Leaf-crunching walks, vibrant views, auburn leaves and gorgeous sunsets, take one look at our Instagram feed come 1st October and you’ll soon see that an autumn weekend break in Kent is absolutely glorious. If you’ve seen our manor house grounds and rolling gardens in summer, allow us to present the equally Insta-worthy autumn in Kent, which promises scarlet Boston Ivy climbing castles, food festivals celebrating our culinary credentials and vineyards ready for harvesting.
Whether your autumn staycation plans have you dreaming of autumn walks, cosy pubs, or fantastic food and drink, allow us to share some of Kent’s best loved fall locations, and a few hidden gems along the way. Plus, with HS1 links from London and travel through the county with Southeastern, making a weekday or weekend break of it has never been easier.
Kent’s coast has seen its fair share of defences and without them the history of county could be vastly different. If you’ve yet to take a trip to this White Cliffs area of Kent, then ticking off three of our most beautiful castles is a weekday or weekend trip for the books, especially with the autumnal views in each of their settings. Proudly atop the cliffs over the English Channel is Dover Castle with its rich history from Roman conquests to WW2, sitting a little further around the coast is Deal Castle with its Tudor rose shape that was built for Henry VIII. But it doesn’t just have been to history, as while Walmer Castle has its own varied history and brushes with plenty of royalty, it is known locally for having one of the most beautiful gardens and the autumn is not exception!
Our beloved coast has a historic jewel in its crown in the shape of Margate. With a rejuvenated cultural scene, the town on the far north of Kent makes for a picturesque escape and if you’re looking for not only somewhere to eat, but stay too then consider the Margate Suites which are right on the seaside towns' main sandy beach. Each apartment is uniquely designed and curated by local artists and creatives – discover their lineup here – just look at that blue!
Where else could you think of to appreciate the autumn and its bounty of colours than being outdoors? Nowhere! So, visiting Elmley Nature Reserve, the only national nature reserve in the country where you can stay overnight, is the place to head for an autumnal break. It is somewhere to really connect with nature and slow down, and staying overnight is equally as easy with a selection array of accommodation from Farmhouse bedrooms to shepherd's huts and cabins. If you’re only able to make a day of it, make sure you visit to recharge and boost your serotonin with some golden hues and wildlife, watch out for migrating birds such as Whimbrel and Green Sandpiper pass through en route to Africa and listen out for barn owls who breed late in Elmley’s boxes.
Feasting on locally grown and produced food is vitally important and as we’ve mentioned, the autumn is pretty special, and that applies to the seasons fare too. At the beginning of autumn is the Broadstairs Food Festival which runs 30th Sept - 2nd Oct and showcases many local producers and their products – from cheese to internationally inspired cuisine. If you’d rather go out and find your own goods, then consider a foraging course with Doctor Forager which involves identifying and collecting natures harvest right on our doorstep. keep an eye on their Facebook page for future dates through September and into October!
The Romney Marsh is famous locally for being the home to hundreds of sheep, with the fluffy animals being spotted across the south east of Kent. If you’re looking for a stay to truly connect with the local area, then consider the Romney Marsh Shepherd Huts whose accommodation provide peaceful surroundings in rural space close to the coast. Take time to venture into the local area, before warming up around the fire pit under the night sky.
After watching the sun-baked Open Championship final at our very own Royal St George’s last summer, we know we won’t be the only ones who have added it to their to-play list, and heading to the Kent coast this autumn. Set on the Sandwich coast, adjacent to Royal St George’s, the Championship links course of Prince’s is one of our favourites, and judging by its placement in the Today’s Golfer Top 100 following extensive renovations, we’re guessing we’re not alone. After 27 holes of unique links golf, the Lodge at Prince’s is a welcome retreat with sea views and within easy reach of London by train with Southeastern.
Remember when we mentioned that scarlet Boston Ivy creeping across the front of a castle? Yes, Hever Castle has long been one of the faces of autumn in Kent and, after a visit to the grounds in October, you’ll soon see why. Don those wellies, crunch those leaves, and discover trees adorned in gold, glorious displays of red, and a castle that can only be described as at its romantic best, right at the heart of the grounds. And speaking of romantic, take one peek at the luxury rooms in Hever Castle’s B&B and we know you’ll swoon. Whichever wing of the castle you stay in (seriously, how can you pass that up?) you’ll be guaranteed countryside views, a delicious breakfast and rooms fit for royalty.
Oh, you didn’t think we’d stop there with our autumnal castle boasting, did you? Head to Leeds Castle this autumn and you’ll have the chance to wander the famous gardens transformed into a golden paradise. For the ultimate experience, book a garden tour and dinner in the Castle View Restaurant, before turning in for the night in the Maiden’s Tower bed and breakfast within the castle walls.
Ask anyone in the know about their favourite autumn locations in Kent and we guarantee Bedgebury will be up there. And it’s not just because this stunning spot is home to a world-leading collection of conifers. At Bedgebury the 350 acres of lakes, conifer and broadleaved woodland, and trails provide awe-inspiring colours come autumn. Post-run for full relaxation, we recommend a stay at Kent and Sussex Cottages’ Blackthorn Barn in nearby Goudhurst for a real rural retreat for two.
A true hidden gem, Godinton House and Gardens is another tranquil place to retreat and experience nature. Twelve acres of gardens, ancient parkland, stately oaks, chestnuts, and manicured lawns and borders, autumn at Godinton offers peace, quiet and a riot of colour. While in the nearby town of Ashford, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to sample seasonal food and drink, with street food at Coachworks or Macknades at Elwick Place.
Sevenoaks offers some real hidden gems, so if you haven’t had the chance to visit Great Comp Garden, you’ll be in for a treat come autumn. Seven acres of rare plants can be found here, with ornamental grasses, a myriad of colour and beautiful borders found in the garden, and the welcome of tea and cake in the Old Dairy tearooms. Just a short drive away, Penshurst Place boasts Grade I listed formal gardens circling a 14th century manor. The gardens alone are worth visiting for, but the estate walks through the expansive parkland are another favourite (just look at our Instagram, it appears quite often!). Round off your wanders with a hot chocolate and cake in the Porcupine Pantry and you’ve got the perfect Penshurst Place visit. Weekenders, stay at the luxurious Bloom Stays’ Bushes Oast and you’ll experience waking up to gorgeous Wealden views, not to mention the chance to tick off a stay in an oast house (a Kent bucket list item, if ever there was one).
Belmont House just outside of Faversham has a kitchen garden that epitomises our title as the Garden of England. With fruit trees laden in autumn colour, beds of vegetables and even a nuttery, its spoils are both beautiful and delicious. With 3000 acres to explore, the farmland and woodland grounds of the estate are more than enough to keep you busy, but the elegant 18th century house is a must-see while you’re here. Just a short drive away, the original site of Macknade is the culmination of all that lovely Kent produce, offering up fresh fruit, cheeses, veg, cakes and more, in the South East’s leading food hall. Tuck in to everything from tacos to pizzas at the Macknade Food Village, or head into Faversham and dine and stay at Shepherd Neame’s The Sun Inn and enjoy a fireside drink of their freshly brewed ales.
With the temperatures still holding out in the mild to even warm climes, breathe in the autumnal scenes along the River Stour with a trip on a canoe, kayak or paddleboard with Canoe Wild. This is a great day our for all ages and abilities, with the inclusion of a lift service (for trips only), equipment and a safety briefing including paddle techniques. For the true romantics, we recommend their Wildlife Sunset Tours, experiencing the river by nightfall and potentially seeing the resident River Stour beavers along the way.
Vineyards in autumn? Now that’s a sight worth seeing. Tour some of our favourite vineyards and you’ll see a spectacle of autumn colour, harvesting and vines laden with grapes. If you don’t know where to start (Kent has quite a few vineyards), The Wine Garden of England website is the perfect guide, but we love Chapel Down, Gusbourne, Hush Heath, Biddenden and Simpsons, for their award-winning wines, magnificent views, tours and tastings.
Visiting the Garden of England couldn’t be easier by train – just sit back, relax and enjoy the Kent countryside as you travel. Just a short hop on the train and you can explore the beautiful Kent countryside, historic buildings and stunning coastal views – not forgetting plenty of pit-stops for an ice cream! Plus, with Southeastern's list of favourite spots for a relaxing stroll that are all just a hop away on the train, we recommend lacing up your walking boots and discovering Kent's autumnal countryside, from coast to rural locations for a real local escape.