The May bank holiday was the perfect chance to get out and explore more of England and, for once, the sun was shining.
The plan: Road trip heading south to see as much of Kent as possible in three days.
This is my guide to the best bits.
Beautiful, tranquil and understated harbour town with a winding street of independent shops and restaurants running through the heart.
Take a walk along the shingle beach and visit at sunset for a beautiful view over the Isle of Sheppey.
We walked along the beach and then took a wander up through the town and stumbled across an entrance to Whitstable Castle and Gardens. A stunning castle that looks like it’s straight from a Disney fairytale appears at the top of the hill.
Free entry to the Castle and gardens daily between 10am and 4pm – Tower Hill, Whitstable CT5 2BW.
Cathedral city with beautiful architecture and a smooth fusion of historic pubs and quaint restaurants nestled amongst modern chains and coffee shops.
Take a river tour through the winding lanes, step back in to medieval life with Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or visit the Norman castle.
It was disappointing to find that you cannot see any of Canterbury cathedral without paying a £9.50 charge. The outside is hidden behind walls and a huge iron gate so there is no opportunity to enjoy the outside of the Cathedral without a long queue and an entry fee.
Take a walk to Dane John Gardens and climb up to the top of the monument for a colourful view over the city.
Take a walk along The Leas mile-long promenade for views over to France. The walk takes you past hidden coves and picnic spots before descending down to the harbour.
It’s a quirky place where a lively cultural quarter meets the tranquillity of the coastline walk. Well worth a visit and on a sunny day the sea glistens with an emerald sheen that you don’t often see further north.
Enjoy a drink sitting out on the cafe decking by the water while French music is played out over the harbour and it feels like you’re in Calais for the day.
Parking: Get four hours of free parking when you spend £5 in Sainsbury’s – 5 Bouverie Rd. Very close to the start of The Leas promenade and enough time to do the walk and have lunch.
No visit to Kent would be complete without a look at the famous White Cliffs. Stop off at Samphire Hoe National Park for sea views and picnic spots next to the cliffs.
The park is a piece of land created by EuroTunnel covering 30 hectares at the foot of the Shakespeare Cliff that sits between Folkestone and Dover.
You do have to pay per hour to park but there are nice photo opportunities and it’s a very popular angling spot.
The bay has much more hustle and bustle than Whitstable and comes with the usual seaside ‘attractions’ of arcades, rides and crazy golf but is far less brash than Margate.
We enjoyed lunch in Berry’s Eatery at 110 Station Road, opposite the pier. Their claim to serve everything ‘from steaks to cakes’ was substantiated when we saw huge platters of fresh seafood, steaming mugs of hot chocolate smothered in marshmallows, sandwiches, fresh juices, Sunday roasts and slabs of chocolate cake. Good service and fairly priced.
Relax on the pier with an ice cream and enjoy the views back over the town.
This would win my village of the year award. It’s like being on a movie set – all the pretty, little homes have flowers hugging the walls, picket fences and exposed beams and there are some period houses dating back to the 1700s.
We picked this off the map without knowing anything about it and it is well worth a stop if you have an hour. Beautifully picturesque and encompassing everything you would hope for in a rural English parish, steeped in history.
You can visit Chilham Castle and take a wander around the 15th century church. Walk the triangle down School Hill, along Hambrook Lane to the 600 year old Woolpack pub and back up The Street.
Other places worth a mention
- Drive along the North Downs Way and take a look at the pretty village of Elham. The full trail covers 153 miles from Farnham in Surrey to Dover in Kent.
- Visit the Saxon village of Yalding, six miles south-west of Maidstone. During the English Civil War, a battle took place on the town bridge in 1643. Quaint, pretty and quintessentially English.
- Take a picnic & relax at Twyford Bridge Marina and have a drink by the water – Hampstead La, Maidstone ME18 6HG.
- Enjoy a scenic trip through Penshurst along the B2042 and visit the historic building and gardens.
- Take a drive up to Ide Hill, Sundridge, for a view over the reservoir and countryside.
Far too many special places to pack in to three days and definitely all the more beautiful for the unseasonal Bank Holiday sunny spell.
I will certainly re-visit Kent and would love to know of any places you think I should see next time.