Kent, the Garden of England, is a popular destination for tourists from both abroad and visitors from within the UK. From historic castles to world-famous zoos and cities there’s plenty to do but there are many a great attraction that aren’t quite so well known. We’ve put together a quick selection of ten hidden gems in Kent, some of the area’s best kept secrets, that are well worth a stop for those visiting the county and for those families who live in Kent looking for a family-friendly day out.
Whitstable Beach Front
There are few places as delightful, picturesque and charming as Whitstable’s beach front. This much-loved spot is a must see for all those visiting Kent. There’s plenty to do from swimming to windsurfing or just enjoying the gorgeous beaches amidst a backdrop of colourful beach huts and and sailing boats. There’s a veritable treasure chest of sea-front restaurants, shacks, pubs and eateries along with a trove of boutique shops and art galleries – be sure to sample some of the famous local-caught oysters at a harbour-side vendor which have seen the port dubbed the Pearl of Kent, delicious!
Rose Gardens Heaver Castle
Hever Castle, a double-moated 13th century castle that was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII and Mother of Elizabeth I, is home to many a beautiful garden but the most striking of these are the Rose Gardens. Get there between June and September and you’ll see over 4000 roses, planted in blocks of colour from palest pink to deep crimson and rich purple, flourishing. Oh, and Hever Castle itself, with over 700 years of history, is probably worth a visit too along with its mazes, miniature houses, Japanese tea house, boating…
Elham Valley Railway Museum
Full of memorabilia from the days of steam, when the Elham Valley Line ran between Canterbury and Folkestone, the Elham Valley Railway Museum in Peene offers a glimpse at a 1930’s railway station as it would have been with a full size replica steam train and signal box where you can pull the levers to operate the signals, a working, scale model of the Eurotunnel terminal and much more. There’s even a 7 & 1/4 inch railway providing rides for visitors through the museum’s beautiful gardens.
Viking Bay, Broadstairs
Beaches may not be the first thing that springs to mind for those visiting Kent, but there are some beautiful spots along the South East coast. Another one of these is Viking Bay in Broadstairs. This gorgeous horse shoe shaped bay is the main attraction in Broadstairs and was a beloved destination of Charles Dickens – he wrote a piece on it called Our English Watering Place. Viking Bay is a curved, sandy bay that’s ideal for family beach trips with plenty of fun for the whole family; a tidal pool, deckchair hire, a range of summertime rides for the children and a surf school on the beach!
Lullingstone Roman Villa
Great Britain was governed by the Roman Empire from 43 to 410 AD. One of the most villa survivals in the country can be found in Lullingstone, in the beautiful surroundings of the Darent Valley in Kent. A unique and all-weather day out, this attraction offers an opportunity to explore Kent’s history back to AD 100. Along with a fascinating display of Roman exhibits, visitors to the Lullingstone Roman Villa can see the villa’s spectacular mosaics and prints of the rare wall paintings, a heated bath-suite and a ‘house-church’. For children there’s Roman costumes to try on and traditional board games from the period play.
Perhaps Kent’s most buried secret – buried thirty metres below the woodlands above, in fact; Chislehurst Caves are a labyrinth of man made tunnels forming a maze covering over six hectares! Originally dug for chalk used in lime burning and brick-making for the building of London, the caves were first opened to the public in the early 20th Century and visitors can now enjoy a fascinating 45 minute lamp-lit while a guide tells stories of Victorian history of Druids, Romans and Saxons, smuggling and more!
Teapot Island, Yalding
What could possibly be more quintessentially British than a cup of tea in the heart of The Garden of England? Well how about a cup of tea at Yalding’s Tea Pot Island? Nestled in the picturesque village of Yalding and home to more than 7,000 unique teapots on display – and more than 2,000 available to buy – Tea Pot Island is one of Kent’s most unique attractions and, if looking at all those teapots makes you thirsty you can pull up a chair and enjoy a cuppa, a cream tea or even a spot of lunch at their riverside cafe.
Penshurst Place & Gardens, Tonbridge
“The grandest and most perfectly preserved example of a fortified manor house in all England,” Penshurst Place in Tonbridge was once the property of Henry VIII (he quite liked Kent) and dates back to 1341. There’s plenty to do for the whole family including a toy museum, adventure playground and woodland trail. The gardens, The Gardens, with early records dating back to 1346, are among the oldest in private ownership and considered to be one of the most beautiful in England.
Blean Woods, Canterbury
Kent’s countryside is famous for its beauty and Blean Woods, just outside Canterbury, is a perfect place to enjoy a walk in some of the county’s beautiful ancient woodland.
Free to enter and explore, Blean Woods is home to a host of wildlife and birds from Woodpeckers to Sparrowhawks along with damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies in the summer. With five different nature trails up to eight miles long with several which are pushchair friendly and free entry, Blean Woods is a perfect opportunity to enjoy a calm stroll before or after exploring the historic City of Canterbury and all it has to offer.
Little Street, Maidstone
Let’s be honest; no matter how much sun there is, you need to plan something for a rainy day if you’re holidaying in England. Little Street, with its central location in Maidstone, is a great little find and very easy to get to. Here little ones can play make believe and have their imagination awoken with a scaled down version of a typical town, inspiring children to explore life in the world around them in a variety of themed rooms, scaled down to be the perfect size for little ones, and carefully designed and filled with props to offer a fun, creative and educational play experience.
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