone Castle’s World Garden which combines plant heritage with cutting edge horticulture, the skilfully-designed seven-acre Great Comp Garden and the 14th century moated manor house Ightham Mote. Plus there is also Sissinghurst Gardens, Goodnestone Park, Quex Gardens and Hole Park waiting to be explored.

The beauty of Kent has meant that it has long been a magnet for film locations. Just this year Darkest Hour was released which saw filming take place at Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home. Penshurst Place featured in The Princess Bride, and when it comes to films about the Tudor period Leeds and Dover castles have both been choice settings. Groombridge Place was the backdrop to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, meanwhile many Bond films have been shot on Kent’s shores in a nod to creator Ian Fleming, so a trip to all of these places is a must.

You will never find yourself stuck for something to do in Kent, just maybe stuck deciding from the variety of attractions it offers.With its location being of strategic importance historically, there are many castles situated in this corner of the South East. The romantic 13th century Hever Castle, once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, is set in stunning gardens with a variety of attractions including mazes and its lake where you can go boating. Then there is Dover Castle, Britain’s first line of defence for centuries where you can explore the medieval royal palace, exciting exhibitions and wartime tunnels – just keep an eye out for ghosts!

Ightham Mote

Alternatively Leeds Castle offers a daily programme of activities and events alongside its award-winning gardens and romantic castle. There are plenty more castles to visit besides, including Scotney, Chiddingstone, Rochester, Tonbridge and Walmer to name but a few.

Explore all the county has to offer by rail with a trip on either the Kent and East Sussex Railway or the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, stretching 13 miles across Romney Marsh to Dungeness, a designated National Nature Reserve which is popular with photographers.

The Kent coast has plenty to offer with the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, The Historic Dockyard Chatham (one of Britain’s leading maritime heritage destinations), and the Turner Contemporary housing historical and contemporary art in a stunning seaside location.

The coastal town of Whitstable has colourful cottages and a harbourside fish market – and speaking of the seaside Kent boasts nine Blue Flag Beaches, six of which are in Thanet. The award-winning beaches are Botany Bay, Minnis Bay, Tankerton, West Bay, Joss Bay, Minster Leas, Sheerness Beach, Stone Bay and St Mildred’s Bay.

Inland, Canterbury has much to see, from its cathedral with a 1,400-year history featuring a Romanesque crypt as well as medieval stained glass windows, to The Canterbury Tales where you can immerse yourself in Geoffrey Chaucer’s stories.

Rich in historic interest and with a royal connection, the spa town of Tunbridge Wells offers a perfect mix of the past and modern day with the beautiful Pantiles at the lower end and a mix of independent and chain stores throughout the town. Other shopping destinations in Kent include Bluewater and the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet at Ashford.

Turner Contemporary

If you are looking for artistic inspiration then head to the Creative Quarter in Folkestone, Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery, the Powell-Cotton Museum at Quex Park, the Marlowe Theatre, Gulbenkian Museum or The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge.

Family fun can be found throughout the county. For the animal-lover there is the South of England Rare Breeds Centre, Wingham Wildlife Park, Eagle Heights Wildlife Park and Wildwood Trust or enjoy a picnic at Knole in Sevenoaks amongst its many deer. For the adventurous head to Buckmore Park for kart racing or Go Ape at Bedgebury Pinetum, plus there are thrills and spills to be enjoyed at Dreamland in Margate. Or why not enjoy a relaxing day at Bewl Water where you can take a boat ride on the reservoir?

You may be in Kent, but experience the adventures of going on safari at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park or its sister site Howletts, a breeding sanctuary for some of the most rare and endangered species in the world.

Famous for its award-winning sparkling wines, why not head to one of Kent’s many vineyards for a tour such as Chapel Down, Biddenden and Hush Heath, or pop into Britain’s oldest brewer Shepherd Neame for a pint of beer?

Kent also has plenty of fun to be discovered underground at Chislehurst Caves or Ramsgate Tunnels, while staying above ground there are 4,273 miles of footpaths and cycle routes in the county – so there’s no excuse not to get out and enjoy all this beautiful corner of the country has to offer.

Images: Visit Kent, National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

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