18 Calming Country Walks
When you need to stay away from crowds, stick to social distancing, but crave some fresh air to keep sane - a country walk is just the tonic.
It’s changing daily, but at the moment the current advice is for healthy people – and particularly those not in the more vulnerable groups – to still keep active where appropriate.
Keeping fit and healthy is obviously vital for physical, but also mental health, and especially during a health crisis, but if you’re out it’s important to stay away from others and observe social distancing measures.
With this in mind here’s some walking inspo. Most importantly many of the The National Trust properties might be closing, but the walks surrounding them are still open.
They will however be closing all cafes, houses, retail, and cancelling events.
Here’s our pick of the best local venues:
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Heralded for its beauty and diversity, the garden at Sissinghurst Castle is among the most famous gardens in England and should be on your to-do list as one of the top places to Kent.
The outside space at Sissinghurst Castle has evolved into the now world-renowned gardens which are laid out as a series of themed ‘outdoor rooms’.
UPDATE: While the Castle Garden will be closed temporarily at this time the estate walks will remain open.
With far-reaching views over the Weald of Kent, this National Trust gem has something for everyone, plus is also one of our favourite picnic spots in Kent – and dog-friendly too! Standing on one of the highest spots in Kent,
Emmetts Garden offers panoramic views as well as some great walking opportunities, plus it is a fantastic destination for kids too.
UPDATE: The gardens are closed but the public footpath is still accessible from the Toys Hill carpark via the Red Route. Please keep checking the website and social media for any further updates.
Former home of one of our country’s most well-known political figures and now a wondrous place to visit with beautiful gardens and woodland to explore – pooches welcome!
There’s 80 acres of woodland and farmland belonging to Chartwell estate, you will soon see why the Churchills famously bought Chartwell for the views from the terrace lawn in front of the house.
UPDATE: From 23 March, the gardens, toilets and carpark will remain open Monday to Friday, while observing social distancing measures.
Scotney Castle has got it covered for that quintessential English outing. Steeped in history and all contained within a beautiful wooded estate, with over 770 acres for you to explore, plus your four-legged friends too.
UPDATE: The estate is open but it’s requested you please access via public footpaths as the car park will be closed.
Surrounded by the wooded landscape of the Sussex Weald, this 17th-century house, former home to Rudyard Kipling, provided a much needed sanctuary, and is now a fabulous place to visit for you and the whole family.
UPDATE: While Bateman’s and its facilities are closed. Public footpaths will remain open.
A romantic moated manor house, steeped in history, offering tonnes of fun for the younger ones in its natural play area as well as breathtaking walks across the Kent countryside.
In Spring, it’s all about the renowned ancient bluebell woodland in at Scathes Wood.
UPDATE: While the garden and house at Ightham Mote are now closed, the estate will remain open for us to enjoy, while observing social distancing measures.
And here’s a reminder of our BEST WALKS WITH PUB PITSTOP feature. We’ve kept the eateries in here because, like puppies, the Muddy Guides are for life not just for, er, Easter. So you can choose when you want to add in a pub pitstop AT A FUTURE DATE.
WALK 1 / BISHOPSBOURNE, HOPS AND RAILWAY, BRIDGE PLACE
Distance and difficulty: Only just over three miles for a circular walk from The PIG at Bridge Place. Moderate fitness required to make the circuit – the walk is fairly flat and generally dry.
Good for: With lots to look at along the way – and an end destination of The PIG hotel and restaurant – what’s not to love!
Why we love it: This walk takes you to via Bourne Park to Bishopsbourne with its 13 Century Church (next to Joseph Conrad’s House) and restored railway station. On the way back you pass old hop kilns and hop fields. For full details of the walk contact the hotel who can send you the full description.
Fancy a dining destination that is the very definition of countryside charm with a cool, cosmopolitan edge? Hello, The Pig at Bridge Place! Kent now has it’s own arm of the legendary hotel group where the focus is on fine dining, gorgeous interiors and providing fabulous rustic charm – city-style. With a kitchen garden and the emphasis always on the home-grown as it is locally sourced within a 25 mile radius, they describe themselves as having an obsessive commitment to simple food, done well. Hell, yeah!
WALK 2 / WYE DOWNS WALK
Distance and difficulty: Moderate/ harder – 4 stiles and some steep slopes – one path that’s possibly a bit slippy so take care. 4.3 mile route, allow 3 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Stretchy leggers, adults and dog walkers – this walk has some challenging climbs in places but well worth it for the spectacular views from the Downs.
Why we love it: Wye is a gorgeous corner of Kent countryside, nestled at the foot of the North Downs (and just North East of Ashford with it’s high speed train in and out of London) in an area of outstanding natural beauty. And this walk takes in some of the pretty, historic village itself.
The Kings Head is a smart pub with rooms situated in the middle of Wye. With a relaxed vibe, but careful attention to detail the menu here is inspired by some of the best dishes from around the British Isles, some old, some new, all tasty and they’re on a mission to provide the best produce Kent has to offer. With gorgeous guest rooms should you fancy making a weekend of it – and dog-friendly too. Woof!
WALK 3 / IGHTHAM MOTE TO SHIPBOURNE WALK
Distance and difficulty: Easy walk, 3.5 miles – allow 2 hours). View walk here.
Good for: Stately home fans, family day trippers and dog walkers – easy enough circular walk.
Why we love it: This Ightham Mote circular walk begins with a wander through ancient Scathes Wood, before taking in some wonderful views of the Kentish countryside on the way to the neighbouring estate of Fairlawne and on to Shipbourne (for refreshments). Wander out in early spring and you’ll find a magnificent display of bluebells in Scathes Wood.
For non-fussy, decent pub fare in a comfortable, friendly setting you can’t go wrong with The Chaser Inn. This is an informal, relaxed pub, in sleepy Shipbourne, next to the church and overlooking the common. Children are well catered for, there is a lovely beer garden for warmer days or lots of cosy spaces and roaring fires inside. Plus a dog-friendly section by the bar – all bases covered.
WALK 4 / THE THREE BRIDGES TOUR
Distance and difficulty: Easy to Moderate – 4.5 mile route, over three bridges (you’d never have guessed) and along river banks. Allow 2 – 2.5 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Families with older children (prams and tiny toddlers might not be best suited to a waterside walk).
Why we love it: There’s always something interesting to see when walking near water. Here you’ll amble along the river Medway, over three bridges at East Lock and between ponds and lakes surrounding the river. Great surrounds for both sunny summer days or brisk, fresh winter walking.
The Poacher & Partridge is a spacious, open plan family-friendly pub with floor to ceiling glass doors leading to the large garden and views stretching across Kent’s open farmlands. There’s a decent children’s play area outside (go on, boot ’em out) making this an ideal family destination. The pub is just a short walk from All Saints Church; the only church in the world to have all its stained glass windows designed and made by the Russian artist Marc Chagall (fact fans).
WALK 5 / LAMBERHURST, KILNDOWN AND SCOTNEY CASTLE CIRCULAR WALK
Distance and difficulty: Easy, circular 5 mile walk. Allow 2-2.5 hrs. View walk here.
Good for: Dog walkers (note: dogs are not allowed inside the castle), National Trust lovers, foodies.
Why we love it: With fantastic views, this fairy-tale walk takes you through National Trust woodland, across rivers and through beautiful castle grounds. Finish off this feast of the senses with a taste of heaven at The Small Holding.
Winner of Best Restaurant in Kent in the Muddy Awards 2019, The Small Holding boasts a slice of foodie heaven where the menu changes every day – because the chef grows all his own ingredients. Situated in one acre of beautiful Kent countryside with growing, foraging and cooking at the heart of its ethos. It’s relaxed, welcoming and definitely a foodie destination with the kitchen element being the star of the show. The sunny decked area overlooking the smallholding at the front is perfect for weekend walkers. Inside there’s a cosy bar, wooden floorboards and old farm equipment decorating the walls. Will Devlin is one of Kent’s most exciting chefs and brother Matt is a great knowledge on the wine/drink side of the restaurant and will match your food choices with the best wine or craft beer options, should you wish.
WALK 6 / PENSHURST PLACE AND THE EDEN VALLEY
Distance and difficulty: An easy to moderate 6 mile circular route. Allow 3 hrs. View walk here.
Good for: Walkers with slightly older children as there are some steeper slopes.
Why we love it: Find something for everyone in this varied walk across the River Eden, through the villages of Penshurst and Chiddingstone, lovely woodlands, and stretching fields. Penshurst Place offers an Adventure Playground, great for entertaining kids and their Woodland Trail is perfect for mini nature-lovers and camp builders.
The Kentish Hare, in nearby Bidborough, is listed in the national Top 50 Gastropub Awards and was Winner of Best Destination Pub in the 2019 Muddy Awards. Every time we’ve visited this eatery it always makes the gourmet grade, is welcoming and stylishly designed (with the hare theme and quirky furnishings dotted around the place). There’s a beer garden here and lots of pockets of space here and you’d be just at home having a grown up meal out with the mother-in-law in the main dining room, or feeding your kids in the more relaxed bar area.
WALK 7 / THE SEVEN YEARS’ STAGGER
Distance and difficulty: Easy walking which will luckily not take you 7 years! (We hope). View walk here.
Good for: Families & dogs.
Why we love it: Step into history with this country romp through Kentish fields. The famous ‘Seven Year’s Stagger’ maps the journey which French prisoners walked between The Three Chimneys and Sissinghurst Castle during the Seven Year’s War (1756-1763). Visit one of the most popular National Trust properties, the beautiful Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens created by Vita Sackville-West.
Low beams, dried hops, candles and the roaring fires together create a relaxed and inviting authentic pub experience in The Three Chimneys. Beers, bitters and the like are sold from casks behind the bar – in short it’s the kind of gastro pub that Mr Muddy Kent loves – no glossy Farrow & Ball refurb here.
WALK 8 / SISSINGHURST AND FRITTENDEN
Distance and difficulty: Easy to moderate walking stretching over a full 10 miles (beginning and ending at The Milk House). View walk here.
Good for: Families, dog walkers, those keen for a longer time out and about.
Why we love it: Located in a famous corner of Kent, this amazing walk takes you through almost unknown footpaths and woodland. With an optional visit to the popular Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens created by Vita Sackville-West, it’s a breathtaking route.
The Milk House is a stylish eatery which remains dog friendly and prides itself on a menu that changes with the seasons; using only the freshest produce from local suppliers. A blazing fire surrounded by a beautiful stone fireplace creates a homely atmosphere throughout and alongside a seasonal Dining Menu, there’s also a range of classic pub fare, for those that prefer less fuss, a light Grazing Menu and good choices for kids too. Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens is just half a mile’s walk away and upstairs you’ll find four characterful en-suite bedrooms, should you want to make a weekend of it.
WALK 9 / STODMARSH
Distance and difficulty: Easy walking – various routes through the Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve to choose from at different lengths. View walk here.
Good for: Nature enthusiasts & dogs on leads.
Why we love it: Walk the beautiful Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve to work up an appetite before a stylish pub visit. Educate yourself on the wilds of nature through the panels around the reserve and maybe spot the rare wildlife found here.
The Red Lion, Stodmarsh is a handsome and historic pub, located near Canterbury, received a favourable review by restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin in the Sunday Times, but not before Muddy got there – (pen posed and pudding spoon-ready). And we were equally impressed, read our review here. The pub classics are there but with a sophisticated twist – but it’s the beer garden that wins the prize with its colourful picnic tables and uninterrupted views of the countryside ahead. There are also two newly refurbished and very stylish rooms upstairs. More info here.
WALK 10/ WICKHAMBREAUX TO WINGHAM AND BACK VIA ICKHAM
Distance and difficulty: Moderate circular walk taking around 2.5 hrs. View walk here.
Good for: Families, Pub lovers & dogs.
Why we love it: This fantastic circular walk takes you through a variety of fields, woods and beautiful villages. A selection of four great pubs along the way provides refreshments and sustenance to keep you going.
Muddy favourite The Dog – which has also now listed in the Top 50 Gastropub Awards so you know the food here is top notch. This place has it all – family run, verrry good food, 8 beautifully designed bedrooms – all with en suite bathrooms and loyal regulars thanks to its strong sense of local community. Found in picturesque Wingham, which is rather superbly located on the road that links Canterbury and Sandwich, this pub makes a good option if you want to make a weekend of it – or just visit for a walk and lunch.
WALK 11 / BLEAN AND VICTORY WOODS, DARGATE
Distance and difficulty: Take the easier option and stomp through Victory Woods with your dogs or take off-road push bikes or explore one of the five way marked trails in Blean Woods – the longest being an 25 mile circular wander but only for the brave-hearted, some of us have got a pub to get to…
Good for: Families and dog walkers.
Why we love it: In the summer make sure to look out for damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies, including the rare Heath Fritillary Butterfly which is the The Blean’s greatest conservation success story. The Blean is classified as ancient woodland, its value for wildlife is recognised at a national level with over half of the Blean being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, also one third of the wood is also designated as a Special Area of Conversation.
The Dove in Dargate, a Shepherd Neame pub, has had a long-standing reputation for good food and they were a finalist for Best Destination in Pub at last year’s Muddy awards, situated on Plum Pudding Lane (yes really), in the pretty village of Dargate, it’s right in the heart of the Kent countryside – just 15 mins from Whistable and 15 mins from Canterbury. There’s always menu of fresh, seasonal and local produce that changes on a regular basis plus children are well catered for – phew! No stiff white tablecloths here, it’s very friendly and stripped down with the focus on the food and a fun atmosphere. There’s a lovely garden with plenty of outdoor seating for the summer months and a cosy log-burning fire inside for the colder months.
WALK 12 / COUSLEY WOOD TO BEWL WATER WALK
Distance and difficulty: Easy, circular walk of around 2 and 3/4 miles (allow at least 40 mins for round trip). View walk here.
Good for: Families and Relaxed Sunday lunchers.
Why we love it: Park the car in the Old Vine car park and walk from there to Bewl Water – you’ll arrive near one of the Water Taxi stop off points. So if you want you can take the Bewl Belle around the reservoir and make a day trip of it.
If you don’t know it, Bewl Water is the largest stretch of open water in the South East. The 800 acre site is set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in the heart of the High Weald. Open all year, a visit to this stunning lake is fantastic family fun and great value.
Galapagos restaurant at the Old Vine pub is a wonderful slice of South American sunshine on the Kent/Sussex border. If you’re after something a bit different, in rural surroundings without any formality this could be just the ticket. Kids are well catered for yet it’s also smart enough for more discerning grandparents/in-laws too.