22 Muddy-approved attractions in Kent
From the big-beast tourist destinations to our cool insider alternatives, read on for our pick of 20 unmissable attractions in Kent.
Headliner: Leeds Castle
We’re so lucky to have some of the UK’s most incredible landmarks right on our doorstep here in Kent. Often described as ‘the loveliest castle in the world’ Leeds Castle has beautiful gardens and offers a year-round calendar of events. Not forgetting the playgrounds, The Maze, Bird of Prey Centre with Falconry Shows, Adventure Golf, Go Ape Tree Top Adventure and Segway Tours – making it the perfect family day out.
In-the-know intel: Hever Castle
Once most famously Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, it’s well worth a visit. It’s not too big and sprawling so easy to negotiate, stands in a beautiful area that’s steeped in all that marvellous Medieval history. With stunning gardens and lots of year-round events there’s plenty to do here. We especially love the play areas which include Acorn Dell, a natural playground for toddlers and children up to seven years old, or for older children there’s Tudor Towers, adventure playground aimed at children 7-14 years old.
Headliner: Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve
At the county’s only safari experience you can jump onboard a safari truck, included in your entry ticket, and travel through the Reserve’s South American, Asian and African Experiences spotting amazing animals along the way, including Kent’s only giraffe herd, camels, bears, zebra and many more. There’s plenty of wonderful walking routes to explore too, where animal enthusiasts can see big cats, including the resident lion pride and playful cubs, gorillas, monkeys, lemurs, black rhino and tapir to name a few.
Situated between Ashford and Folkestone Port Lympne is not just for day trippers, thanks to the huge raft of brilliant accommodation experiences on offer. From Luxury glamping to treetop hideaways, camping pods to four-poster beds, there’s something for everyone. We rather like the sound of Lion or Tiger Lodge, the luxury apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows through which guests can see (you guessed it) lions or tigers, or how about the bijoux shepherd huts at Hogdeer Creek?
In-the-know intel: Wingham Wildlife Park
Wingham Wildlife Park is Kent’s bijou zoo where you can get up-close to the animals, with one of their interactive, hands-on animal experiences – like Meet the Tigers (arrrrgh), Penguin Experience (awww) or Meerkat Experience (simples). A family-owned park where they house the largest number of animal species out of all wildlife parks and zoos in Kent (fact) and you’ll find it in a picturesque region of the county just off the road (A257) that links Canterbury and Sandwich. What we love about this family day trip is that it’s a brilliantly, manageable-sized park set in a picturesque region of the county that boasts more species than any other zoo in Kent. For little ones there’s play areas, mini diggers and go-karts.
Headliner: Bewl Water
Bewl is a big, beautiful reservoir – the largest stretch of open water in the South East in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It offers a fantastic range of water sports – from canoeing, sailing and SUP – to name a few. It’s also extremely popular for cycling (around the perimeter) and offers everything from camping to outdoor cinema, oh and a decent restaurant too!
The Bewl Water Aqua Park opens every year for the summer season and is basically 3000sq meters of floating inflatable fun – consisting of two trampolines, monkey bars, flippers, slides, hurdles, springboards, overhang climbing frame, giant iceberg… you get the idea. The brilliant thing about this day out is that it appeals to girls, boys, kids of all ages and even teens (well you know as animated as they ever get). It’s a great holiday activity for groups, families and children from 6 years old (there are some sessions times/restrictions for younger children).
In-the-know intel: Bodiam Boating Station
This lesser-known gem is a brilliant river activity centre 6 miles from Rye and 8 miles from Cranbrook and a real Muddy favourite. Perfect for a family day out, group trip or adventure with your girlie mates – with every kind of boating you can imagine on offer. Amble up the River Rother at your own leisure in one of the rowing boats, kayaks, tandem kayaks, Canadian Canoes or SUPs. Just click here to see the many ways that you can enjoy your time on the water.
You’ll find Bodiam Boating Station smack bang on the border of Kent and Sussex near to the village of Robertsbridge, is not far from the A21 that runs from north Kent down to the coast. From here you can paddle up to the National Trust’s Bodiam Castle before heading back to the Boating Station for refreshments in their gorgeous, rustic café – there’s a little cocktail bar too!
Headliner: The Pig
Kent’s own arm of the legendary hotel group where the focus is on fine dining, gorgeous interiors and providing fabulous rustic charm – city-style. Location-wise you’re just 56 minutes by train from central London, tucked away outside the historic village of Bridge, and three miles south of Canterbury. As, with the other Pigs, the standard of cooking here is excellent. And making the most of Kent’s food heritage, most of the menu is locally sourced (within a 25 mile radius) but also home-grown, from the hotel’s walled Kitchen Garden itself! They describe themselves as having an obsessive commitment to simple food, done well. Hallelujah, that’s just how we like it!
In-the-know intel: The Small Holding
The Small Holding offers wonderful home-grown and reared produce, hence the name. We are not alone in our love of this amazing eatery (which won Best Restaurant in Kent in our Muddy Stilettos Awards in 2019). Food critics from all over the country have been drooling into their plates at The Small Holding, with chef owner Will Devlin recently recognised as Chef to Watch in the Good Food Guide 2020.
Situated in one acre of beautiful Kent countryside with the mission of growing, rearing and foraging as much of the food that’s cooked as possible being at the heart of its ethos. You’ll find it tucked down a country lane in Kilndown, (between Lamberhurst and Cranbrook) and while this rustic restaurant might on the surface seem understated it packs a real foodie punch.
Headliner: Eastwell Manor
Eastwell Manor is a Champneys Hotel & Spa set in the heart of Kent within beautiful landscaped gardens, 5 miles from Ashford International station. Sitting pretty much smack bang in the middle of the county, so not too far to travel whether you’re East or West Kent.
Split into two main buildings, there’s the old manor house, pictured above, where guests can stay overnight and then the more modern, purpose-built spa building, 100 metres down a path where the many treatments take place (11 different kids of facials and 17 different massage options at last count). The cosy main house makes it perfect for winter weekend escapes and in the summer there’s a gorgeous Outdoor Pool (with bar can I just add!). Farm out the kids and slip away for a Dinner, Bed & Breakfast stay.
In-the-know intel: Green Farm Spa
A true hidden gem, Green Farm Spa and Retreat offers bespoke wellness experiences in an exclusive natural setting. Set in the Shadoxhurst conservation area and surrounded by 12,500 acres of ancient woodland and traditional pastures, Green Farm is a place where you can completely switch off.
From muscle-releasing deep tissue massages to brightening facial therapies, Green Farm’s friendly and knowledgeable staff will guide you through the ESPA treatment menu. Spa days or stays are both on offer (there’s accommodation in the owner’s farmhouse or a separate barn for larger groups). Weekend retreats can be tailored to meet your individual needs with the addition of yoga, meditation and woodland walks. A rural idyllic retreat, less than an hour from London.
SEA SIDE FUN
Dreamland: the picture perfect, seaside sensation in Margate. Think vintage rides, classic street food and a jam-packed calendar of events. Strap on some roller skates, get interactive with art exhibits or watch the sun go down with a frosty one in the Roof Top Bar. They have more than 25 rides, classics old and new, for big little kids and big little ones too. Dreamland is fast becoming the UK’s coolest music venue with big names such as Gorillaz and Sara Cox (even All Saints in 2021!) have performed there. You could never be bored here!
In-the-know intel: Folkestone Harbour Arm
Folkestone’s restored Harbour Arm is a beautiful promenade out at sea which offers a whole load more than just a pretty awesome view. There’s live music and events throughout the year, plus a brilliant collection of small, independent businesses. It’s become a true destination for food and drink fans – with top food critics travelling to try the street food sellers like Pickup Pintxos who specialise in small plates inspired by the Basque Country in Northern Spain. Or head to the Lighthouse Champagne Bar, tucked into the Folkestone Lighthouse at the tip of Folkestone Harbour Arm. Soak in the views and enjoy champagne by the glass or the bottle.
Headliner: Elmley Nature Reserve
Introducing, the only National Nature Reserve in England where you can spend the night. Okay, so we are not talking lions and tigers and bears (oh my) but since 1991, Elmley Nature Reserve has been deemed a National Nature Reserve and is an internationally recognized site for the the conservation of rare birds, plants, animals and insects.
With 3,200 acres of views, the sky can be filled with tens of thousands of wildfowl, which make an unforgettable sight of cloud-like flocks in formation. Recline on your bed in one of the funky, modern shepherd’s huts and watch the wildlife, book yourself a massage – all makes the ultimate romantic getaway. Or make it a family affair – they are well set-up for children too – and can deliver home cooked meals to your hut, giving you the freedom of self-catering without having to cook! Bigger groups of family and friends can hire the barn.
In-the-know Intel: Wildwood
For the perfect, family nature-inspired day out, head to Wildwood, positioned just outside Herne Bay in Kent, where you can get to know British Wildlife – past and present. With over 200 native animals set in 40 acres of beautiful ancient woodland, there is guaranteed to be an animal-favourite for everyone! Expect to see bears, wolves, Arctic foxes, bison, owls, wild boar, lynx, wild horses, badgers and beavers (and that’s just 10 of those 200…)
Have your children ever wanted to be a keeper for the day? They can deliver feed to some of the animals, prepare food for them, clean out the enclosures (and we mean clear out everything – euggggh) but kids love it. Then head to Wildwood’s two play areas which boasts Kent’s TALLEST drop slide, tree-top towers, wild fort towers, climbing frame and helpfully an under-5’s play area too.
Top travel guide the Lonely Planet has released its first ever list of the nation’s most ‘memorable, beautiful, surprising and compelling sights’ – and our very own Bedgebury Forest sits right there in the list of UK’s best sights and experiences not to be missed.If you live in Kent you’ve probably come across this local gem, technically called Bedgebury National Pinetum, *sniff* if we’re being proper about it. With walks, bike trails Go Ape and more. If that doesn’t tire them out, reading the list of activities should do it.
In-the-know intel: Rare Breeds Centre
Release the little people! Children can meet and pet friendly animals, including cuddly rabbits, hamsters, new born chicks, goats and horses. And if you’re really lucky, you may even meet a piglet or two. After you’ve finished with the animals you are spoilt for choice with a load of brilliant outdoor activities. Check out the Aerial Assault Course, (including the brass rubbing trails through the Rainbow Wood – can you find the Giants?) on to the Aerial Assault Course at the Mysterious Marsh, Big Red Trailer Rides, Tube Maze and Hill Fort.
Headliner: The Climbing Experience
Tarzan incoming! Well, not quite, but time to get high on life at this warehouse in Maidstone, run by two passionate Kent-based climbers whose dream was to open an indoor climbing experience in the heart of Kent.
There’s the amazing Fun Wall adventure area which is a great starting point for kids and adults alike and has 15 different climbing challenges to choose from, including a speed wall. Or for the more hardy amongst you, you can try your luck at its state-of-the-art bouldering facility, which includes a 30m competition wall, which offers you space to test yourself and develop your climbing skills.
In-the-know intel: Lydd Action Watersports
Action Watersports in Lydd, (near Rye just outside of Kent but it is worth the extra time spent in the car to get there), by the seaside. Perfect for a fun family day out with the kids whether it be trying out waterskiing or testing your balance with SUP-ING (otherwise known as paddle boarding). They also offer wakeboarding, FLYBOARDING!
KIDS EDUCATIONAL FUN
Headliner: Chatham Historic Dockyard
Celebrating everything associated with the great age of sail, this landmark venue makes a great day out. The exhibition is all really interactive, there’s always new stuff happening and three massive, MASSIVE warships to explore. What more do you want?!
You may well recognise The Historic Dockyard Chatham from the tele – it has featured heavily on Call The Midwife as well as other film and TV and it now offers official Call the Midwife tours!
2017 marked its 400th anniversary and Chatham Historic Dockyard continues to put on a packed calendar of events designed to entertain all ages in your family! My son and his friends loved it here when I took them around the 80 acre site (which includes 2 guided tours, 3 historic ships, temporary exhibitions, galleries, gardens and more…)
In-the-know intel: Kent Life Heritage Farm Park
Looking for something fun to do with the family? Kent Life Heritage Farm Park is a 28-acre working farm and visitor attraction situated in Maidstone, Kent on the site of the original Sandling Farm. Not just a step back in time for the parents but also a heap of fun for the little ones too with farm rides on the land train or tractor, a cuddle corner with some very cute animals and paint-a-pot studio for the creative types amongst you.
Open throughout the year, Kent Life tells the Kent farming story and provides a fun family day out discovering more than 200 farmyard animals including donkeys, alpacas, sheep, pigs and goats as well as indoor and outdoor play areas, and Kentish gardens and orchards. You are in danger here of having too much to do with your offspring.
Headliner: Chapel Down
One of the UK’s largest wine producers. Chapel Down is a beautiful site, walk past gleaming new tanks and presses, their swanky new deli bursting with local produce and view their tasting room called The Wine Sanctuary. Take a guided tour with a tutored tasting of their award-winning range of sparkling and still wines and have some lunch in their smart on-site restaurant, with two AA Rosette and Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, The Swan.
In-the-know intel: Squerryes
Set in the Kent Downs, in its own stunning 2,500-acre estate, Squerryes Winery is the perfect place for wine-enthusiasts – or those, like me, who know nothing about wine but love the taste! Take a tour of the Pilgrim’s Way vineyard, pop into Squerryes Court, the Warde’s family home, to meet Henry or Claire Warde themselves and learn about their family history. Leaving the best ’til last, there’s a tutored tasting with plenty of time to sit, relax, and enjoy four of their most exclusive vintages paired with toothsome cheeses and charcuterie.
They even have a newly built, super stylish, terrace makes the most of those breathtaking vineyard views with delectable seafood tapas and Sunday brunch menus.