by Janis / 8 comments - Orginally published:29th October 2019

Antiques, boutiques, steam trains & a splash of the English bubbles

Tenterden in the heart of the Kent countryside has everything an old Kentish town should have.

The village green, heritage locomotives, tea rooms and heaps of character.

It’s one of those towns that you just want to jump out of your car and go and discover, and in the ‘Garden of England’ why wouldn’t you?

The pin image for our post - 'The quaint town of Tenterden in Kent, England
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Where is Tenterden?

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Tenterden through time

A little history
You would never believe today that Tenterden was once only a couple of miles from the sea. The hamlet of Small Hythe just down the road had a harbour and Tenterden became a Cinque Port, (now the sea is 13 miles away).
The Tenterden town sign depicting a galleon on the open sea with sails displaying the coat of arms of the cinque ports which are 3 heraldic lions that merge into 3 long boats.
Tenterden town sign
Cinque Ports was a charter established pre-Royal Navy in 13th-century, to recruit mariners. Tenterden was a Limb of Rye and Tenterden townsfolk would have been enlisted to fulfil Rye’s quota for the Crown.
The town sign on entry to Tenterden identifying it as a Cinque Port and that it is twinned with Avallon in France.
Tenterden Cinque Port
During the 14th-century Tenterden was also known for its wool industry. Still, today, if you tour around the county of Kent you’ll see half-timbered cloth houses, dotted around the countryside.

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Exploring Tenterden

Strolling the Town
Tenterden is such a pleasure to wander around. The tree-lined road that runs through the centre shields all the little stores and coffee shops and bathes them in dappled light.
A selection of antique shops and tea houses line the old High Street in period buildings. Tables and chairs line the streets while antiques and bric-a-brac fill the windows.
Quaint little stores
It almost feels like you’ve stepped back in time, white weatherboarded homes, Dickensian style shopfronts and ladies strolling around with wicker baskets.
A street scene of hanging baskets being displayed from a half-timbered period building
Welcoming colourful stores and restaurants
An old red brick building in the High Street titled Quill House with a rather large anchor & chain by the window. The whole High Street has a real Dickensian feel to it.
Quill House
There are so many charming antique shops, you just want to go in and mooch around them all. I loved the old-fashioned jewellers, it’s great to see all these independent shops still around.
The collection of trestle tables outside antiques and collectables shop displaying all manner of bric-a-brac.
Antiques and collectables

Visit some of Kent’s Historic Towns, Villages & Cities

Kent is not short of picturesque historic towns & villages,  Why not check out our posts on those we've visited with tips & inspiration to get the most out of your visit?

A visit to Tenterden

Holding on to its charm
A modern-day society like any town always creeps in. However, in Tenterden, it feels like it blends in so well with the picturesque architecture, the older style shopfronts and half-timbered restaurants.
A florist in the High Street alongside other shops and cafes. All very picturesque.
Barry Jones Florists

With little alleyways leading off the High Street, you find yourself becoming quite inquisitive.

You get the sense that there is a feeling of pride within Tenterden, beautifully kept homes and welcoming restaurants.

A view outside an antique shop looking down the tree lined High Street
Tree-lined High Street
Tenterden also has plenty of tea rooms and coffee shops for those weary travellers. Or if you fancy something a little stronger, it has its fair share of inns and pubs.

More info

Why not check out the Ashford & Tenterden page of the Visit Kent Website?
A half-timbered period building in the High Street but now houses the Lemon Tree restaurant.
Half-timbered Lemon Tree Restaurant

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.

Discovering Tenterden

The Centrepiece
While strolling through Tenterden, the graceful St. Mildred’s Church will so often be in view. Just a couple of steps back from the High Street and an air of serenity descends around the Medieval church.
The Norman Saint Mildred’s church against the blue sky from a pathway in the cemetery.
St Mildred's Church
A narrow cobbled Lane between the boundaries of the church and some traditional red brick houses
A peaceful lane by the Church
The main building of this beautiful church was built during the 13th & 14th centuries. However, the tower which was constructed in 1461 is made from local stone.

Our Kent road trips

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

A treat in Tenterden

Heritage Railway
To really feel like you have stepped back in time, wander down to the Kent and East Sussex Railway. This nostalgic steam railway is kept running by enthusiasts and lovers of all things locomotive.
The signal box at Tenterden town steam railway with a white picket fence in front displaying posters of a bygone era.
Steam railway station signal box

The original line through Tenterden Town was only open for around 50 years from 1903 until 1954.

It wasn’t until 1974 that the Kent and East Sussex Railway decided to give this nostalgic track a new lease of life.

The back of a steam train with dark smoke coming from its chimney and the driver preparing to get on his way on a bright sunny day
Final preparations

Today you can hop on the beloved steam train, with its historic carriages, and travel the 11.5 miles (18.5km) across the beautiful Kent countryside.

There are 5 stops along the way, which takes around 50 minutes, it’s such a pleasurable way to travel.

Advance tickets

You can buy your tickets in advance for your trip down memory lane from the Kent and East Sussex Railway.
Tan & cream Pullman carriages in the sidings at Tenterden steam railway.
Pullman carriages

Visit to Bodiam Castle

When you arrive at Bodiam Station, you can jump off and visit the 14th-century moated Bodiam Castle, run by The National Trust.

Discovering the Kent and East Sussex Railway

Platform pass
If time doesn’t permit the train journey to Bodiam, you can just purchase a platform pass for £1. This allows you plenty of access by the locomotives. Along with the nostalgic platform and also into some of the old buildings.
Small black steam locomotive named the “Norwegian”. Black smoke coming from its chimney as it prepares to set off on its journey.
The ‘Norwegian’ locomotive

Where to eat in Tenterden?

A few of our recommendations
There are so many restaurants, cafés, quaint old pubs to choose from in Tenterden, you’re spoilt for choice. For the lovers of afternoon tea head to The Lemon Tree Restaurant. However, if you are after locally inspired pub classics, try the White Lion, the 15th-century Woolpack, The Vine or the William Caxton.
The Vine pub on the High Street freshly painted in a green and cream colour scheme. Decorated with flower arrangements and tables and chairs outside.
The Vine pub

Where to stay in Tenterden?

And why would you not want to?
If you’d like to stay in the heart of Tenterden town and experience a night in a local inn the White Lion, the Woolpack, and the William Caxton all have rooms available.
The white painted Town Hall and the Woolpack hotel on the High Street with the tower of Saint Mildred's church in the background.
The Woolpack next to the 18th century Town Hall

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.

Close to Tenterden

Chapel Down Vineyard
If you’ve chosen to visit Tenterden in Kent, then you may have heard of Chapel Down vineyards. This delightful winery is located just 2 miles from Tenterden town and set in such lush, peaceful surroundings.
The entrance to the Chapel Down Wine shop, and where the wine tour starts in what looks like a large converted barn.
Chapel Down Vineyard entrance

Chapel Down’s speciality is sparkling wines and is now starting to give France a run for their money. Due to the location in the southeast of England, every year our climate gets slightly warmer.

So great news for the lover of the bubbles.

Row 12 of the Bacchus vines, in one of the vineyard at Chapel Down.
Grapes capturing the full sun
Bunches of Bacchus white grapes on the vine, nearly ready for harvesting in late September or early October.
Bacchus vines nearly ready for harvesting
You can book yourself on one of their guided tours, or even head off on your own and follow one of their self-guided walks.

If you’re curious about English wines

Take a look at our post on our tour and tasting at Chapel Down. You can read all about our personal experience on one of their guided tours. It was so informative and relaxed, and I loved the fact they didn’t pressure you into purchasing their products.

A tour and tasting at Chapel Down Vineyard in Kent, England

by Janis on  24 Sep 19

Our video of Tenterden

A look through our eyes

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

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

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  1. I’m embarrassed to say I have a good working (wink) knowledge of Chapel Down but have never heard of Tenterden. Antiques, steam trains and bubbles – what more could a girl want on a day out? Looks picturesque and so Kentish. #farawayfiles

    1. Author

      If you ever go to visit Chapel Down you should definitely pop into Tenterden, it is a lovely town full of so much character.

    1. Author

      Yes it really is a lovely town, interesting history and some great shops. Where in Kent did you use to live?

    1. Author

      Yes there are so many beautiful towns, we love just driving around the little countryside lanes and you find so many interesting places. It’s the joy of avoiding the main roads.

    1. Author

      The old heritage railway station is lovely, the attention to detail is fantastic. Tenterden is certainly worth another visit and there are so many other villages to visit nearby.

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