Kent is known as the Garden of England – famous for its food and drink production, and most recently wine. As much as we love gardens in Kent however, there’s much more to this county. From one of the world's oldest religious buildings to royal homes and sensational views – we’ve rounded up some of the most iconic places to visit in Kent. Trust us, you've not explored Kent until you've checked off every spot on this bucket list!
Built almost one thousand years ago, Canterbury Cathedral is the most visited attraction in Kent and there’s good reason. With a rich history, a visit to Canterbury and the local area is not complete without a visit to marvel over the lofty views, beautiful stained glass windows and substantial crypt. You might even bump into the head of the Anglican church – The Archbishop Justin Welby! Make your pilgrimage to Canterbury
Sitting on its current site since 604AD, the cathedral in Rochester is the second oldest in the UK with it's current architecture, including the nave and facade added in 1080. Once you step inside, marvel at the recently refurbished Crypt, Vestry and Chapter Library or step outside to the gardens and discover the ruins of the monastery which was closed in 1540. 1400 years of spiritual history in Medway
Challenging the Cathedrals for age, Hever Castle has an history almost as full as it is just shy of 800 years old old. Most famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, today the castle has plenty to explore, whether it be the maze, Italian Garden or simply taking in the beauty of the castle and its moat – and if you get sleepy on your way around, there’s even Tudor bedrooms to spend the night.
Royal exploring and living in Hever
‘The loveliest castle in the world’ is a phrase used to describe Leeds Castle quite often - pay it a visit and you'll soon see why! Sitting on an island in the middle of a lake, a castle has existed on the site since 1119 and has Royal connections including Edward I and Henry VIII. Most recently, the castle was owned by Lady Bailie who had a number of high-profile parties and decorated the interior to today’s spectacular standard. Be sure to get a punt around the water to see the best views!
800 years of history in Leeds Castle
Although the two castles above have an aristocratic past, Dover Castle has more of a military history. Standing as Kent and England’s first line of defence since the 11th century, you can easily spend a full day here exploring and living life like King Henry II, with costumed characters and regular re-enactments. Although if you fancy your history a little more recent, there’s the Secret Wartime Tunnels which were military headquarters and underground hospital during WWII.
Discover the Key to England
Moving away from castles and royalty, Chatham Dockyard was the most complete dockyard from the ‘age of sail’ in the world. Once sitting at over 400 acres, the dockyard is today a little smaller, however it still houses three historic warships, a WWII destroyer and a submarine last used in 1990. It is however not just about visiting naval ships, as there is a calendar of events throughout the year to keep everyone entertained including television set tours and art exhibitions.
Create a historic day out at the Dockyard
One of the most well-known businesses across the South East is Shepherd Neame. Synonymous with your favourite local pub or pint, the drinks producer has been local to Faversham in Kent for over 300 years. Proudly independent and family run, Shepherd Neame hosts tours around their brewing facilities from smelling the hops to tasting the final product, it’s a day to really get into the Kentish spirit!
Taste testing at Britain’s oldest brewer
Set up in 1957 by John Aspinall, Howletts has been a staple of Kent’s animal heritage since its opening to the public in 1975. Known for housing some of the rarest and most endangered species in the world, the park is an advocate for the breeding of the animals who are in most need of help. Visitors can expect to explore 100 acres of wooded parkland, to really feel close to nature and its magnificent species.
Walk amongst animals at Howletts
Kent is not just all about history and beautiful landscapes – it has also got a reputation for being a good shopping destination too! If you need to get a bunch of Christmas shopping done in one hit there's everything from high street brands to more upper end stores. If you have a member of the family who just doesn’t find the appeal to shop then Bluewater is the spot for them too - featuring a cinema, waterside restaurants and even a trampoline park, it’s a day out for any kind of activity. Shop, watch and jump at Bluewater
It may well be the youngest attraction on this list, but the Turner Contemporary art gallery in Margate is certainly not to be discounted. Internationally renowned and a modern symbol of the town, the gallery has featured works by JMW Turner himself, through to modern day heavyweights such as Tracy Emin and Antony Gormley. In 2019, the Turner Contemporary will host the Turner Prize - one of the most well known awards in the world of visual arts, and with new exhibitions opening regularly, there is no such thing as a bad time to visit. Art on the coast in Margate
It was the home of one of the world’s most iconic leaders, so it’s only right that Chartwell made our list. A much-loved family home, Chartwell is said to have truly inspired Sir Winston Churchill, who famously noted that a day away from it was a day wasted! Judge this for yourself as you discover a home packed with mementoes of the leader’s private life, from books and pictures, to a studio containing the largest collection of his paintings. Tour the house, discover a real bomb crater in the rolling grounds and seek out the brand-new tree house for the perfect family day out.
A family home
A vintage amusement park dating back 100 years, this seaside sensation in Margate is a favourite across the generations. It all began with the Scenic Railway, the oldest wooden roller coaster in the UK and the centrepiece of the park! Take a trip and you’ll see a lot’s changed in 100 years, with plenty more thrill and chill rides, live entertainment, art installations and a retro roller disco. So strap on your skates, sip a pint in the Cinque Ports Pub and enjoy sea views from up high at this Kent icon.
Fun and thrills
Kent’s very own safari, this one’s earned its place as one of our most wild locations in Kent. Grab a seat in a safari truck and tour 100 acres, alive with African animals, from zebras to giraffes, wandering freely across the park. And when you’re done exploring, it’s time to check in on your very own safari escape. Get up close (and we mean really close) with rooms set in lion and tiger enclosure, sleep up high in your own tree house or bunk down in a cosy shepherd’s hut for the ultimate adventure.
One of the best-known vineyards in the country, the Chapel Down winery rests at the edge of the Kent countryside in the town of Tenterden. As a supplier to Downing Street, it’s safe to say their wines have long been a favourite, so a tour of the rolling vineyard, winery and elegant tasting room is an absolute must for wine lovers. What’s more, these talented folk have now turned their attentions to brewing, so if you’re in the area, a visit to their Curious Brewery in nearby Ashford is well worth sticking around for. Two icons in one weekend? Sounds good to us.
Sip and sample
Golfers will have almost certainly have heard of this sensational links course because it’s the host of the 149th Open, but did you know it can be found right here in Sandwich, Kent? Walk in the footsteps of the champions and play the course where the Claret Jug has been lifted 14 times. In addition to the chance to play one of the finest courses in England, visitors can expect picturesque views across the Channel and one of the best golf club lunches in England!
Take a swing