by Janis / 0 comments - Orginally published:21st February 2023

Exploring the ‘Garden of England’

Okay, so I may be a little biased as I live in Kent. Still, there are so many beautiful towns and villages to discover in and around the Kent countryside and along the distinct Kent coastline.

Weaving your way amongst the unique Kentish oast houses or trundling by towering hop-bines, it’s such a pleasure exploring Kent. There’s a joy in knowing there will be another quaint Kent village around the next corner to uncover.

Often the smaller picturesque villages are off the main routes through Kent, so deviate off the well-trodden path and unearth a slice of local knowledge.

Although it’s not just Kent’s pretty villages that embrace intriguing tales, we’ve discovered many charming Kentish towns that also conceal a curious historical past.

Why not Pin it for later?

While touring around Kent, why not visit a castle or 14, have a browse through our two posts on Kent’s ancient castles. In part one, you’ll have a taster of Hever Castle, Scotney Castle and Dover Castle. In part two, we discover a further seven of Kent’s historic castles. We include Rochester Castle, Sissinghurst Castle Garden and Walmer Castle.

So, not to keep you guessing anymore, below are our first 8 charming towns and villages to be discovered in Kent. Keep a lookout for our subsequent posts, where I’ll reveal further gems.

Where are the 8 charming locations in Kent?

We'll be discovering the following;
You can click on the link to jump to the section, and to return, just click on the title.

The picturesque village of Lenham is located around 10 miles east of Kent’s County town of Maidstone.

You'll be taken aback as soon as you arrive in Lenham’s charming timber-framed village square; it is so attractive. Lenham was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and was granted its original Market Charter by King John in 1206.

The crossroads at Lenham village square in Kent featuring historic buildings including the Red Lion pub
The crossroads at Lenham village square

Surrounding the welcoming market square are many listed buildings housing delightful cafés, a local greengrocer, an irresistible bakery, and a couple of very tempting inns you won’t want to leave.

You feel like daily life in Lenham has revolved around this exquisite village square for centuries, and to be perfectly honest, I think you would be correct.

The 17th-century Dog and Bear Hotel in Lenham, that was once a coaching inn on this historic road.
17th-century Dog and Bear Hotel, Lenham

When strolling around Lenham and discovering its fascinating history, you get the sense that it has a truly warm communal atmosphere. Keep a lookout for the tiny 18th-century chapel that was once the parish gaol.

We visited Lenham as part of our road trip around the Kent Downs (AONB); however, I would undoubtedly revisit for a longer mooch around.

Where to stay in Lenham

The Dog and Bear Hotel
Located in the picturesque market square of Lenham. They offer cosy, stylish bedrooms, open fireplaces, and local seasonal fare in their traditional restaurant.

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Heading to the picturesque village of Eynsford is a true blast from the past for me, as I used to visit here with my family in the 70s.

It may have an air of nostalgia for me; however, as soon as you arrive at Eynsford and see the delightful ford that sits at the feet of the ancient single-lane bridge, you’ll understand why Eynsford holds so many memories

A mothers & children wading in the ford, next to the old stone bridge, at Eynsford in Kent
Enjoying Eynsford ford

Amazingly Eynsford is only 2.5 miles from the M25; you’d believe that this idyllic setting was in the heart of the Kent countryside. What’s not to love about paddling in the water on a hot summer’s day?

Eynsford has some beautiful architecture, too, with timber-framed homes dotted through the village and eye-catching white weatherboarded houses with manicured English country gardens. It’s a true pleasure strolling around Eynsford.

Along with the family butchers and local village store, Eynsford has its fair share of pubs; you won’t go thirsty with four inns to visit.
Eynsford War Memorial on the High Street alongside historic white weatherboarded homes.
Eynsford War Memorial

If you love ancient history, you’ll also find the ruins of Eynsford Castle, just off the High Street. Eynsford Castle is managed by English Heritage and is free to visit.

We visited the delightful village of Eynsford during our Darent Valley road trip. Just a couple of miles from Eynsford are the lovely villages of Farningham and Shoreham. The two villages are fairly small but most certainly worth visiting.

We have created a little YouTube video of our Darenth Valley road trip, that features Eynsford.  Why not take a look?

Where to stay in Eynsford

Castle Hotel
Is in the delightful village of Eynsford; it is located in the heart of the village, with Eynsford Castle opposite. The rooms are beautifully decorated, and if you are driving, they have an onsite free car park.

Tempted to?

Discover more of the Great British Isles; why not jump in a car and tour the country at your own pace. You can do it all on a road trip; Rental Cars cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

I love visiting Hythe; it’s so different from many coastal towns.

Of course, you’ll have the hungry seagulls soaring high above and the delightful scent of fish and chips doused in lashings of vinegar, but you’ll also have the welcoming feel of a community town.

A beach scene from Hythe with fishing boats landed on the shale, and the Martello Towers in the background
Martello Tower on the shore at Hythe
The coastal town of Hythe still has its working fishing boats hauled upon the pebbly beach, a lovely promenade with far-stretching views across the English Channel. However, if you stroll inland, crossing the Royal Military Canal, you’ll discover Hythe’s charming High Street.
The 28-mile Royal Military Canal offers quite a unique character to Hythe. It was built as a defence against Napoleon’s troops and meanders from Seabrook near Folkestone in the east to Hastings in the southwest.
A small covered motorboat heading along the Royal Military Canal in Hythe, Kent
The Military Canal in Hythe

Another reason I enjoyed exploring the Cinque Port town of Hythe was to visit the Ossuary at St Leonard’s Church, high above the town. The crypt houses Britain's largest collection of ancient human skulls and bones. Within the four arched bays are around 1,200 skulls.

Hythe is also the beginning of the line for the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch miniature railway. Hop aboard and take a leisure train ride to the bizarre and unusual headland of Dungeness.

Where to stay in Hythe

Hythe Imperial Hotel, Spa & Golf
This charming 4-star Victorian hotel is nestled within 44-acres of land with views across the English Channel. It offers spacious rooms and spa facilities.

The Old Post Office
Boutique Guesthouse
Located in Hythe Old Town's heart, is within a few steps of historic inns and a selection of local restaurants.
If you’re visiting Hythe by car, why not embark on one of our road trips. Our Kent coastline road trip takes you from Margate to Dungeness along the stunning Kent coastline, and another takes you on a road trip around the striking landscape of Romney Marsh.

We have a new little book on our shelves that we delve into when we're heading to the coast.

Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different counties of England.  It tells tales of the history of the shoreline that surrounds our country.

Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves the English seaside.

The pretty little village of Smarden is deep in the heart of the Kent countryside and just a few miles from the haunted village of Pluckley. The heart-warming TV comedy-drama, ‘The Darling Buds of May’, was filmed in the lush Pluckley region of Kent.

I instantly fell in love with Smarden, and to be honest, I think I could live there. The striking timber-framed cottages and white weather-boarded homes were enchanting along with their striking English country gardens.

A beautiful black and white half-timbered period building with a red tiled roof. It is now home to the Chequers Inn on the High Street in Smarden Kent
The Chequers Inn on The Street, Smarden
Within the attractive lanes of Smarden are half-timbered Cloth Halls reminding us of the historic local weaving industry in Kent. Here you’ll also discover the ancient church of St Michael the Archangel. The church is sometimes known as "The Barn of Kent" due to its high scissor beam roof.

Inside the church is a copy of the Royal Charter granted to Smarden by King Edward III in 1333 and then further ratified by Queen Elizabeth I in 1576.

We visited Smarden as part of our Kent countryside road trip, including a visit to Tenterden and Cranbrook.

Where to stay in Smarden

The Chequers Inn, Smarden
This charming 14th-century coaching inn is full of character; it has a welcoming, cosy bar and exposed wooden beams and serves delicious food.

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

The charming market town of Faversham is located in north Kent and is home to Britain’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame, established in 1698.

Within the attractive town of Faversham, you’ll find many beautiful buildings lining the pedestrian streets. It’s fun visiting Faversham during one of their bustling market days, or you can decide to visit Faversham when the lanes are quieter; either way, it is a lovely place to wander around.

The pale green historic Faversham Guildhall stands proudly in the centre of the Market Square displaying a Union Flag fluttering on a bright sunny day.
Faversham Guildhall in Market Place

I particularly enjoyed the architecture around Faversham’s Market Place, where its eye-catching stilted Guildhall is located. It’s here, amongst the sturdy wooden pillars and the well-trodden paving stones, that Faversham’s Charter Market is held every week.

Just off the main square, you’ll discover West Street, this narrow pedestrian street is full of character. Centuries-old timber-framed dwellings lovingly cared for and charming homes painted in an array of pastel colours.

Once you’ve explored Faversham’s main town centre, take a stroll down Abbey Street, to the north of town; this historical road is full of charming Medieval dwellings. This ancient little region of Faversham was once the home of Faversham Abbey, founded by King Stephen in 1148.
The old brick Oyster Bay House on Standard Quay in Faversham, Kent
Oyster Bay House, Standard Quay

Faversham just keeps on giving, so continue down Abbey Street and left onto Abbey Road; believe me, you won’t be disappointed, as you’ll arrive at Standard Quay. Faversham’s Medieval Creekside, which for over 500 years was a bustling maritime port full of sailors and sea merchants.

This region of Faversham is amazing; the ancient Monk’s Granary and Victorian warehouses in Standard Quay would have witnessed many comings and goings. Now the quayside has welcoming restaurants, antique warehouses, local butchers and fishmongers.

Where to stay in Faversham

The Sun Inn
If a historic stay is what you are after, then the 14th-century Sun Inn is for you. Inglenook fireplaces, charming courtyard garden and cask ales from the local Shepherd Neame brewery.

The Judds Folly Hotel
This comfortable hotel is located 5-minutes’ drive from Faversham in peaceful off-road surroundings. An on-site restaurant is available, and also free parking.

Upnor, or Upper Upnor, is a small village on the banks of the River Medway. What this delightful village lacks in size, Upnor is richly outweighed by its charm and character.

You’ll also find in Upnor on the shores of the River Medway, Upnor Castle. This ancient castle is managed by English Heritage and is such a pleasure to visit; Upnor Castle has a very interesting past. You’ll particularly be interested if you are Dutch.

The cobbled high street in Upnor, lined with historic brick-built houses, leading towards the River Medway on a sunny day.
Upnor High Street
Prior to visiting the castle, you have the enjoyment of strolling down the cobble-stoned lane of Upnor High Street. This is an incredibly attractive little street, and it is so well hidden away. You truly feel like you’ve stumbled upon a secret location you’ll want to keep to yourself.
Upnor wouldn’t look out of place on a period drama movie set. Charismatic stone cottages and white weatherboarding historic homes lead you through the riverside village, down the lane to the flowing heart of this Kent region, the River Medway.

We have created a little YouTube video of Upnor.  Why not take a look?

Also, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

As you would imagine, Lower Upnor is very close to Upnor (or Upper Upnor). Lower Upnor may not be as quaint as Upnor; however, it’s a lovely village to visit for its nautical charm and quirky character.

Throughout Lower Upnor are references to its maritime past, including HMS Arethusa figurehead; she was mounted on the bow of the Royal Navy ship in 1849 and witnessed action first-hand at the Crimean War in 1854.

A brightly painted figurehead from HMS Arethusa of a red-headed woman, wearing a blue dress with a breast exposed
HMS Arethusa figurehead
A metre-high stone marker from the 18th-Century of the limits of the charter rights for London Fishermen
The 18th-century London Boundary Stone

Wandering further along the river, you’ll also see two London Stones. The London Stones are boundary stones and can be spotted at various points along the River Thames and the River Medway.

Lower Upnor only has a small stretch of shoreline. Still, you can enjoy the views along the Medway and grab a spot of lunch at one of its two riverside pubs.

We visited Upnor and Lower Upnor as part of our Medway Valley road trip, which also included a visit to Rochester.

Escape for a few days

Are you looking for that ‘perfick’ holiday hideaway to relax in while you discover the Garden of England?

After a day exploring the Kent coast and its many historic castles enjoy one of the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

The characterful village of Headcorn is deep in the heart of Kent in the lush Low Weald region and lies around 10 miles south of Maidstone. Headcorn is a bustling village, full of charm and felt extremely welcoming.

Like so many villages, the community revolves around the local church. The parish church in Headcorn is St Peter and Paul, located at the far end of the High Street. Stroll along Church Walk and admire the quintessentially English cottages with their floral gardens and scented rambling roses; it is so pretty.

Looking across the High Street to ‘The Chequers’ and Shakespeare's house, behind the village War Memorial
The Chequers’ & Shakespeare House

Headcorn’s High Street is a delight to meander through; it begins with the unique Cloth Halls, which you occasionally see dotted around the Kent countryside. The exquisite timber-framed Cloth Halls played an important role in the county. They were initially occupied by Flemish cloth makers.

In the 14th-century, during the reign of King Edward III, Kent saw an influx in the immigration of workers from Flanders. With them they brought their invaluable knowledge of weaving and cloth-making, and the Weald region of Kent began to thrive.

A traditional butchers next to a traditional bakers on the High Street in Headcorn
Hollamby’s Butcher & Home Bake Bakers

What I enjoyed about Headcorn’s High Street were so many independent shops. Obviously, you can’t stop the evolution of time, and modern-day shops creep in. However, Headcorn is standing its ground; there were wonderful family-run butchers and bakers, tempting cafés and inns, a hardware store and even a guitar shop, to name a few.

Ensure you pop by Home Bake Bakery and pick up the local sweet delicacy of Kent, a Gypsy Tart.

We visited Headcorn as part of our Kent countryside road trip.

Where to stay in Headcorn

The Chequers Inn, Smarden
This charming 14th-century coaching inn is located 3 miles from Headcorn. The inn is full of character has a welcoming, cosy bar and exposed wooden beams.

Weald of Kent Golf Course
and Hotel
Located in quiet countryside surroundings and only 1.7 miles from Headcorn, offering peaceful, comfortable rooms.

Chiddingstone village is extremely unique, as it is almost entirely managed by the National Trust and is free to visit.

This exquisite Tudor village is an ordinary day-to-day village lived in by National Trust tenants; therefore, respect should be shown to its locals regarding parking and noise.

Half-timbered Tudor houses and shops on the High Street of the National Trust Chiddingstone village in Kent
Chiddingstone High Street

Chiddingstone High Street is incredibly quaint, the tiny cobble-stoned one-street village is one of the oldest in Kent, and what it lacks in size, it makes up ten-fold in charm and character.

The stunning timber-framed Tudor dwellings are exceptional and lovingly cared for by the National Trust residents. Chiddingstone is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, which was completed by the order of William the Conqueror.

Just a short hop from Chiddingstone village is Chiddingstone Castle which houses the private art and antique collection of Denys Eyre Bower. The fascinating artefacts you can see today include pieces from Japan and Egypt and items from the Stuart and Jacobite periods.

We visited Chiddingstone as part of our Historic Kent road trip in and around Westerham. Which also included a visit to Westerham, Chartwell and Hever Castle.

Hiking and cycling around the Kent countryside

If you fancy exploring the surrounding footpaths and bridleways around these magnificent Kent castles, then why not download the Ordnance Survey Maps App?

For a relatively small annual subscription, you’ll have the whole of the United Kingdom at your fingertips. which covers all of Great Britain.

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