48 hours in West Kent - What do to on a weekend in West Kent
Less than an hour’s train ride from the bustling streets of central London, a weekend in West Kent provides the perfect escape for history and food lovers alike.
Comfortably living up to its title as the ‘Garden of England’, this area of Kent is bursting with plentiful vineyards and fruit farms, charming historic villages, legendary castles and cosy country pubs – all set against the picturesque backdrop of the rolling green hills of the Weald.
With so much to explore and a plethora of attractions to visit, join me on a whistle-stop tour of what to do on a weekend in West Kent…
Friday afternoon in West Kent
Kick off your long weekend by stepping back in time with a return trip on the historic Spa Valley Railway.
Offering steam and heritage diesel train journeys through the Kent and Sussex countryside, hopping aboard this classic rail route is a great way to visit the neighbouring villages and nearby landmarks.
Departing from Tunbridge Wells West station, alight at the first stop, High Rocks, to marvel at the ancient geological area of sandstone cliffs that give the area its name. Understood to have once been a camp from the Stone Age, these breathtaking rock formations date back millions of years and can now be explored via a scenic walk, connected by wooden bridges and walkways.
Grab a drink or bite to eat at the High Rocks Inn before travelling on to the next stop – the charming village of Groombridge. Here, you can hire bikes to explore the countryside (via Country Bike Hire) or visit the beautiful Groombridge Place & Enchanted Forest. With bird of prey displays, a moated manor house, immaculate formal gardens and magical woodland walks, there’s something for everyone at this picturesque estate.
The final stop is Eridge where you can really soak up the Kentish countryside. Allow time for some leisurely walks to some of the local nature reserves and view more of the awe-inspiring ancient rock formations of the area. Harrisons Rocks, Eridge Rocks Nature Reserve and Broadwater Warren are all within a 30-50 minute walk from the station, and offer glimpses of incredible wildlife, flora and fauna. Grab a drink at the Nevill Crest & Gun or The Huntsman before returning back to Tunbridge Wells on the train.
An adult return on the Spa Valley Railway is £10 and family ticket is £30.
Friday evening in West Kent
Staying local for your first night, head to The Beacon, a garden kitchen just a short taxi ride or half hour walk from the centre of Tunbridge Wells.
Hidden away down the romantically-named Tea Garden Lane, this elegant country pub offers unrivalled views across tranquil landscapes across the aptly-named Happy Valley, and a friendly yet sophisticated atmosphere.
Enjoy evening cocktails on The Beacon’s festoon-lit outdoor terrace in the Summer or beside a cosy fire in colder months, before tucking into some of their delicious, locally-sourced meals. Booking is recommended as they also host weddings, but definitely worth it if you can get a table!
Alternatively, you can’t go wrong with dinner at the stylish yet homely The Mount Edgcumbe. Set into the rock-face of Tunbridge Wells Common, this unique gastropub is a stone’s throw from the action of The Pantiles and even features its own cave!
If you’re not too full to move after your dinner, head for a nightcap at the tiny yet perfectly formed Chapel Place Wine & Gin Bar. Boasting over 120 types of gin, this unique bar always has a great atmosphere and plenty of drinks to choose from!
Saturday morning in West Kent
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before heading out to explore one of West Kent’s oldest and most romantic sites – the beautiful Scotney Castle in Lamberhurst.
Built in the 14th century, this magnificent old castle is like something out of a fairytale with its medieval turrets, ivy-clad stone staircase and reflective moat. Now owned by the National Trust and surrounded by gardens that look stunning all year round, it’s an idyllic spot for a morning stroll and to take in some of the area’s fascinating history. Entry is £12 for adults, £6 for children or free for National Trust members.
If time allows, I’d also thoroughly recommend visits to both Hever Castle in Edenbridge and Leeds Castle just outside of Maidstone. Both are perfect for a day out with little ones, offering plenty of family-friendly activities, and look beautiful all year round.
Saturday lunchtime in West Kent
For something cosy and traditional, take a trip into the pretty village of Lamberhurst to visit The Chequers, which boasts toasty open fires in winter and a lovely garden to soak up the sun in during warmer months. With an array of locally-produced food and drink, you’ll be salivating from the moment you walk in the door! The village itself is also worth exploring, with heaps of history and a picturesque church which offers great views across the surrounding countryside.
Alternatively, head to the picturesque market town of Tenterden for a bite to eat at The White Lion. Equally charming in it’s decor, with hearty meals, this family-friendly pub offers everything from stone-baked pizzas (with some really unique toppings!) to fillet steaks.
Saturday afternoon in West Kent
No trip to this area would be complete without a visit to one of Kent’s lush, green vineyards to sample some of their outstanding wine. With many to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice, but one of England’s leading wine producers, Chapel Down, is a good place to start.
Nestled into the beautiful Kent countryside, the Chapel Down estate is most well-known for its world-class sparkling wines and even appears to have had the Royal seal of approval, with the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge believed to have served the award-winning wine at their wedding in 2011. Today, they have branched out to also produce a range of delectable gins, vodkas, beers and ciders, all created from locally-grown fruit.
Nearby family-run vineyard, Balfour Winery, in Staplehurst is another great option for an afternoon amongst the vines. Boasting awards and the accolade of providing the official wine of the 2012 Olympics, they are well-known for their sparkling wines. Take in the views with a stroll through the wider estate, made up of orchards and ancient woodlands, before visiting their on-site restaurant, The View, for one of their delicious sharing platters.
You can enjoy guided tours at either winery, tasting a selection of the vineyard’s fabulous, highly-acclaimed still and sparkling wines. Other popular local wineries to visit include Gusbourne and Biddenden.
If wine isn’t really your thing or you’d prefer a more child-friendly activity, take a trip to nearby forest Bedgebury National Pinetum or reservoir Bewl Water – both are great outdoor spots for walking, cycling and playing.
Saturday evening in West Kent
West Kent is bursting with award-winning eateries so it may be a small challenge to decide where to have your Saturday night dinner!
If you’re looking to push the boat out and after something a little special, book a table at The Small Holding near Cranbrook. Voted the best restaurant in Kent at the 2019 Taste Of Kent Awards and with chef Will Devlin receiving a Green Michelin Star in 2021, you’re in for a real treat with this eclectic 10-course tasting menu, full of local produce.
Alternatively, for a more traditional yet special three-course meal, book a table at Thackeray’s in Tunbridge Wells. Dating back 300 years, this former residence of Vanity Fair author William Makepeace Thackeray offers relaxed fine dining in a truly unique and historic location.
For a more family-friendly option, I can’t speak highly enough of the authentic Italian restaurant, Il Vesuvio. This family-run restaurant is incredibly welcoming and friendly, with a huge menu and charming decor. You’ll feel transported to Naples via Tunbridge Wells!
Sunday morning in West Kent
Sunday mornings are made for lazing, and what better way to indulge than with a late brunch followed by a spot of light retail therapy.
Tuck into a leisurely brunch from The Pantiles Cafe before taking a stroll around Tunbridge Wells’ historic colonnaded walkway, The Pantiles. Dating back to the Georgian period, this area is a must-see for anyone visiting Tunbridge Wells, and particularly comes to life during its famous jazz nights (hosted on Thursdays throughout the summer) and bi-weekly artisan markets. Showcasing some of the best food, drink and designs from around Kent and Sussex, The Pantiles Market runs every other weekend – check the website for details.
Sunday lunchtime in West Kent
For a sumptuous Sunday lunch, head to The Poet in the small village of Matfield. Set in a characterful 16th century building, this hidden gem of a country pub balances exquisite food with a relaxed and informal dining experience. Any fans of Yorkshire Pudding won’t be disappointed!
Finally, drive north to work off some of that lunch with a walk across the rolling plains of Kent’s very own medieval deer park – Knole Park. Located in the heart of Sevenoaks, this vast estate offers idyllic views, mountains of history and plenty of opportunities to spot it’s famous local wildlife. Explore the magnificent former archbishop’s palace which dates back to the mid-15th century and features grand courtyards, a peaceful Orangery and spectacular vistas from the Gatehouse Tower before heading home. Entry is £10 for adults, £5 for children or free for National Trust members.