Kent, ‘the garden of England’ has many popular historic tourist attractions which are ideal for family days out during the holidays.
Kent Tourist Attractions
- Bewl Water
- Brands Hatch
- Chiddingstone Castle
- Knole House
- Leeds Castle
- Penshurst Place and Gardens
- Squerryes Court & Gardens
- Hop Farm Country Park
- Tonbridge Castle
Bewl Water, Kent
The largest stretch of open water in south east England, Bewl Water is a truly outstanding venue for outdoor education and activity courses. Located in the heart of the High Weald on the Kent and Sussex border, Bewl Water is situated among an area of outstanding natural beauty. This picturesque location features a variety of wildlife and a stunning natural rock formation, as well as the reservoir meaning it can cater for a variety of activities. Windsurfing, sailing, canoeing, power boating, fishing, cycling and walking, there is so much to do at Bewl Water.
With a number of courses run by a team of caring, friendly and highly qualified professionals and using excellent equipment, learning new skills or refining old ones at Bewl Water is an easy and enjoyable experience. Whatever course you choose your experience will be second to none. Every single course is carefully designed to enable you to fulfil your true potential. Catering for school trips, teambuilding exercises and featuring a fascinating interactive exhibition and gift shop, as well as a water efficient garden, it is not surprising that Bewl Water is one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions.
Address: Bewl Water Outdoor Centre, Bewl Water, Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8JH
Official Website: www.bewlwater.co.uk
Brands Hatch, Kent
The Royal Oak Hotel enjoys a close proximity to the world famous Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. With events taking place on weekends during the motorsport season from small club series to major international races such as the A1 Grand Prix and World Touring Car Championship, Brands Hatch is a must visit for petrol heads!
Only 15 minutes away via the M25, why not enjoy a track day in your own car, or just enjoy race day before retiring to the relaxing comforts of the Royal Oak Hotel. Please ask reception for more details.
Address: Brands Hatch Circuit, Fawkham, Longfield, Kent DA3 8NG
Official Website: www.motorsportvision.co.uk/brands-hatch
Chiddingstone Castle, Kent
Situated in a beautiful Kent location within 35 acres of grounds and with a history that can be traced back to the early 1500s, Chiddingstone Castle is one of the county’s hidden treasures. A member of the Historic Houses Association of Great Britain, the castle was ooriginally a medieval manor and at the beginning of the 18th century it was rebuilt as a Carolean mansion in the style of a castle, with towers, arched windows and a gatehouse structure. Owned and lived in by a comprehensive mix of people and families during its life, in the past the Castle has been a school and headquarters to Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War.
Nowadays the castle houses one of the most varied collections of Egyptian antiquities in private ownership in the UK, bringing to life many aspects of ancient Egyptian culture. Featuring artifacts from the Pre-Dynastic to Ptolemaic periods, the exhibition guides you through the daily lives of ancient Egyptians, their professions, the roles played by the pharaohs and the gods, and their perceptions of death and the afterlife. Objects on display include: the beautiful “shabti” figures, which would have been placed in the tombs of the deceased as companions or workers for the dead in the afterlife and a 5000 year old funerary boat which also would have been placed in a tomb for transport for the deceased to Abydos. There is also a mummified cat surviving from approximately 150 BC on display. Chiddingstone Castle features a stunning collection of Japanese lacquer, swords, armour and fine art, acknowledged as one of the finest in Europe. There is also a fine Buddhist collection consisting of Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese Buddhist statues, ceremonial musical instruments, incense burners, shrines, charms, prayer wheels, Tibetan temple banners, and t’ankas.
Chiddingstone Castle has a fine collection of Stuart paintings and Stuart and Jacobite including Stuart manuscripts and autographed letters, Jacobite memorabilia, portrait miniatures, tobacco and snuff boxes, medals and coins, and books. Chiddingstone Castle’s charming location deep in the Kent countryside attracts many who want to explore the extensive and picturesque Grade II listed gardens and perhaps enjoy a picnic, those who want to admire the castle and those who want to enjoy a spot of fishing on the 3.5 acre lake, naturally stocked with Bream, Perch and Carp, where responsible Fishermen are welcomed. There are also many regular events held at Chiddingstone Castle such as Easter hunts, farmers markets and art classes, and there is also a charming cafe / tearoom and small shop. Whatever your interests, Chiddingstone Castle is simply a delight and a great day out for the whole family.
Address: Chiddingstone Castle, Hill Hoath Road, Chiddingstone, Kent TN8 7AD
Official Website: www.chiddingstonecastle.org.uk
Hever Castle, Kent
Located in the small village of Hever in Kent is Hever Castle – an attractive fortified manor house surrounded by a moat and set within 125 acres of gardens. The original castle was built in 1270 and consisted of a massive gatehouse and walled bailey which is approached by a wooden drawbridge.
In the early 1500s the Bullen family bought the castle, added a Tudor dwelling within the walls and it became the childhood home of its most famous inhabitant, Anne Boleyn, future wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I. After she was executed by Henry VIII, the castle was later passed into the ownership of his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. She remained at Hever Castle until her death in 1557, when the castle was bought by the Waldegraves. Since 1983, the castle has been owned by Broadland Properties Limited and open to the public.
Hever Castle has a warm and homely atmosphere and houses historic 16th century Tudor portraits, furniture and tapestries. A recently acquired rare 16th century portrait of Catherine Howard, the 5th wife of Henry VIII hangs in the Long Gallery alongside a temporary exhibition ‘Losing Your Head Over Henry’. Also in the Long Gallery are figures in costume of Henry VIII and his six wives.
Other artefacts include two Anne Boleyn Books of Hours, personal prayer books, both signed and inscribed by Anne Boleyn and in the thirteenth century gatehouse; the Council Chamber contains collections of historic swords, armour, instruments of execution and torture. Comprehensive information on the history of Hever Castle can be found in the guide book and audio tours which are available from the Hever Shop, Visitor Centre or castle entrance.
Outside visitors can explore the wonderful 125 acre gardens, laid out between 1904 and 1908 by Joseph Cheal & Son which includes a series of separate gardens. One of these is the magnificent Italian Garden, designed to display William Waldorf Astor’s collection of Italian sculpture on a 30 acre plot of classical and natural landscape with over 3,000 plants. The Tudor Garden, Rhododendron Walk and Anne Boleyn’s Walk with its collection of trees planted over 100 years ago, are all ideal for a stroll through.
Around the gardens are many water features and a fairly recent Millennium Fountain which can be found on Sixteen Acre Island. The gardens contain many activities to keep all amused. The enclosed wooden adventure playground is suitable for children up to the age of 14 and is guaranteed to keep the children entertained.
The Yew Maze was planted in 1906, is one of only a few traditionally designed mazes in the country and measures eighty feet by eighty feet. Its hedges reach eight feet in height and there is almost a quarter of a mile of pathways inside. There is also a splashing water maze, built on Sixteen Acre Island which consists of a series of stepping stone walkways sitting over water. The stones tilt when stood on and hidden water jets spring into action to soak the unwary visitor. The aim is to reach the stone grotto in the centre without getting wet and this unique feature is especially popular with the children. Rowing boats are available to hire so that you can enjoy the huge lake and throughout the year Hever Castle hosts a number of special events including gardening events and Jousting Tournaments each summer.
Address: Hever Castle, Hever, near Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7NG
Official Website: www.hevercastle.co.uk
Knole House, Sevenoaks
Located opposite the Royal Oak Hotel, Knole House is set in a magnificent 1,000-acre deer park and is one of England’s greatest show houses. Built between 1456 and 1486, the beautiful house boasts a rare collection of Royal Stuart furniture, important portraits by Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Reynolds, important 17th-century tapestries and was the birthplace of novelist and poet Vita Sackville-West.
When viewed from a distance, Knole appears much like a small village, and the deer park is the only remaining medieval deer park and considered a site of special scientific interest. The complex and beautiful house which has links with royalty and literary connections, features thirteen superb rooms laid out much as they were in the 18th century as to impress visitors with the wealth of the Sackville family, who still live here. This is a fantastic place for the whole family and the hotel can arrange special tours for guests.
Address: Knole House, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 0RP
Official Website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/kent/knole
Leeds Castle, Kent
Leeds Castle is located on two islands on the River Len in the heart of Kent. It passed into royal hands in 1278 and became part of the Queen of England’s dower – the settlement widowed queens received upon the death of their husbands. For over 1000 years it has been home to royalty, lords and ladies and a visit will transported you through 900 years of the castle’s history; an eclectic mix of period architecture, sumptuous interiors and family treasures waiting to be discovered.
A beautiful parkland surrounds the castle featuring 2 gardens ‘The Culpeper Garden’ and ‘The Lady Baillie Garden’, the Aviary – home to exotic birds, The Knights’ Realm adventure playground for children and the Castle Craft Cafe. Also in the grounds is the maze and grotto, created in 1988, a smaller children’s maze, a vineyard, museum devoted to dog collars – the only one of its kind in Great Britain and a pay & play golf course.
The public 9 hole 2681 yard golf course is open nearly every day was built on the Leeds Castle Estate in 192. Golf lessons are also available. There is a vast amount to do at Leeds Castle, and as well as the above facilities, there is a lively events calendar throughout the year featuring events such as Henry VIII’s Royal Jousting Tournament, theatre production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and the Tudor Flower Festival.
Address: Leeds Castle, Maidstone, Kent ME17 1PL
Official Website: www.leeds-castle.com
Penshurst Place and Gardens, Kent
Set in rural Kent in the small village of Penshurst, surrounded by picturesque countryside and parkland, the mediaeval Penshurst Place and Gardens has changed little over the centuries. Dating from 1341, the house, built of local sandstone, features a magnificent Barons Hall and retains the warmth and character of a family home.
One of the finest examples of 14th century architecture, the state-rooms are filled with a remarkable collection of tapestries, paintings, furniture, porcelain and armour. A new exhibition for 2007 was the ‘From Daguerreotype to Digital – Photographs from the Sidney Family Photographic Exhibition’ which was a look into the photo collections of the Sidney family from the past 150 years.
The ten acres of garden at Penshurst Place were designed to be a garden for all seasons and the original terraces and walls of the 16th century are still retained. The individual garden rooms were created in the 19th century by planting a mile of yew hedge.
The Venture Playground with its high walkway, slide and appropriate safety features is ideal to keep the children amused, and The Garden Tea Room, adjacent to the house will provide you with daily refreshments.
Situated in a converted 19th century barn is the spacious Gift Shop which has a wide range of items such as books, gifts, toys, greetings cards, souvenirs and a special Christmas shop, open in November and December.
Next to the Gift Shop is the Plant Centre offering a variety of seasonal plants, with Christmas trees and estate grown mistletoe available at Christmas.
Opened in 1970, the Toy Museum contains a wonderful assortment of toys mostly from the Victorian and Edwardian eras and is a treasure trove of memories. Toys on display include: dolls, dolls’ houses, teddies, soldiers, mechanical toys and general playthings, a Georgian doll ‘Moggie’ and the Noah’s Ark, made by Napoleonic prisoners of war.
There is also an excellent collection of toys from a bygone age within the house too. At Penshurst Place and Gardens there is a full events programme throughout the season such as a visit from Monty Python’s Terry Jones, Gardens Week with a series of events, including a talk from BBC Plant expert Tom Hart Dyke from nearby Lullingstone’s World Garden and many family activities during school holidays.
Address: Penshurst Place & Gardens, Penshurst, Kent TN11 8DG
Official Website: www.penshurstplace.com
Squerryes Court & Gardens, Kent
A beautiful 17th century manor house built in 1681; the magnificent residence of Squerryes Court has been the Warde family home since 1731 and sits within 20 acres of attractive and historic gardens. The attractive gardens feature thousands of daffodils, carpets of bluebells and old roses, and the grounds have fine views to the hills beyond. The grounds also feature a lake, restored parterres and an 18th century dovecote. Inside the house is an important collection of Italian, 18th century English and 17th century Dutch paintings, furniture, porcelain and tapestries acquired and commissioned by the Warde family in the 18th century. John Warde purchased 93 of these paintings in the space of 25 years.
The Wolfe Room features items connected with General Wolfe of Quebec, a friend of the family, and there are guided tours of the house lasting around an hour. There is a small shop and free car parking also and at just 22 miles from London and with easily access from the M25, Squerryes Court & Gardens is easily accessible. Visitors travel from far and wide to enjoy the atmosphere of Squerryes Court house which is still lived in as a family home, and is well worth a visit to enjoy the peaceful garden surroundings and historic house.
Address: Squerryes Court, Westerham, Kent TN16 1SJ
Official Website: www.squerryes.co.uk
Hop Farm Country Park, Kent
The Hop Farm Country Park is one of Kent’s most popular tourist attractions and was once a working Hop farm. Set within 400 acres of unspoilt Kent countryside, the picturesque setting is ideal for a relaxing and interesting family day out in the Garden of England. The award winning visitor attraction features a number of new attractions and facilities including new play areas and exhibitions. At the Animal Farm you can meet a friendly assortment of animals including llamas, baby reindeer, sheep, ducks, chickens and all manner of farmyard animals with a ‘daily encounter session’.
Children can learn about some of their favourite animals in an interactive way. The newly opened ‘Legends in Wax’ exhibition features over 70 wax figures of movie, TV, music and sports stars. It provides a real insight into iconic characters of the past and present and will appeal to visitors of all ages. There is also the Torture Cellar, full of sounds, shocks and surprises – it’s not for the faint hearted! The new Interactive Hop Story Museum gives an insight into the process of Hop picking at The Hop Farm. See what daily life was like for those who worked here as the story of Hop picking is brought alive. Yesterday’s Village is a life size recreation of a bygone village with shops and genuine artefacts for you to enjoy. The is also a Military Vehicles Exhibition which contains an impressive collection of military tanks and vehicles.
There are a wide range of attractions for children. The Children’s Driving School is ideal for kids from 5 to 10 years old. Watch as they learn to drive around in their own mini cars along a fun-size track. They will even learn Highway Code basics such as tackling roundabouts and stopping at the traffic lights and therefore is an excellent way to get your kids thinking about safe driving practices in their early years. The Happy Hoppers Indoor Play Barn is an indoor adventure play area for under 11s to let off steam in a safe environment while their parents enjoy a well deserved drink and a snack from the café. There is also a separate area for toddlers and under 5’s, with toilets and baby changing facilities. Outside is the new outdoor adventure play area featuring rope ladders, slides, wobbly bridges and balance beams providing endless amusement for children of all ages. There is a Mini Fairground with a carousel, children’s train and rodeo horses, The Magic Factory, Outdoor Play Shops and Jumping Pillows for children and adults to enjoy!
The Pottery and Craft Centre is situated next to the outdoor play area and gives you a chance to take home your own hand-made souvenir from The Hop Farm. Prices start from just £1 and include the equipment needed to paint and varnish the pottery. If you would rather but your souvenir, there is a well-stocked gift shop with items for less than £1. There are on-site catering facilities offering a selection of refreshments and meals as well as picnic facilities for when the weather is fine. Other facilities that are bound to keep the children amused are the crazy golf, paddling pool, bouncy castle and with over 30 special events throughout the year, The Hop Farm provides a great day out for all ages.
Address: The Hop Farm Family Park, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, Kent TN12 6PY
Official Website: www.thehopfarm.co.uk
Tonbridge Castle, Kent
The 11th century Tonbridge Castle in Kent was originally built in 1070 and was designed to protect the Norman invaders from a restive native population. Used as a quarry in its passed, it was not until the 1950s that the castle was thought worth restoring, and in 1992 the castle opened as a tourist attraction.
Surrounded by 14 acres of beautiful grounds, Tonbridge Castle boasts Kent’s best example of a Motte-and-Bailey Gatehouse which is among the finest in England. The castle is owned and operated by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council and has 900 years of rich English history featuring kings and archbishops, tyrants and heroes, murderers and mercenaries.
On a Gatehouse tour the castles history will come alive and you can experience what it would have been like to be a Lord or Lady 700 years ago. Take a 1 hour audio tour that incorporates interactive displays and life-size figures to create a vivid recreation of the sights, sounds and excitement of the 13th Century castle life. The audio tour is available in English, French, Dutch and German. Tonbridge Castle is only 8 miles from Hever Castle which is well worth a look.
Address: Tonbridge Castle, Castle Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1BG
Official Website: www.tonbridgecastle.org