Kent is also referred to as “The Garden of England” because it has so many fantastic natural landscapes, beautiful beaches, dramatic cliffs, historical castles, charming towns and so much more.
Last summer I went on a long weekend solo road trip to Kent, and since then I keep dreaming about going back. Whilst I only had time to touch upon some of the few beautiful places to visit in Kent, it was enough to make me want to return for a longer stay.
Kent Downs AONB
Kent Downs is an area of outstanding natural beauty, stretching from the Surrey Border to the White Cliffs of Dover and Folkestone. There are so many things to do in Kent Downs AOB, especially if you are a nature lover. There are fantastic trails passing through woods which are covered in bluebells in springtime, over chalk cliffs and coastal beaches, through nature reserves renewed for the varieties of orchids growing here, and even glow worms. There is a good chance that on one of these trails you will meet the local wildlife, such as deer, owls, or red kites.
70% of the woodland of Kent Downs AONB has been here since around 1600AD.
The villages in the Kent Downs AONB are great places to stop if you want to experience the local country life and its produce. The historical villages and churches in Kent Downs are a great alternative to the overcrowded Cotswolds, and make a nice break from the fast moving pace of London, or any big city.
The new Kent Experience Project is promoting sustainable tourism to the Kent Downs and the county itself, by connecting visitors with the tranquillity that nature offers, local small businesses and inspiring ethical activities.
Kent Downs AONB is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kent.
Botany Bay is a national hidden gem, with one of the most beautiful sandy beaches near London. Located on the tip of the Isle of Thanet, between Margate and Ramsgate, Botany Bay is known for its beautiful white cliffs, which were the backdrop for many music videos and films, such as Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back”.
There are plenty of things to do on a day trip to Botany Bay besides sunbathing and enjoying the gorgeous beach. During low tide a beautiful “path” appears between Botany Bay and Kingsgate Bay. This is the only time you can walk between the stacks of chalk cliffs, which become isolated once the water has gone.
The nearby Joss Bay, where it is highly recommended to park when you visit Botany Bay, is famous for its waves. Many people come here to learn how to surf or paddle board. Botany Bay is located along the Viking Coastal Trail, a circular 32 mile trail which can be either hiked or cycled.
If you are a golfer, the local golf club offers two 18 hole courses, with gorgeous views over the bay.
The White Cliffs of Dover
By Sophie from We Dream of Travel
Of all the beautiful places to see in Kent, the White Cliffs of Dover are perhaps the most iconic. Towering a mighty 350ft above sea level and extending 16 miles along the coast, these majestic chalk cliffs are a sight to behold.
The famous Dover cliffs have long been considered a symbol of hope and freedom in England. With their strategic position on the coast of the English Channel and their impenetrable nature, they have witnessed many significant events. From Stone Age Settlers to Roman invasions and the return of rescued soldiers during WW2, these spectacular chalk giants have been at the forefront of British history.
As well as a glimpse into the past, the White Cliffs of Dover offer a number of beautiful walks. Traversing the chalk grasslands atop the cliffs, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views over the vibrant blue waters of the English Channel. It is even possible to see France on a clear day.
One of the most popular routes is the South Foreland Lighthouse trail. This easy 4-mile return walk provides a scenic route to South Foreland Lighthouse from the National Trust car park. Along this trail you’ll likely pass grazing Exmoor ponies and fields of wild flowers. At the lighthouse you will find a quaint tea room offering an array of home baked goods and a nice cuppa to warm you up on the cooler days!
The White Cliffs of Dover also form part of many longer walks, including the England Coast Path (2795 miles), so there are also countless other trails on offer. However, no matter which trail you take, you will be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking scenery on offer in England.
By Claire from ClairePins Travels
Hever Castle and Gardens is located around 30 miles south east of London, and this Tudor style castle surrounded by remarkable gardens offers several fun activities for a day out in the countryside.
This castle was most famously the home of Anne Boleyn in her childhood, and it was extensively restored in the early 1900s by William Waldorf Astor. Cross the moat to enter the castle and you can tour several wood panelled rooms which display historic furniture, various tapestries and antiques, and a notable collection of Tudor portraits.
The 125-acre grounds are centred around a lake, which is best viewed from the classically designed loggia structure located within the Italian sculpture garden. You can also admire 4000 rose bushes in the fragrant English Rose garden during peak season from June until September. Gardeners will appreciate seasonal highlights like the snowdrops from mid to late February, the daffodil bloom in March and the beautiful spring tulips in April.
If you like to get out on the water, rent a rowboat or paddleboat to explore the lake and get a closer look at the reconstructed Japanese tea house on the water’s edge. An alternative is a walk around the lake which takes around 1 hour, and is a favourite choice for bird watchers.
Families with children might enjoy finding their way out of the traditional yew maze or getting splashed by the stepping stone water maze, just be sure to bring a towel to dry off! Archery and shield painting are available during the peak summer holiday season, and there is a year-round castle themed playground and nature area to encourage imaginative fun for younger visitors.
Tip: Jousting tournament re-enactments take place throughout the summer, and advance booking is recommended.
By Angela from Where Angie Wanders
Chiddingstone Castle is the perfect place to visit in Kent. It is one of many historical castles that are dotted around this county in South East England, but unlike its famous neighbours Leeds, Hever and Scotney castles, Chiddingstone is off the beaten track and therefore attracts less crowds.
Chiddingstone Castle started out as a manor house at the centre of the medieval village, and was remodelled in the 1800s to look like a castle, complete with turrets. The last owner, a collector of antiquities, filled the castle with artefacts from Egypt and Asia that can still be seen today. In fact, apart from the British Museum, Chiddingstone has the most important collection of Egyptian artefacts outside of Egypt.
The grounds surrounding the castle are delightful and the perfect place to enjoy a picnic, and spend time with friends and family. The grounds consist of a walled garden, lily-pad lake (fishing permitted with a permit), a small maze with views across the Kent Weald, and a woodland walk taking you to the Tudor village of Chiddingstone.
In the village, owned by the National Trust, you can see original Tudor framed houses and stop for refreshments in the 15th-century Castle Inn once frequented by Anne Boleyn’s father who owned the shop next door. Afterwards, walk a little further through the village passing the 17th-century church of St Mary’s to visit the Chiding Stone, said to be a place of worship by the Druids and the place from which the castle and village takes its name.
By Elina from Empnefsys & Travel
Leeds Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in England. The large moat that surrounds it and its beautiful green spaces attract people from all over the country.
The castle is located close to Maidstone and near Leeds village. To get there by public transport you need to use one of the nearby stations, then either take the bus, or walk. The train and bus option involves making your way to Bearsted or Ashford stations, then taking the bus to Leeds Castle. The closest train station to walk there from (~30mins) is Hollingbourne.
Visitors to the castle have a variety of things to do, and can easily spend a day (or more) there. From castle exhibitions detailing the history of the place to falconry displays, to outdoor activities, there is something for the whole family.
Nature lovers can walk around the numerous gardens in the castle grounds, or take a boat tour around the castle’s moat. At the same time, wildlife lovers can try spotting some of the animals and birds that live there. Last but not least, adventure lovers can try the tee top adventure or go on a Segway tour.
If you want to have more time to explore this magnificent place, consider booking accommodation for a few nights on the castle’s grounds. There are holiday cottages, bed and breakfast and glamping options to choose from. Your stay becomes complete with afternoon tea and evening dinner at the castle’s restaurant.
By Jamie from Travel Addict
Scotney Castle is a fantastic attraction to visit in Kent, and is an underrated castle and destination. It is located in Tunbridge Wells and is a magnificent example of a Victorian folly.
The estate is managed by the National Trust and features not one, but two castles. The “New” Castle was built in 1843 to replace the Old Castle that dates back to 1380. The owners went a step further and purposefully ruined the Old Castle in order to turn it into a folly and a feature within their expansive gardens.
The estate of Scotney Castle is a fantastic place to visit in Kent. Not only does it have the two castles to visit, with fantastic exhibits in the “New” Castle, it also has expansive gardens and land which can be explored. It’s perfect for a day out, or even a picnic, with the charming scenery and fairytale nature of the folly itself. With over 780 acres of land to explore across the entirety of the estate, there’s plenty to do and see at Scotney Castle.
A variety of events happen at the castle all year round. In recent years the castle grounds also played host to theatre productions, most notably Shakesparian plays.
Tip: Why not pack a picnic and enjoy the view a bit longer? The fields, the woodlands, and the gardens all make a great spot for a picnic and a day out.
By Jessie from Pocket Wanderings
Whitstable is a traditional fishing town that is famous for its annual oyster festival and fresh seafood. With its pastel-coloured shop fronts and cute beach huts, it’s a picture-perfect seaside town. Add to that a welcoming community feel and a strong cultural scene, and it’s easy to see why Whitstable is such a popular UK bucket list destination.
Stroll along the pebble beach while eating your ice cream and pick your favourite beach hut. Wander around the quaint town and peruse the various shopping outlets, including independent stores, quirky boutiques, and legendary charity shops. The town has an arty side too, with a number of intriguing galleries.
In terms of food, you simply cannot leave without treating yourself to fish and chips on the beach. If you’re a fan of oysters then you’ll be spoilt for choice, with a plethora of fresh options available. There’s The Forge on the seafront, or The Whitstable Oyster Company for a more formal restaurant experience. Another appeal of the town is that Whitstable West Beach is one of the very few beaches in the UK with a pub. Called the Old Neptune, it is one of the most picturesque pints you’ll have!
Unsurprisingly, for such an appealing little town Whitstable can get extremely busy, especially during weekends, bank holidays and when the weather is hot. Try to avoid these peak times where possible, and you’ll find a calming seaside oasis.
By Kat from Wandering Bird
If you’re planning a road trip to Kent, you need to include Canterbury in your itinerary.
This medieval city has one of the most famous (and beautiful) cathedrals in the UK, as well as more historical and religious buildings than you can possibly see in one visit.
Founded in 597 A.D, Canterbury began as a pilgrimage destination during the Middle Ages. Now, it is the home of the Church of England and the city is full of important religious sites- which is why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The biggest (in more ways than one) is Canterbury Cathedral, easy to spot from miles away, and well worth a visit to see inside. It’s a working Church, and is closed to visitors during services, so time your visit well.
If you want to see even older structures, head to St Augustine’s Abbey, which dates back to 613 AD!
For less religious, but no less historic offerings, make time to see the Westgate Towers, England’s largest medieval gateway, built around 640 years ago. You can also visit Eastbridge Hospital, the hospital of the Pilgrims, which dates back to 1190.
As well as all this incredible history, there are plenty more modern activities in Canterbury. The cobbled streets in the centre are lined with modern shops (and some unique boutiques), and there are plenty of pubs and restaurants to relax and unwind in.
By Caroline from CK Travels
Margate is one of Britain’s most famous beach resorts, located on the north coast of Kent. This Victorian seaside town has had a recent hipster renaissance which draws many day trippers from London, and is sometimes referred to as ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’.
There are many things to do in Margate, and the main draw is the large sandy beach which gets packed with sunbathers on sunny summer weekends. However, one of the biggest attractions in town is the renovated retro theme park Dreamland, with its colourful fairground rides and roller disco. Built in 1870, it was lovingly restored with £25m of Heritage Lottery Funds and re-opened in 2015 after being closed for 15 years. In the summer months Dreamland also hosts festivals, gigs and other popular events.
Margate also has a growing arts scene and The Turner Contemporary art gallery is a recent addition to the town, with a combination of permanent and temporary exhibitions (and free entry).
The busy main strip that runs parallel to the beach is filled with numerous ice cream and fish and chips shops and amusement arcades, but if you head further inland you’ll find a charming town centre with narrow streets. Here you’ll find a number of vintage shops selling retro clothes, furniture and homewares, plus many cute independent cafes and boutique B&Bs.
By Tracey from Pack the PJs
Ramsgate is a coastal town, with a famous harbour, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kent. Ramsgate Harbour or Royal Harbour, Ramsgate serves smaller working and pleasure crafts. It was opened in 1850 and has some fine Victorian architecture including a clock tower, harbour buildings, port offices and light houses. It has seen a lot of history including what must be its finest hour, as a staging post for the Little Ships of Dunkirk. In 1940, during the Second World War, about 850 private boats sailed from Ramsgate to Dunkirk in northern France (26 May and 4 June) as part of Operation Dynamo. Their selfless action helped to rescue more than 336,000 British and Allied soldiers who were surrounded on the beaches at Dunkirk. The Sundowner is one of those little ships and can still be visited at Ramsgate harbour. Surrounding the harbour are some lovely cafes and restaurants, including the Little Ships Restaurant and Café.
Close to the harbour are the Ramsgate Tunnels, a wartime complex of tunnels that formed an effective air raid shelter for the town’s population in WWII. The tunnels were initially born from the disused Ramsgate Cliff Railway. The restructuring of railway lines in Ramsgate in 1926, led to the line between Broadstairs and Ramsgate Harbour, including a tunnel to the seafront at Ramsgate, forming an independent line. Except for two stations at each end of the tunnel, the line was underground. It was open for three years before being converted to a major air-raid shelter during World War II. The complex runs under the town through the limestone cliffs and during wartime service, provided protection for some 60,000 people.
Ramsgate is a great destination for a long weekend in Kent; there’s a good choice of hotels and self-catering accommodation. The town centre lies one road inland from the harbour, so everywhere is within walking distance.
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