Exploring the streets and lanes of a historic Kent market town
The moment you arrive at the picturesque town of West Malling, you’ll be charmed by its appealing historic High Street. West Malling’s intriguing prosperous past mingles effortlessly with the cafés, restaurants, independent boutiques, and welcoming old inns that you’ll discover today.
Like so many fascinating towns and villages in Kent, the centuries of country life and its surrounding landscape play a significant role in the community, especially in West Malling. You’ll find a delightful Farmers' Market selling local produce here on the 4th Sunday of the month to tempt your tastebuds.
Don’t let me fool you into believing that West Malling is just about the High Street. We discovered beautiful historic homes during our few hours exploring West Malling, an unusual waterfall, quaint little courtyards, and an ancient Norman tower built in the early 12th-century.
We arrived at West Malling by car, so our visit starts from the centrally located car park in town. Note that the car park is Pay and Display; however, to make life easier, download the RingGo app so that you don’t have to worry about loose change.
West Malling is accessible by train direct from London; we’ve popped in a link below regarding the Southeastern train options.
So, let’s head off on a little self-guided tour of West Malling to see what we found and discover the RAF connections at nearby Kings Hill.
How to get to West Malling
By Train - You can catch a direct train from London Victoria to West Malling Station, which takes around 50 minutes. It's then a 10 minute walk to the centre of town.
By Car – West Malling can be easily accessed from the M20 (jct. 4).
Swan Street, West MallingStriking architecture and a tumbling ‘Cascade’
We head in the direction of Swan Street, full of beautiful homes, tempting pubs and a Benedictine abbey.
We first pass by the Mill Yard, a delightful courtyard now home to independent shops, a gallery and a tearoom. Dating from the 16th-century, this historic yard would have certainly been welcoming a different style of clientele back in the day.
Hiking the Kent Countryside
St Mary’s Abbey, West MallingHome to a community of Benedictine nuns
Swan Street’s charismatic architectureA stroll through history
As we continue down Swan Street, there is one gorgeous home after another and so lovingly kept and many from the Georgian period.
Also, along Swan Street, Abbey Brewery once stood, a bustling factory supplying ale to West Malling and its many taverns. Today the character of the brewery sympathetically remains in places along with Abbey Brewery House and cottages.
Where to stay in West Malling
Malling Abbey CascadeA surprising Georgian waterfall
One of West Malling’s unusual landmarks is The Cascades, a bizarre water feature in town that really still remains a bit of a mystery to historians.
The weathered plaque on the Georgian waterfall refers to a date of 1810; however, research has identified it to be older than early the 19th-century, and the plaque was added later.
Another discovery was a watercolour painted by the famous artist J.M.W. Turner, dating from 1791-2, is of St Mary’s Abbey and Cascade. Curiously though, the sketch by Turner was only officially identified by Tate Britain Gallery in 2005, after a resident of West Malling recognised the scene when visiting the gallery.
The mystery continues.
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.
Discovering West Malling High StreetFull of character and charm
We head back up to West Malling’s Georgian High Street and continue to explore more of this charismatic Kent Market Town.
There’s such a delightful fusion of architecture in West Malling. From the eye-catching timber-framed buildings, the double-fronted Georgian homes with box sash windows to the picturesque country cottages with manicured gardens.
Towards the northern end of the High Street are the 600-year-old Ford House and a 17th-century schoolhouse.
West Malling High Street is a hive of activity all year round. Individual local stores and boutiques, interior design shops and antique jewellers, all interwoven within a vast array of welcoming inns and restaurants serving cuisine from the four corners of the world.
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A charming road trip in and around the Kent Downs (AONB), UK
Exploring more of West MallingThe charming King Street
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Historic St Leonard’s TowerAnd a Cricket Ground with a story
We’re now off to visit 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.
Bishop Gundulf, a monk from Bec Abbey in Normandy, arrived in England in 1070 and built Rochester Cathedral, the White Tower of the Tower of London, St Mary’s Abbey in West Malling and Colchester Castle.
The Blue Plaques in West MallingDiscover the trail of The Beatles, JMW Turner, George Orwell and many more
West Malling has created its own Blue Plaque Trail; you can follow the route of its 18 notable citizens. Discover the achievements of the individuals and their connections with West Malling.
Here are a few Blue Plaques we stumbled upon and their historical stories.
Bishop Gundulf, a monk from Normandy, was the architect of West Malling Abbey, the White Tower of the Tower of London, to name just a few.
Aretas Akers-Douglas spent his early childhood in St Mary’s Abbey, had a notable political career and was Home Secretary from 1905-1908.
J.M.W. Turner, the renowned English painter famous for his landscapes, painted The Cascades and St Mary’s Abbey in 1792.
John Downman, a portrait artist during the 18th-century, painted many notable people, including Queen Charlotte and Horatio Nelson and lived at Went House.
Another prominent resident at Went House was William Locker, who had a prestigious career in the Navy, and Horatio Nelson served as one of his lieutenants.
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