Cheap days out in Kent - 5 ways to enjoy the Garden of England on a budget
It’s no secret that we’ll all be feeling the pinch this winter. With the cost of living dramatically rising, luxuries such as holidays and days out are likely to take the hit when it comes to prioritising where to spend our hard–earned cash.
Luckily, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy days out in Kent without breaking the bank. Here, I’ve detailed some suggestions for cheap days out in Kent that will mean you can still enjoy our beautiful county even if money is tight.
Make the most of annual memberships
Annual memberships with charities such as National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Houses are a great way of saving money whilst enjoying regular days out – and we’re very lucky to have a huge array of included sites here in Kent and Sussex.
Paying a one-off fee to gain free access to a number of historic castles, stately homes and beautiful gardens throughout the year means that there is always a local spot to go without having to worry about how much it’ll cost or how long you’ll be there. With entry fees often priced at around £8-10, you need to visit less than one a month over the year to have saved money. They’re also a great gift idea for Christmas or Birthdays.
We’ve enjoyed many days out (especially when my daughter was very small) at local sites that we perhaps would never have ventured to had they not been included in our membership. With seasonal trails, events and lovely cafes, these historic sites make for a great – and budget friendly – day out. Some of my personal favourites include Scotney Castle (NT), Sissinghurst Castle Garden (NT), Ightham Mote (NT), Dover Castle (EH) and Penshurst Place (HH).
All three of the schemes I’ve mentioned here also offer discounted packages for joint, family or lifetime memberships – please see more information on their individual websites.
Do a self-guided walking tour
Whether it’s exploring a new area or your own home town, doing a self-guided walking tour is a budget-friendly, informative and fun day out, as well as a great way of getting some exercise!
Local company Quiz Trail sells activity booklets full of facts, history and maps to guide you through a fascinating walking tour. Offering accessible circular routes no longer than 2 miles long, the trails take you on a walk around some of the highlights of each town or village, with observational clues and questions along the way.
Prices start from just £4 per pack and locations include Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, Broadstairs, Rye, Canterbury and Whitstable, amongst many others. Make a day of it by stopping for lunch or drinks at a local pub en route.
Similarly, Walk Tonbridge offers some brilliant, free walking routes around West Kent. Started during the first lockdown, this detailed blog boasts a variety of walks of all lengths. From a tour of some of the area’s quirky churches to a ghost walk around Tonbridge, there’s something for everyone – and many that include optional stop offs at pubs and picturesque spots.
Look for local restaurant deals
You can still enjoy some good meals out if you’re savvy about where to go and when. Lots of restaurants have set menus or offers available on certain days which can save on dining out.
The Shuffle House in Tunbridge Wells offers a free children’s meal (under 12) when an adult main course is ordered every Sunday, as well as family pizza deals on Tuesday-Friday between 4pm and 5.30pm. Similarly, kids eat free every Sunday at the Royal Wells Hotel.
Set menus can also be brilliant money savers. Miller & Carter Steakhouse in Maidstone offer a 2-course lunch and early evening menu for just £12.50, whilst The Barn in Tunbridge Wells has a weekly lunch set menu for £14.95. If you’re a burger fan, Framptons in Tunbridge Wells has ‘£12 Tuesdays’ which includes a burger, fries and drink for just – you guessed it! – £12.
Bill’s also usually have good offers throughout the year – from 20% for students, to bottomless pancake afternoons for kids. It’s worth shopping around for current promotions and offers, usually accessible via the restaurant’s website.
Visit some of Kent’s free museums
Museums are a great place to spend time and are often completely free. There’s no need to venture into London for good museums either, as we have a whole array to explore right on our doorstep!
Canterbury is a good place to start when it comes to museums, with the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge offering a huge selection of history, art and unique collections to marvel at. From remarkable finds from Ancient Egypt and Anglo-Saxon Kent, to an exhibition dedicated to the work of the Smallfilms duo featuring Bagpuss and The Clangers, there’s something for everyone at this expansive museum – and admission is free (though donations are suggested). If you’d prefer to go further back in time, Canterbury Roman Museum is also a fascinating place to visit. Charges to apply but it’s free for annual members.
Likewise, The Guildhall Museum in Rochester is free to visit and boasts a range of exhibitions around the social and maritime history of the area. Dating back to the 17th century, the historic buildings of the fascinating local museum are also an attraction in itself, featuring an ornate grand staircase and the Guildhall Chambers. The latest permanent exhibition, ‘The Making Of Charles Dickens’ was opened in early 2022.
The newly-opened The Amelia Scott in Tunbridge Wells is also a must-visit. With an array of free exhibitions, a wonderful children’s library, cafe and numerous events on throughout the year, it’s a cultural hub of activity.
Other free museums in Kent include the Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery, Folkestone Museum, Kent Firefighting Museum and the Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum.
Explore the many free, outdoor spaces
We are spoilt for choice when it comes to free, open spaces in Kent. There’s a reason it’s nicknamed the Garden of England, after all! Whether you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy a brisk, country walk, a muddy nature trail or just a spot for the kids to play, there are plenty of places to explore which are completely cost-free.
Dunorlan Park in Tunbridge Wells is one of my personal favourites, with a central lake to walk around, historic features to discover and natural play area for little ones. There is a cafe on site and parking is free, but spaces are limited. Similarly, Grade II listed Mote Park in Maidstone boasts 450 acres of woodland, lakes, play areas and even a model railway! It’s an ideal spot for riding bikes or walking amongst the ancient trees. Download the free Mote Park Tree Trails for more inspiration.
Going slightly more rural, White Horse Country Park near Maidstone offers stunning countryside, medieval ruins and incredible views. Take the walk through the North Downs AONB to see the ruins of Thurnham Castle before visiting The Black Horse Inn for drinks or lunch. Alternatively, Lullingstone Country Park in the Darenth Valley offers some lovely walking trails for a great day out.