Discover Kent’s delightful market towns and villages, rolling hills and ancient inns
The Kent Downs stretch from the White Cliffs of Dover on the eastern shoreline to the Surrey borders west of the county. This charming part of Kent is perfect for a scenic road trip and exploring the picturesque villages across the North Downs.
The North Downs driving route that we’ve chosen weaves its way across undulating scenery, through quaint half-timbered villages and shadows the ancient footsteps along the Pilgrims Way.
This area of the Kent Downs is also referred to as the North Downs. Along with the High Weald in the south, this picturesque region has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty due to its distinctive character and exceptional landscape.
Gary and I live in Kent and treasure the fact that we have the North Downs on our doorstep. What’s wonderful is that just a short hop off the key routes through Kent, you enter peaceful lanes, serene countryside, and orchards weighed down with apples and cherries.
We chose a circular driving route that can be easily accessed from the M20 (jct. 8). Selecting a few historic villages in and around the Downs and slightly to the north, the Medieval Market Town of Faversham.
The entire route of the road trip is only around 40 miles (65.5km). However, you will undoubtedly be jumping out to stroll around the delightful villages and historic lanes. Even better, why not make a weekend of it and stay overnight at one of the ancient inns in Faversham?
There are so many lovely walks in this region of Kent, the Stour Valley Walk starts in Lenham.
Heading into Hollingbourne, Kent, you first enter Eyhorne Street which is a picturesque little hamlet south of Hollingbourne. You must definitely park up and stroll around here it is so quaint, with half-timbered homes and delicately planted English country gardens.
Eyhorne Street alone has over 25 listed buildings, along with two pubs, a cute village shop and café serving the community and a babbling brook at the end of the lane.
The Pilgrims Way and the North Downs Way winds through the north of the village, which is why this first stop is perfect for your Kent Downs scenic drive. Hollingbourne can also trace its roots back to 1086, as it appears in the Domesday Book as Hoilingeborde.
Hollingbourne also has a lovely flint church, take a little wander around the churchyard at the rear and enjoy the far-stretching views of the Kent countryside beyond.
We head on to our second destination of our Kent Downs road trip which is just 6 miles (9km) east is the charming Market Village of Lenham.
Along with Hollingbourne, Lenham is also mentioned in Domesday Book, and it was granted its original Market Charter by King John in 1206.
Daily life in Lenham revolves around the delightful village square, where you can park free of charge. Locals are coming and going, popping into the bakery, florist or the bustling Post Office, it really has a lived-in feel.
Several half-timbered listed buildings encircle the square, you can sit at one of the many benches or pop into a tearoom and watch the world go by.
Where to stay in Lenham
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.
Jumping back in the car, we’re off to the historic village of Charing. Nestled at the foot of the North Downs with the Pilgrims Way passing through en-route to Canterbury.
This little village really surprised me, as we’ve often driven close by; however, not really had a stroll around.
Incredibly Charing has the remains of an ancient Archbishops Palace, which dates back to the 13th–century, located adjacent to the Church of St Peter and St Paul.
The remains of the palace are now part of a farmhouse and privately owned, nonetheless in its heyday it was visited by a number of Royals, including Henry VII and Henry VIII. They stayed on several occasions. It became the property of the Crown during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1545.
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.
Chilham is extremely pretty, historic timber-fronted homes, wisteria clambering around leaded windows and brimming hanging baskets clinging to the red-brick walls.
Chilham is quite a small village which makes it even more appealing if there weren’t the signs of modern-day life you would believe you were lost in another era.
Have a tranquil wander around St. Mary’s Church and grounds, there’s even a little path that has been created out of old headstones. The church’s stained-glass windows and monuments have earned it a place in Simon Jenkins’s “A Thousand Best Churches”.
Parking is limited in Chilham village square; however, there is a large free car park which is only a 5-minutes’ walk from the square.
Our Kent road trips
If you know anything about Faversham, then it’s probably that it is home to Britain’s oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame. You’ll see their inns throughout this historic town.
In the heart of Faversham in Market Place is the eye-catching collonaded Guildhall, it’s beautiful. On market days, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, this part of town is bustling with visitors buying local crafts and produce.
Turn left into Abbey Road, and you’re greeted with old sailing barges, Victorian Warehouses and ancient granaries.
You can still appreciate how this quayside would have looked many years ago. However, nowadays you’ll find a local fishmonger, butchers, cafes, restaurants and plenty of antiques and curios to rummage through.
Where to stay in Faversham
The next stop on the itinerary of our Kent road trip is Oare, just slightly north of Faversham and one close to my heart. Oare is where some of my relatives are from and have lived for many, many years.
Oare is a tiny place, and if you love nature, particularly birdlife and picturesque riverside walks, you’ll love it here.
Oare Marshes which is a 176-acre Nature Reserve, is owned by Kent Wildlife Trust and is an important migratory route for many birds. It’s pretty popular for twitchers too.
The landscape in Oare is amazing, you don’t need to be a birdwatcher to appreciate a stroll around Oare and Faversham Creek.
Walks and Trails around the Kent Downs
Newnham is a delightful little village with over 1,000 years of history. In centuries gone by, villagers would have been born, lived and worked all their lives in this one location. With so many orchards and acres of farmland around the residents wouldn’t have needed to travel too far for work.
I love visiting Kent villages like Newnham, as although there isn’t a specific reason to lure you in, it is just so pleasant admiring the historic architecture. Dotted through The Street are timber-framed dwellings, weatherboarded homes and quaint cottages with traditional English country gardens.
One home to look out for is the Jacobean Calico House, with its striking red and white plasterwork, which resembled the calico fabric colours during early 18th-century.
Just outside Newnham is Doddington Place and Gardens. You’ll need to book your visit in advance to visit their lovely attractive landscaped gardens.
It’s now just 8 miles (13km) south-west back to Hollingbourne, winding your way through narrow country lanes and passing by grazing sheep fields, via the Ringlestone Road.
The video of our Kentish road tripCome on a little tour with us
* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.