Kent calls itself the Garden of England but it's also London's back yard. It's easy to get to by train, car and bus, and has plenty of variety for great days out of London.
Whether you are a Londoner or visitor, away days or short breaks in Kent are convenient for stretching vacation and holiday budgets and adding unexpected variety as well.
We've been looking at some new pictures of Kent and discovering that the county is not only about half-timbered villages, historic stately homes and castles (though of course, there are plenty of those). There's a lot going on that's fresh and up to the minute. The new Visit Kent microsite, MyKent.co.uk introduces some of the faces of Kent - local people showing some of the unexpected aspects and stories of the county. I know I've been inspired and surprised by these pictures and stories to spend a little more time in Kent, so maybe you will be to.
A Maharajah's Island Palace? No, Hever Castle in Kent
A Contemporary Look at Kent for London Days Out and Short Breaks
Anne Boleyn's childhood home, Hever Castle takes on an exotic aspect in the rising mist of morning. Kent is full of surprises.
Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn's childhood home is a fascinating place for a UK day trip. Steeped in the history of Tudor court intrigue, the house was begun in the 13th century and made into a comfortable Tudor home by the Bullen (or Boleyn) family. It later became part of Henry VIII's divorce settlement with Anne of Cleves , his 4th wife.
Hever castle passed through many hands before falling into disrepair in the early 18th century. In 1903, expat American millionaire William Waldorf Astor bought Hever Castle and restored it.
Visiting Hever Castle
Today the castle is noted for it's collection of Tudor portraits. If you are curious about what Henry VIII's six wives looked like, this is the place to see contemporary portraits of all of them. Two of Anne Boleyn's Books of Hours, personal prayer books used in the Middle Ages, are also exhibited.
The Gardens and Exhibitons at Hever Castle
Strolling through the castle's magnificent gardens before stopping for lunch or a cup of tea makes a really fine UK day out. And there's plenty more to do for every member of the family:
- Adventure Playground
- Yew and water mazes
- Hever Lake walk
- a gruesome exhibition of armor, instruments of execution and torture.
Throughout the summer months, Hever Castle also hosts a variety of events including jousting tournaments, demonstrations of longbow warfare and a summer performing arts festival in its open air theatre, with matinee and evening performances.
A Romantic Wedding at Hever Castle
The BBC television program, Gardener's World, named Hever Castle as The Most Romantic Garden in the Southeast, making it a lovely place for a romantic wedding reception. The beautiful colonnade overlooking Hever Lake is a particularly popular place for wedding photos. There is also the possibility of accommodation for the wedding couple and guests on the estate.
- Read about weddings at Hever Castle
- Find out how Neil Miller went from City Gent to Head Gardener at Hever Castle
Visiting Hever Castle Essential Information
- Where: Hever nr Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7NG
- Telephone: +44 (0)1732 865 224
- Admission: Castle & Gardens or Gardens only tickets, priced for adults, children, seniors and family groups.
- Visit their website
- Getting there: Edenbridge station is 3 miles. Book a local taxi on +44 (0)1732 863 800. Check National Rail Enquiries to book a train to Edenbridge
Thailand? - No - It's Botany Bay near Broadstairs, Kent
Looking for all the world like an exotic beach in Thailand, this Tai Chi class takes place on a beach in Kent.
Teachers Alia and Gary Short, of Daoist Internal Arts, teach Tai Chi, Neigong, Qigong and Longevity Breathing, using what they call the Water Method, on the beach of Botany Bay, near Broadstairs in Kent.
Wide sandy Botany Bay beach, in Broadstairs is located on the Isle of Thanet - a peninsular that also includes the resorts of Margate and Ramsgate. On the northeast coast of Kent, the beach is noted for its fossil studded chalk cliffs and needles. At the height of summer, this is very much a family beach with a refreshment kiosk and life guards on duty. But visitors who go early or mid-week will find it relatively quiet.
Broadstairs itself is an old fashioned seaside town with historical connections to Charles Dickens. Bleak House, where Dickens wrote "David Copperfield," stands on the cliffs overlooking the village. The small Dickens House Museum was the home of Miss Mary Pearson Strong, who inspired the character of Miss Betsey Trotwood in that book.
How to Get to Broadstairs
Trains leave for Broadstairs, from both London St. Pancras and London Victoria stations, regularly throughout the day. The journey takes about an hour and a half and return fares are available in advance for less than £30. Be careful when booking to avoid the services that require changing trains several times; There are numerous direct services with no changes available.
- Find out about the Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs, Kent.
- Check National Rail Enquiries to book a train to Broadstairs
And a Side Trip Worth Trying
For a complete change of pace, visit the Kent seaside resort of Margate. Developed as an English copy of Coney Island in the 19th century, Margate is an up-and-coming locale for antiquing and art galleries with a funky, urban vibe.
Continental Market? No - The Goods Shed in Canterbury, Kent
The Goods Shed is a daily farmer's market, food hall and restaurant with all the style of Brittany and Normandy but less than an hour from London.
I've just come back from Rennes in Brittany, France, where they have several covered market halls in what is claimed to be the biggest produce market in Northern France. It was great fun shopping there. But if you live in the UK Southeast, are visiting London or want to pop through the Channel Tunnel from northern France, you don't really have to go all the way to the Brittany Coast for your fresh meat and fish, raw milk and fresh farm produce.
The Goods Shed, right next to Canterbury train station has all that, plus a restaurant and a food hall with prepared goodies. We like the sound of the homemade ice creams at The Larder - honeycomb, vanilla, chocolate, marmalade and whiskey, violet, apple, pear sorbet and lemon yogurt. They'll fill your own jars with freshly made jams, preserves and pickles and make you a hot lunch for a fiver to eat while you check out the rest of the market.
Insider Tip: If you are coming down from London, think of this as a foodie day out rather than a grocery shopping expedition. The cheapest, off-peak, advance-purchase return fare (by train) from London cost £27.90 in 2010.
Also at the Goods Shed:
- fresh, slow proved bread
- farm cider
- fruit and veg from named organic farms and vegetable co-ops
- Tom's Cheese for the best of British cheeses
- Simon the Fish for sustainable, ethically caught fish from local boats
- Patrick's Kitchen for prepared food
- And handmade chocolates, cakes and more
Read about Simon the Fish at the Goods Shed
The Goods Shed Visitor Essentials
- Where: Station Road West, Canterbury, Kent CT2 8AN
- Telephone: +44 (0)1227 459 153
- Open: Tuesday to Saturday 9a.m. to 7p.m., Sunday 10a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Getting There: The market is next to Canterbury West train station. Fast trains leave St. Pancras station in London hourly and cost under £30 return. Check National Rail Enquiries to book a train to Canterbury.