Chilham Castle was a medieval deer park of 130 hectares extensively landscaped in the 18th and 19th centuries to include formal and ornamental gardens around the castle.
Scotney Castle has gardens and woodland of 7 hectares set within a larger park and woodland of some 117 hectares. The gardens were laid out in the mid-19th century and again in the mid-20th century. They feature an ice house thatched in heather and a lake.
Days out in Kent
With two areas of outstanding natural beauty, as well as plenty of open countryside, to enjoy, Kent offers more than enough outdoor activities, attractions, and days out. But its major towns of Maidstone, Ashford, Folkstone, and historic city of Canterbury, offer something else as well. From culture, history, and heritage to plenty of fun and excitement, Kent has something for everyone.
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, a visit to historic Canterbury won’t disappoint. Visit the city’s magnificent cathedral, with its gothic towers and stunning stained-glass windows. Take a guided tour around the city for a deeper look into the city’s history or visit the Canterbury Roman Museum with dozens of artefacts and a 2,000-year-old, beautifully preserved mosaic floor on display.
There’s plenty more Roman history to discover at Richborough Roman fort and amphitheatre in Sandwich, while a visit to Chislehurst Caves will take you over 30 metres underground through a unique series of tunnels, hundreds of years old.
Just outside Tonbridge, beautiful Hever Castle near Edenbridge has a rich history and stunning gardens to explore, as does the magnificent 12th-century Leeds Castle near Maidstone. Regularly called the ‘loveliest castle in the world’, the grounds, gardens, and terraces provide a beautiful landscape.
But Kent isn’t just about its glorious historical sites. Future F1 drivers can get an adrenaline rush at Buckmore Park near Chatham, one of the leading karting circuits in the UK. While Dreamland near Margate is the place to visit for an excellent day out, with thrill rides and attractions for all ages – and heights!
But Kent is perfect for exploring and taking in the outstanding landscapes and views. Home to both the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and sharing the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with East Sussex, there are hundreds of places to visit, as well as enjoying a network of footpaths, trails, and walks, plus cycle trails and bridleways.
Topography, geology, and climate
Kent is a rural county with stunning countryside, rugged hills, and rolling plains. And alongside the county’s chalk and sandstone geology, these features come together to give Kent a mixed selection of land qualities and fertile soilscapes.
The slim area of High Weald AONB inside the southwest border is almost exclusively made up of fertile, but slightly acidic, base-rich loam and clay soils. Across the east-west North Kent Downs, again, fertile loam and clay soils are prominent, with an equal mix of lime-rich soils over chalk and sandstone. The north of the county is mostly low fertile, slightly acid loam soils, with loam and clay coastal flats.
With a typically temperate climate, Kent is in keeping with other southern and southeastern counties. Average high temperatures over the Summer months are around 21ºC (70ºF), while average low temperatures are around 2ºC (35ºF) in the winter. Rainfall varies between coast and country, but annual averages for Kent are around 750mm (30”) across the county.
Kent’s parks and gardens
As ‘the garden of England’, Kent really lives up to its name. While the coastline and lush countryside bring together the very best of everything Kent is famous for, it’s also home to many notable and impressive gardens. The mild climate and warm weather makes for beautiful displays all year round, and there’s plenty to see and do for any garden enthusiast.
Leeds Castle has a medieval deer park which was landscaped in the 18th century. There was later 20th-century development associated with the moated castle. The gardens are now used for cultural events and historical displays.
- North Kent
As one of Kent’s hidden gems, Belmont House and Gardens near Faversham is a must-see. The elegant 18th-century house sits in over 3,000 acres of grounds with wonderful views across the Kent Downs. But its gardens include everything from formal lawns, woodland, and pinetums, to a working kitchen garden and a walled garden filled with annuals and perennials, including a formal rose bed and an abundant display of wisteria.
Mount Ephraim Country House and Gardens, also near Faversham, provides, not only a unique Kent wedding venue, but also 10-acres of Edwardian gardens to enjoy. These family-friendly gardens feature an array of topiary among colourful herbaceous borders, with a Japanese rock garden and water garden, a circular maze of ornamental grasses and perennials, and its own arboretum.
- East Kent
On the east coast, Walmer Castle and Gardens, near Deal, is an English Heritage site with over eight acres of gardens to enjoy. The restored 100 metre Broadwalk Garden features double borders with Gertrude Jekyll-inspired planting schemes, alongside a working kitchen garden, and the tranquil Queen Mother’s Garden. Every area is a wonderful blend of formal and informal gardens with lively, seasonal colour.
Dating back to the 14th-century, Godington Park House and Gardens, near Ashford, is set in mature parkland with beautifully restored gardens based on designs by garden designer, Reginald Blomfield. Its 12-acres include formal lawns with yew hedge borders, perfectly complemented by curving herbaceous borders, ornamental trees, and shrubs. Don’t miss the stunning Rose garden, Italian garden with Mediterranean-inspired planting, and large walled garden with ornamental greenhouse.
- South Kent
Sitting within the ruins of an Elizabethan house, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, near Cranbrook, features a rich, formal garden landscape by garden designer, Vita Sackville-West. A popular National Trust property, Sissinghurst is famously admired by visitors from all over the world, keen to explore and discover the extensive, themed garden ‘rooms’. With an experimental approach, expect extensive colour across every season.
Also near Cranbrook, in the picturesque village of Rolvenden, Hole Park Gardens is 15-acres of formal gardens, woodland, and meadowland and yet another hidden gem. Plenty of naturalised planting means colour across every season – Spring sees swathes of bluebells carpet the woodland, while summer brings alive the exotic borders and stunning wisteria before autumn turns the woodland leaves amazing colours.
- West Kent
For things to do around Tonbridge and Royal Tunbridge Wells, a visit to Penshurst Place and Gardens won’t leave you disappointed. With 48-acres of grounds, alongside 11-acres of Grade I listed gardens, the sensational garden ‘rooms’, including a formal Italian garden, Heraldic garden, and wonderful magnolia garden, provide their own seasonal colour and a real feast for the eyes all year round, providing resplendent surroundings to the 14th-century manor house.
Great Comp Gardens, near Sevenoaks, is an impressive RHS Partner Garden and a haven for gardeners and horticulturalists alike. The established and well-maintained gardens feature a blend of formal and informal arrangements, from sweeping lawns and an Italian garden to extensive woodland. While noted for its diverse and renowned collection of Salvias, also look out for over 30 varieties of beautiful spring magnolias, alongside azaleas, dahlias, and hundreds of different shrub and tree varieties.