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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Where to stay in Smarden
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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