Kent Holiday Planning Guide
Located practically in London's backyard, Kent features a lush countryside dotted with thriving farms and fruitful orchards. Popularly known as the "Garden of England" due to its extensive agriculture, Kent has historically been the focal point for invasion attempts from Europe. In a fascinating reversal, the region is now a major embarkation point for tourism to mainland Europe. This area is also the beer heartland of England, with flourishing production of world-famous Kent hops, fine ales, and award-winning local wines, all of which are a must on your list of things to do here. The long coastline includes numerous beach towns and villages, many still retaining their Victorian charm. A holiday would not be complete without a visit to the pride of Kent, its celebrated Canterbury Cathedral--the most famous religious structure in England and a World Heritage Site.
Places to Visit in KentCanterbury
: Home to one of England's oldest and most important cathedrals alongside a host of UNESCO-listed attractions, Canterbury charms its visitors with its pretty cobbled streets and old-world charm. Dover
: Dover's stunning white cliffs greet millions of travellers each year arriving from continental Europe, though many simply pass through, the port town's ancient castle and deep historical significance make it a worthwhile stop. Margate
: Blending traditional seaside fun with a hip art scene, up-and-coming Margate boasts wide sandy beaches and a newly rejuvenated Old Town. Rochester
: One of Charles Dicken's favorite spots in England, Rochester plays host to a number of historic sites including a castle that serves as one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in the country. Maidstone
: The riverside city of Maidstone offers proximity to the fascinating Leeds Castle as well as a fine 14th-century church. Royal Tunbridge Wells
: Considered by many to be the archetypal English town, Royal Tunbridge Wells was a favorite holiday spot of Queen Victoria and though it suffers from a somewhat stuffy reputation, its historic town center and scenic surroundings continue to draw tourists.Chatham
: With an old naval dockyard that now serves as a museum, Chatham provides the perfect opportunity to learn about England's long and proud seafaring heritage on your Kent vacation.Sevenoaks
: Though it sits just 21 miles (34 km) away from central London, Sevenoaks clings to its market town past and boasts an extensive park, inhabited by deer and several million trees. Sandgate
: Folkestone's center plays host to a pretty harbor and towering cliffs, while important Battle of Britain landmarks are just a stone's-throw away.
Things to Do in Kent
Popular Kent Tourist AttractionsCanterbury Cathedral
: Dating back to 597 CE, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Canterbury Cathedral is the oldest and arguably most significant Christian monument in England, encouraging visitors and pilgrims to holiday in Kent for centuries. Leeds Castle
: A fortification has stood at the site of Leeds Castle since 1119 and today's iteration, encompassing a maze, grotto, and golf course, is one of the most romantic spots in the country.Dover Castle
: Perched atop of the Cliffs of Dover, the massive Dover Castle boasts superb views of the town as well as an impressive network of tunnels.Hever Castle & Gardens
: The childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle contains artwork and furniture from Boleyn's era with picturesque gardens outside.: The Historic Chatham Dockyard
The world's most complete dockyard from the Age of Sail, The Historic Chatham Dockyard encompasses museums, warships, and centuries-old buildings. Turner Contemporary
: One of Britain's premier galleries, Turner Contemporary hosts interesting exhibitions from new and historic artists throughout the year.Port Lympne Wild Animal Park
: A wide variety of free-roaming wildlife wander the 243 hectares (600 acres) of Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, including a number of rare species.Chartwell
: Chartwell served as the family home of Winston Churchill for over 40 years and today offers an insight into the Prime Minister's political and private life.White Cliffs of Dover
: Perhaps England's most iconic natural sight, the White Cliffs of Dover provide views of France on clear days.Howletts Wild Animal Park
: Strongly committed to the conservation of endangered species, the Howletts Wild Animal Park boasts some of the largest family groups of Western Lowland Gorillas in the world.
Planning a Kent Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Kent with Kids
With its wide open spaces, excellent beaches, and plethora of fun family attractions, it comes as no surprise that Kent has been voted Europe's top family holiday destination by Lonely Planet. Margate
has remained a popular stop on Kent itineraries for over two centuries and its new wave of trendy spots alongside the re-opening of the Dreamland amusement park makes it a surefire hit with the whole family. Broadstairs
serves as an ideal base for a budget family break and is a hotspot for nostalgic English seaside attractions that both you and your kids will enjoy, such as Punch and Judy shows, and a bandstand. If you'd prefer to get away from the coast, consider staying in one of Kent's stunning rural areas such as one of the inland villages of the Kent Downs for world-class walking and cycling opportunities.
Things to Do in Kent with Kids
The proud home of eight major castles and countless historic homes, Kent boasts a number of sites where you and your children can experience England's rich and fascinating past. Historical Kent attractions with extensive gardens, such as Penhurst Place
and Leeds Castle
, are especially suited to little ones, granting them the space to explore and play. To learn about the country's literary history with your kids, include the immersive Dickens World and The Canterbury Tales
in your Kent itinerary, where written masterpieces have been brought to life in creative ways. Critter-crazy children are spoiled for choice in Kent with the award-winning safari experience of Port Lympne
, birds of prey center Eagle Heights Wildlife Foundation
, British wildlife park Wildwood Trust
, and much more.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Kent
Although most of Kent's towns are connected by bus and train, ticket prices for a family can add up. Enquire about GroupSave tickets on the train and all-day pases on the bus to avoid overpaying. If cost is a concern on your Kent vacation, simply grab a bucket and spade and make use of the county's 563 km (350 mi) of coastline. If it starts to rain, duck into an amusement arcade or a family-friendly pub.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Kent
Cuisine of Kent
Kent's nickname "Garden of England" is a testament to the intense agricultural activity of the region and the excellent conditions it boasts for the growing of fruit and vegetables. A tour through Kent is a fantastic opportunity to sample some of England's finest fresh produce, particularly organic goods. To witness some of Kent's ample bounty, visit the Brogdale Collections
which houses the National Fruit Collection, including over 4,000 heritage fruit varieties.
Unsurprisingly for a coastal county, you can find excellent quality seafood across much of Kent. The seaside town of Whitstable
is well-known for its oysters and serves as the primary source of the saltwater clam for the entire country. Seafood fans who want to sample a true local delicacy on their Kent holiday should order angels on horseback, a dish of of oysters and bacon rashers grilled together and served on buttered toast.
Perhaps Kent's most famous culinary export is its hop ales. Hops have been grown in Kent for beer production since 1524 and after a slow start, Kentish hop beer is now served in pubs all over the country. Many pubs across the county operate their own microbreweries to create distinct and hoppy ales. When sightseeing in Kent you may notice unusual buildings with conical towers, these are called oast houses and were traditionally used to dry the hops. Visit Cranbrook
to see the oldest surviving oast house in the country, dating back to 1750.
Shopping in Kent
Kent hosts some superb retail destinations to suit all tastes and budgets. The town of Deal
boasts an award-winning high street while Whitstable's
assortment of quirky independent shops will appeal to those looking to pick up some unusual Kent vacation souvenirs. For high-end goods at reduced prices, head to the Ashford Designer Outlet
where you can find products from well-known brands at 60 percent off alongside cafes, restaurants, and a child's play area. As Kent's most artistic city, Margate
is a great place to pick up some paintings, photographs, and crafts. Allow plenty of space in your suitcase for carrying some trinkets from Lombard Street Gallery
. To experience Kent's lively agricultural scene, pay a visit to a few of the county's 40-plus farmers markets. Canterbury's farmers market
is open 6 days a week and set in an industrial Victorian railway goods shed.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Kent
History of Kent
Kent’s positioning as the closest part of Britain to mainland Europe has had a profound effect on its long and rich history, from Roman invasion up until World War II. Though just a small part of the UK, it has played a significant role in the shaping of the nation's history and identity. Kent's Richborough Fort
is thought to have been the Romans main entry point during their invasion of Britain circa 43 CE. The Romans commemorated their successful invasion by building a triumphal arch, the foundations of which you can see at the site today
The county has also played an important part of England's religious development and continues to be the center of the Anglican faith. In 597, Pope Gregory I appointed the religious missionary Augustine as the first Archbishop of Canterbury, and the now saint is credited with successfully converting the pagan king of Kent to Christianity. The Diocese of Canterbury became Britain's first Episcopal See, and there are a number of ancient churches in Kent, includingCanterbury Cathedral
and Rochester Cathedral
, the first and second designated cathedrals in England.
In the 11th century England was invaded by the Normans, led by William the Conqueror. Despite the success of the Norman campaign, the people of Kent continued to violently resist their rule. This led to the county becoming a semi-autonomous county palatine in 1067; it was granted similar powers to those experienced in Wales and Scotland at the time. During this period Kent adopted its motto "invicta,” meaning undefeated. You are likely to see the motto many times during your Kent vacation but St Peter & St Paul Church
is home to the Invicta Monument.
Seventeenth-century English history was dominated by growing tensions between Britain and the powers of the Netherlands and France. Military fortifications were built across the county and their construction increased even further after 1667, when the Dutch orchestrated a successful attack on the shipyards of the Medway towns. War broke out with France in 1689, commencing a series of military conflicts between the two countries that lasted throughout the 18th century. Kent's River Medway became the primary base for a fleet that could attack the Dutch and French coasts. Several Georgian naval buildings still stand today in The Historic Chatham Dockyard
. Though this base was moved as the theatre of operation shifted, Chatham dockyard went on to build over 400 naval ships.
In 1939, Britain declared war with Germany and the six-year conflict known as World War II began. The war was a defining moment in history for the UK, particularly Kent. Situated just 33.1 km (20.6 mi) away from Nazi-occupied France, the county had both a precarious and important position which led to much suffering for its people. A large part of the Battle of Britain was fought in the skies over the county and Kent's coastal towns endured severe bombings. There are a number of places to visit in Kent where you can learn more about the battle such as the Kent Battle of Britain Museum
and national memorial
Landscape of Kent
Touching the River Thames
, River Medway, North Sea, Straits of Dover, and English Channel, bodies of water have a huge presence in the landscape of Kent. Its long coastline is dotted with both sandy and stony beaches as well as imposing cliffs, most famously the White Cliffs of Dover
, while its riverbanks feature marshland and green meadows. One third of Kent has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, most notably the expansive Kent Downs, which is home to rolling valleys and the county's highest point. Though known for its more gentle and open landscape, Kent is also dotted with ancient and atmospheric woodlands, including The Blean, the largest area of ancient forest in England.
Holidays & Festivals in Kent
In keeping with the rest of the UK, Kent observes major public holidays, several of which are Christian celebrations. If your trip to Kent include New Year's Day, Easter, or Christmas, you should expect most businesses to be closed as these are considered bank holidays. A host of other celebrations take place in Kent and represent a chance to show off the people, produce, and pride that make this county special. You can celebrate one of England's greatest authors at Rochester's
bi-annual Dickens festivals or indulge your appetite at the Whitstable
Oyster Festival and Kentish Beer Festival in Canterbury
. The Kent County Show, held near Maidstone
, showcases fine produce, livestock, and traditional skills. Most regional festivals are scheduled for the summer in an attempt to avoid wet weather.
Kent Travel Tips
Climate of Kent
Although Kent is situated in a country known for its poor weather, the southerly county redeems itself by being one of the warmest parts of Britain. As with the rest of England, Kent experiences a temperate maritime climate. However, its proximity to continental Europe means the weather here is also subject to continental forces that can bring cold spells in winter and hot, humid weather in summer. July and August are the warmest months, making them an ideal, albeit busy, time to plan your Kent vacation.
Transportation in Kent
Kent's villages, towns, and cities are all compact enough to be explored by foot or bicycle so there's no need to worry about navigating a metro system or inner-city bus routes. Those travelling between towns by public transport will find that Kent's major towns and cities are well connected by both train and bus, with trains taking less time but generally costing more. If you'd like to get off the beaten path and include some more rural destinations in your Kent tour, consider hiring a car, as attractions such as farms and orchards are not generally served by public transport. Active visitors can make use of Kent's cycle paths, which include a number of scenic coastal and historical routes.