Fromage-free Valentine’s Day!
Valentine’s Day is fast approaching (wahhhhh!). I always find it a tricky one to plan for, do you? I’m not massively keen on sitting in a restaurant along with a million other couples, gazing into each other’s eyes (Naff) playing romance-by-rote, being handed a soggy rose (Naff. And if you’re gonna do it, get me 24 will you?)… Red underwear? Double naff (and also a bit Kat Slater). Chocolate? Unoriginal (but edible at least).
So if you’re, like me, looking for something a bit less cringe/traditional and a bit more fun, here are some alternative, non-cheesy Valentine’s ideas that will help you feel the love…
THINGS TO DO
Clifftop or beachside walk and lunch at The Dog at Wingham
There is something so stirring and stunning about the Dover coastline – the raw natural beauty of those majestic white cliffs gets me every time. Or you’ve got the pretty sandy beaches of Broadstairs. Get wild and windswept on the seafront then head inland to The Dog for lunch, a stylish pub perfectly located for a Kent beach jaunt. With a very friendly vibe and top notch food, The Dog are offering an exclusive 15% off all meals and rooms booked up to the end of this month (Feb 2018). Book for lunch (if it’s an overnight stay you’re after, there’s limited availability over the Valentines weekend so you’ll have to book a stay for later in the year). To make the most of this offer you must quote: ‘Muddy Stilettos’ at the time of booking.
Cycle from Tonbridge Castle to Penshurst
This route offers an excellent, almost entirely traffic-free ride from the heart of Tonbridge alongside the River Medway, out into the countryside as far as the glorious buildings of Penshurst Place, around 5 miles to the west. Check out the route here. After skirting Tonbridge Castle, head west out of the town on to a traffic-free cycle path which runs around the edge of Barden Lake. The route takes you through Haysden Country Park (recently won the Green Flag award for being one of England’s best) and on to the Penshurst Estate. When you get to Penshurst Place, you’ll be wanting to stop at The Garden Restaurant for well earned refreshments.
Bless ’em, the RSC Live are broadcasting Shakespeare’s rom com Twelfth Night at various cinemas through the land on 14 Feb. Viola falls in love with Orsino, who dotes on Olivia, who falls for Viola but is idolised by Malvolio. There’s a woman dressed as a man, a man flaunting his garters and another who may not be as straight as his friend thought. All good stuff. Put your postcode in the search box for your nearest participating cinema – there are heaps across Kent, like Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, the Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks or the Curzon cinema in Canterbury (to name a few).
Snowdrop Walk, Hever Castle, 10 – 18 Feb daily
Are you a galanthophile? If you’re not sure what that is, it’s those with a fetish for snowdrops. Oh yes, apparently snowdrop collectors are among the most competitive varieties of plant nuts, and some will stop at nothing to get hold of a rare bulb (no, that’s not a double entendre). Well a heavenly carpet of snowdrops provide a magical trail for visitors to follow at Hever Castle & Gardens from 10 Feb. Then you’ll want to enjoy an afternoon tea in the Anne Boleyn Wing (must be pre-booked).
Chapel Down Gift Experience, The Chapel Down Winery, Tenterden
Like the sound of fine English wines, food dishes to die for and a stunning view over Kentish vineyards? (Of course you do, you’re not mad). Chapel Down Winery (England’s leading wine producer right here in Kent) is offering the Classic Gift Experience that starts with a three course lunch and a glass of wine at the winery’s two AA Rosette Swan Restaurant followed by a guided tour behind the scenes of the vineyards and winery. All this will be followed by a tutored wine tasting as well as a £10 voucher to redeem against purchases in Chapel Down’s Wine and Fine Food shop. Cost £70 per person, this is waaay better value for your buck than some naff heart-shaped choccies and Ann Summers knickers.
THINGS TO GIVE
The English Beagle
You’ll love this gorgeous new online shopping site with bags of lush gifts for Him, Her, Home, Garden, Kids – everyone’s covered. They champion independent British producers and have put together cute, original Valentine’s Day gift boxes which are worth checking out. Better still, you lovely Muddy lot can enjoy 20% off ALL English Beagle products until 28 Feb (please use promotional code LOVE01 at checkout).
Rosemary Shrager Cookery School, Tunbridge Wells
The Rosemary Shrager Cookery School, run by national treasure and top chef Rosemary herself, is housed within The Corn Exchange, a beautiful three-storey regency building in Tunbridge Wells. There’s a brilliant selection of One Day and Weekend Courses so you can hone your skills on everything from British Classics to Indian Street Food or baking Artisan Bread to Seasonal Dinner Parties. I’m all about experiences, not tat, and would seriously like to be gifted one of the day courses – you listening, Mr Muddy?
AND IF YOU MUST do the evening dinner thing…
The Kings Head, Wye, near Ashford
Well if you’re going to eat out you’ll want quality food, and a stylish vibe right? I happen to know that The Kings Head still have spaces for their three course dinner and bubbles, (retire upstairs if you want to – they have stylish guest rooms too). The special menu is available from Wednesday 14th until Saturday 17th February. Loads of great walks near by if you’re making the day of it (the staff are happy to recommend them) and the pub is doggie-friendly too.
Leeds Castle meal, Wed 14 Feb
Will it be the Maiden’s Tower, Madam? Or the Stable Courtyard, Sir? Please, let me take your luggage up to your luxurious bedroom. Well, if you’re going to insist on the romantic dinner and stay thang – you may as well do it in style – so why not dine at Leeds Castle’s very own Castle View Restaurant? Champagne awaits you in the Library and then the Butler will call for a delicious three-course candle lit dinner to be served in the Henry VIII Banqueting Hall. Seriously, I’m not making this bit up. A harpist will play of course. Okay, I admit it, this is one romantic setting that’s probably anything but naff. Get me in the right mood (more wine please, manservant) and I could definitely become a bit Anne Boleyn.