by Janis on 28th June 2022 / 0 comments

Exploring Ightham, West Peckham and West Malling en-route

This is such a delightful Kent road trip to embark upon. You’ll be weaving down dappled country lanes and touring through historic Kent villages, and it all begins in Wrotham in Kent, just ½ mile from the M20.

Along the trail of this Wrotham road trip, we’ll be visiting the ancient villages of Wrotham and Ightham, the beautiful moated manor of Ightham Mote, ‘The Larkins’ village of West Peckham and the market town of West Malling.

This circular Kent mini-road trip is only around 24 miles (38.6km), it’s incredibly easy to explore at the weekend, and you’ll be discovering an idyllic slice of country life.

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The timber-framed 16th-century historic Old Forge House on Fen Pond Road in Ightham
Old Forge House, Ightham

Our Wrotham Loop Road Trip Destinations

We'll be exploring the delightful historic villages of Wrotham, Ightham and Mereworth, visiting the National Trust manor at Ightham Mote. Then pop into West Peckham, the TV home of The Larkins and discover the picturesque market town of West Malling.
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We chose a circular route around this charming region of Kent, starting and ending in Wrotham. Wrotham can be accessed easily from the M20 (jct. 2) or M26 (jct. 2a), then it’s a brief drive northwest along the A20. The road trip’s entire loop is only around 24 miles (38.6km).
A view, looking from the southern end, of West Malling High Street
West Malling High Street
Okay, so let’s jump in our trusty steed and hit the road.

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Once you leave the M26/M20, travel the short hop along the A20 and follow the signs to Wrotham picking, up the Bull Lane exit, which leads you directly into Wrotham village.

In Wrotham, there is a signposted village car park along West Street, which is free of charge. Let’s jump out and explore the historic village.

The junction of Bull Lane and the High Street in Wrotham with its village sign and the 14th-century St Georges Church taking centre stage.
Wrotham village

Firstly, don’t get distracted by the three pubs in the village; you haven’t deserved a refresher yet.

There are so many quaint homes in Wrotham, rambling roses climbing over charming red brick cottages and characterful architecture lining the pretty High Street. When visiting a location, we often use the Historic England website, which highlights the locally listed buildings and their fascinating background.

Take a stroll all-around Wrotham wandering up past the village square and its eye-catching village sign. Passing the Old School House and the 13th century St George’s Church sitting proudly overlooking Wrotham. Unusually part of the old churchyard is north of the village.

The ancient traveller route, the ‘Pilgrims Way’, which begins in London, passes through Wrotham on its way to Canterbury Cathedral.

The traditional Rose & Crown pub run by the Kentish Brewer Shepherd Neame on the corner of the High Street in Wrotham, Kent
The Rose & Crown

Now getting back to those pubs, there were actually four in Wrotham until 2009. It’s great to see the village pubs still going, they are Rose and Crown, the George and Dragon and the Bull Hotel. We’ve only tried the Bull Hotel, and their BBQ menu is fantastic.

On leaving Wrotham, head west along the High Street and turn right onto Kemsing Road. Continue for 1.5 miles and turn left onto Fen Pond Road. This will lead you to our next stop, the village of Ightham.

Where to stay in Wrotham

The Bull Hotel Maidstone/Sevenoaks – This 13th-century Inn is located in the heart of Wrotham village; it serves delicious food, which we highly recommend. It’s an excellent base for your Wrotham road trip.
Pretty Maid House B&B – It is located around 2 miles from Wrotham. This luxury guest house serves a full English breakfast in a peaceful location and offers free on-site parking.

Arriving at Ightham, head along the A227 through the village and follow the signs to the Village Hall, where you will find free parking.

The quaint village of Ightham is very picturesque, with many of its historic buildings and cottages located around the village square and along The Street.

The Ightham war memorial in a little triangle between Trycewell Lane and Busty Lane in front of a pair of 16th-century cottages
Ightham village square

Encircling the village war memorial are beautiful half-timbered cottages bringing so much charm and character to the village. Take a little stroll, explore the rich history amongst the lanes and enjoy the pretty English country gardens.

Many houses along The Street were originally hall-houses dating from the 16th century and have been lovingly restored and preserved centuries later.

Strolling past the historic timber-framed George and Dragon Inn, head back up Fen Pond Road. Here you’ll find St Peter’s Church rebuilt circa 1400 and sits overlooking the village of Ightham.

Fen pond road runs through the centre of Ightham, with the old village shop and the George and Dragon pub lining the street
The George and Dragon, Ightham

Within the church, you’ll see a plaque dedicated to the memory of William Sutton, a bugler. He received the Victoria Cross for an act of bravery during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. Unfortunately, William lies in an unmarked grave within the churchyard.

Also, in St Peter’s Church lies Sir Thomas Cawne, the earliest known owner of Ightham Mote, where we are off to next.

Jumping back in the car, we head south out of Ightham, passing along the A227 and right onto Ismays Road. We pass through the hamlet of Ivy Hatch and onto the gorgeous National Trust site of Ightham Mote.

Hiking the Kent Countryside

This region of Kent is ideal for hikes as it is nestled amongst the North Downs (AONB), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Pilgrims Way also weaves its way through the village of Wrotham. To explore the trails in this region of Kent, the Ordnance Survey map that will help you along the route is no. 147, ‘Sevenoaks & Tonbridge’.

Alternatively, why not purchase and download the OS Maps App, which covers all of Great Britain.

Armed with our National Trust membership cards, we visit the stunning moated manor house, Ightham Mote.

The medieval timber-framed manor was built during the early 14th-century, although the original landowner is unknown. Over the following 700 years, Ightham Mote has witnessed many fascinating proprietors, from knights to noblemen.

A view from the corner of moat of the medieval stone manor house of Ightham Mote
The manor house at Ightham Mote

The last owner of Ightham Mote was an American businessman Charles Henry Robinson; he visited the medieval house as a child.

Charles lived at Ightham Mote during the summer months and restored the beautiful home for over three decades.

After Mr Robinson died in 1985, he bequeathed the manor and its furnishings to the National Trust.

High trimmed hedges line the edges of the Formal Garden of Ightham Mote in Kent
The Formal Garden at Ightham Mote
Ightham Mote is stunning, the half-timbered mansion sits alone surrounded by water, and you must cross an ancient stone bridge to enter the central courtyard. Inside you are encircled by magnificent architecture, delicate leaded windows, and the mullion frames of the Great Hall.

Ensure you allow enough time to visit the inside of the manor and also the beautifully maintained gardens.

We have created a little YouTube video of Ightham Mote; why not take a look?

Also, if you like what you see, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

We’re now off to tour more of the lush Kent countryside.

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.

Back touring the Garden of England

Discovering Shipbourne and Plaxtol

It’s now time to wend our way further through the enchanting landscape of Kent on this Wrotham road trip. Heading a short hop south down Mote Road, we turn left onto Hildenborough Road and follow the signs slightly north to the village of Shipbourne.

Shipbourne is quite a small village; however, it has a huge area of open landscape known locally as The Common or The Green, which is popular for daily strolls. Also, in Shipbourne is the local pub, The Chaser Inn, which has a lovely beer garden. Just next door is St Giles Church which doubles as a Farmers’ Market on a Thursday morning.

The Chaser Inn and St Giles Church on Stumble Hill in Shipbourne
Shipbourne

We head north along Stumble Hill and turn right towards Plaxtol, into Plaxtol Lane. The attractive village of Plaxtol is very quintessentially English. It has a local village store and Post Office, a lovely little green where locals sit and pass the time of day, a Cromwellian Church and a local pub. What more could you want.

At the end of The Street, we take a hairpin right and follow the Long Mill Lane south until we reach a four-way junction where we turn left into Hamptons Road. We travel a short distance along, bear left onto Park Road and follow the signs to West Peckham. The next destination on our Wrotham road trip.

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The tiny village of West Peckham is the next destination on our Wrotham road trip; I’d almost call it a Hamlet but hey, who am I to argue. Daily life in West Peckham appears to revolve around the large open green, also home to the village cricket ground. It all seems rather idyllic; perhaps that’s why ITV used West Peckham as a filming location for the comedy-drama series The Larkins.
Janis is sitting outside the Swan on the Green in West Peckham with a pint of cold lager on a bright sunny day with St Dunstan's church in the background.
Janis outside the Swan on the Green, West Peckham

We’d visited West Peckham a few times over the years as it has a lovely pub, the Swan on the Green, which overlooks the cricket pitch. It’s a delightful spot to have a pub lunch or a sneaky pint.

The first time we drove through West Peckham to catch this Wrotham road trip on video, ITV was filming The Larkins. They let us pass through between takes, and we spotted Barney Walsh outside the pub playing the character PC Harness.

The Swan on the Green pub next to the village green in West Peckham with oast houses in the background on a perfect summer's day
West Peckham village green

Our Kent road trips

If you’ve fallen in love with the county of Kent, we’ve created a few more road trips around the “Garden of England” that we believe you will enjoy too.

Our next stop is the village of Mereworth. I love visiting this village because of the rather grand-looking St Lawrence Church, erected in the Neo-Palladian style. The semi-circular colonnade entrance looks quite impressive but at the same time looks quite out of place in such a small village.

Within St Lawrence churchyard lies the grave of the first recognised Victoria Cross recipient Charles David Lucas. Charles received his VC for unselfish actions when he threw a live shell overboard on the HMS Hecla in 1854.

The grand 18th-century Saint Lawrence's Church at Mereworth built for the 7th Earl of Westmorland with its semi-circular Tuscan west porch and huge spire.
St Lawrence Church
The grave of Charles David Lucas, VC recipient, in the cemetery of Saint Lawrence's Church, Mereworth
Charles David Lucas, VC recipient
Our final stop is around 3 miles north of the historic market town of West Malling.

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 last stop on our Wrotham road trip is to the market town of West Malling. West Malling is a lovely place to visit. It’s full of so much character and an incredible amount of history.

The welcoming lanes are overflowing with a mix of charming architecture; I loved strolling along King Street and admiring the timber-framed cottages.

A Tudor period timber-framed home in King Street, West Malling, Kent
The Priors, King Street

Ensure you take a wander down Swan Street.

You’ll discover an 11th-century Benedictine Abbey, beautiful Georgian homes, tempting bars and a very unusual waterfall, which has links with the famous artist J.M.W. Turner.

Water cascading down a 1.5-metre man-made waterfall through a medieval stone arch at the rear of St Mary’s Abbey in West Malling Kent
The Malling Abbey Cascades

West Malling has also created its own Blue Plaque trail, where you can follow the route of its 18 notable citizens.

When you’re entering West Malling, keep an eye out for the ancient English Heritage site of St. Leonard’s Tower. Little appears to be known about the history of the Norman Keep, which was built around the early 12th-century.

The tower which stands alone may have formed part of a defensive castle and is believed to have been built by Bishop Gundulf, the Bishop of Rochester.

Looking up the grassy bank to the wall and remains of St Leonards Tower on the outskirts of West Malling
St. Leonard’s Tower, West Malling

Where to stay in West Malling

St Leonards – It is in the heart of West Malling town and has everything you would need on your doorstep. The rooms at St. Leonard’s are beautifully decorated in a relaxed, contemporary style.
The Farm House – This charming 4-star B&B is located in the centre of West Malling and has an on-site restaurant and bar. The rooms are well-equipped and have lovely décor throughout.

Note that the car park in West Malling is Pay and Display; however, to make life easier, download the RingGo app, so you don’t have to worry about loose change.

Before we leave you can check out our video on West Malling on our YouTube channel

We now wend our way back to Wrotham via the delightful village of Offham. On leaving West Malling along West Street, turn left into Offham Road and at the T-junction, turn right into Teston Road.

This route takes you through the pretty village of Offham, and then it’s a right turn to reach the A20. From here, you can either continue along the A20 to complete your circular Wrotham road trip, or when you reach the roundabout at the M26, you can head back to your desired destination.

We hope you had fun on your Wrotham road trip, don’t forget to leave a comment below to let us know how you enjoyed your adventures.

Our videos of the circular road trip from Wrotham in Kent

We have also created a two-part YouTube video of this road trip for you to follow.  Why not check them out?
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel - go on; you know it makes sense.

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