When it comes to a great base to explore Kent’s Heritage Coast, it doesn’t get much easier than Ashford. Set in the heart of the Kent countryside, but with high-speed rail links that can whisk you out of the capital in under 40 minutes, it’s a perfect jumping off point when visiting our glorious county. What’s more, with acres of vineyards, picturesque villages and not one, but two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s safe to say this corner of West Kent has a lot to boast about.
The gem in Ashford’s crown, Wye National Nature Reserve forms part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, offering walkers wildlife sightings, rolling countryside and The Devil’s Kneading Trough, one of the most dramatic and breath-taking views around. For ultimate enjoyment, we recommend packing up a picnic full of local goodies from nearby Perry Court Farm, or Macknade for a local lunch with a view. Walkers and green-space seekers who take to the trail are rewarded with views of the Wye Crown cut into the chalk downs and the chance to rest up in the pretty village of Wye, famed for its cosy pubs and rural delights.
Remember when we mentioned two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty? The High Weald is another absolute must on any walking tour of Ashford with woodland walks and rolling countryside waiting to be discovered. Trust us, visit in April and May, and you'll find woodland awash with bluebells - perfect for those springtime snaps. Set at the edge of Tenterden, the market town alone is a local favourite, with boutique shops and independent restaurants lining the high street, not to mention the Old Dairy Brewery and Kent and East Sussex Railway.
Ashford is awash with charming villages and welcoming pubs dotted throughout the countryside. Appledore, Hamstreet and Warehorne rest along the edge of the Royal Military Canal, the third longest man-made structure in the UK that’s an absolute haven for wildlife, walkers and cyclists. Stroll or pedal along the canal and you’ll soon come to Gusbourne vineyard in Appledore, not-to-be missed for its vineyard tours, tastings and even picnics amongst the vines. Fancy taking to two wheels? We recommend picking up a bike at UK Electric Bike Centre for pedal power through the rolling countryside without breaking a sweat!
If thoughts of a tour and tasting at Gusbourne has whet your appetite, Ashford is THE place to go for a taste of English wine country. Wine enthusiasts will no doubt have heard of Chapel Down in Tenterden with its award-winning wines, tours and sensational restaurant, while family-run Biddenden is renowned for their selection of ciders, apple juice and wine. Westwell Wines is another local favourite, set at the foot of the North Downs and offering a perfect spot for a post-tour glass of their Blanc de Blancs paired with locally-sourced cheeses.
Once you’ve walked, pedalled, and sampled your way around the area, Ashford’s accommodation is there to welcome you. The brand-new Hampton by Hilton Ashford International is minutes away from the Ashford International train station and its high speed links to London and the Kent coast. Wheatfields luxury glamping site in Appledore offers the perfect place to switch off and reconnect with nature (with all the luxuries, of course). While Romney Marsh Shepherds Huts boast beautiful big skies and wide-open views from the cosy comfort of your very own shepherds hut, not to mention plenty of opportunity for stargazing.
If you fancy getting stuck in and trying your hands at a new skill, we recommend discovering one of Ashford's brand new experiences. Head to The Cowshed Workshop for a creative workshop in everything from willow weaving, to jewellery making and even ceramic design. Join Rebel Farmer in the heart of the countryside and learn all about sustainable-focused farming, including techniques to grow organic fruit and veg and Rebel Farmer, Ed's mission to revolutionise how we grow food. And once you've learned how to grow good food, it's time to learn how to cook it on a Kent Cookery School course, which shares the secrets of using the finest local ingredients to craft cuisine from all around the world.
So there you have it, rolling countryside, a walker’s paradise, local food and drink, great transport links and accommodation to help you reset and reconnect with nature, it’s time to start planning your escape to Ashford.