At Aylesford Priory, the Carmelite Friars welcome you to their historical home
The Carmelite Friars first arrived in Aylesford, Kent, in 1242, and the picturesque manor house located alongside the River Medway was to become their home and peaceful sanctuary.
The Friars in Aylesford were the first General Chapter of the Order outside the Holy Land. The Order continued to grow, and over the following fifty years, a further thirty priories were founded across England and Wales.
My immediate reaction when we strolled into Aylesford Priory was one of true surprise.
I was astounded at how tranquil and serene this little oasis was, considering how close we were to the hustle and bustle of modern-day life. You felt like you were a world away from the instantaneous society we live in today.
The gardens, woodlands and historic buildings lay across 40-acres of land.
The Carmelite Friars hermit lifestyle began to slowly change within Aylesford Priory, and the medieval priory soon played a significant role for the Aylesford Friars for another 300 years.
Unfortunately, due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the friars were forced to leave in 1538. They did not return to the priory until 1949, some 400 years later.
Admittance to The Friars is free
The Aylesford Friars' duck pondIn the shadow of a Weeping Willow
If you or your children enjoy feeding the ducks, it's welcomed here. Purchase a bag of duck feed from the gift shop, and you'll be the best friend of every duck.
This is a lovely part of the priory to sit and relish, so grab a pew and soak up the tranquillity.
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 Friar's Great CourtyardDiscover its Elizabethan influences
Prior to the Carmelite Friars purchasing the Priory in 1949, many of the historic buildings suffered from a devastating fire in 1930. Once the friars had returned, work began in earnest to restore the medieval buildings to their former glory.
Once more, Aylesford Priory offered a much-needed shelter for pilgrims, who were passing through Kent on their journey to Canterbury.
The Great Courtyard is a delightful place to amble around; keep an eye out for the charming little features amongst the ancient walls and doorways.
It's within the historic courtyard that the oldest section of the Friars can be found. The vaulted-beamed Pilgrims’ Hall, which lies alongside the River Medway, dates from 1280.
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The Friar's Main ShrineThere's room for all in the open-air piazza
The expanse of the communal arena is extremely popular through the summer months when thousands of overseas pilgrims congregate in prayer and song. On pilgrimage days, the processions weave their way all through the charming gardens.
The dominating focal point of the shrine is the sculpture of the Virgin Mary, which Michael Clark carved in 1960. The Shrine contains earth from the Well of the Prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel.
Surrounding the shrine and amongst the cloisters are peaceful individual chapels for prayer and meditation.
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 Aylesford Priory Peace GardenThe name says it all!
Your eyes are naturally guided through the beautiful garden and the thoughtfully planted borders. With a gentle breeze, the delicate grasses and colourful shrubs sway effortlessly in your path.
Take a seat by the gatehouse and discover the symbolic tiles that lie at your feet. The individual tiles have the word "Peace" translated into 300 different languages.
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The Friars' tearoomServing delicious homemade cakes
The vaulted-beamed tearoom is lovingly restored and open 7-days a week. Light lunches are served along with fresh homemade cakes and sandwiches, all made on the premises with locally sourced produce.
Alongside the tearoom garden is the 17th-century restored north barn. This picturesque barn can be hired for wedding receptions, parties or special events.
- Where’s Aylesford Priory?
- How to get to Aylesford
- By Train
You can catch a train from London St Pancras to Aylesford Station, which takes around 1 hour. Aylesford Friars is located 1 mile from the station.
- By Car
Aylesford Friars can be easily accessed from the M20 (jct. 5) or from the M2 (jct. 3). Onsite parking available.
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- Where to stay in Aylesford
- Where to eat and drink in Aylesford
- The Friars – The tearoom at The Friars is a delightful place to enjoy a lunchtime snack or even a spot of afternoon tea.
- The Chequers – This charming timber-framed inn is located along Aylesford High Street; it serves traditional food and ales at the pleasant riverside location.
- The Hengist Restaurant – Is Located in a 16th-century building in the heart of historic Aylesford. It serves locally sourced dishes with a modern twist.
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