Places to go and things to do in Kent this summer holiday
With its historic towns and award-winning blue flag beaches Kent is understandably one of the UK’s favourite summertime destinations.
From idyllic countryside to a diverse selection of arts and culture, it offers something for everyone.
In 2012 the county is also offering an array of festivals, events and celebrations guaranteed to brighten up your holidays come rain or shine.
These include the magic, music and mayhem of Broadstairs Folk Week, the eclectic entertainment of the Hever Festival and the lip-smacking line-up of food producers at Taste Fest near Goudhurst.
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Kent also boasts a wide range of activities and attractions from the adrenalin-fuelled pursuit of kite surfing to relaxing strolls around its many stunning gardens.
To help visitors take full advantage of the best the county has to offer, tourism body Visit Kent has teamed up with a number of visitor attractions and transport providers.
Sandra Matthews-Marsh, chief executive of Visit Kent, said: “Kent is a great place to visit at any time of year, there is just so much to see and do. There are also some great offers to be had as Visit Kent has once again joined forces with Southeastern, Arriva and Stagecoach to help more people explore Kent’s iconic attractions and hidden treasures this season.”
As well as offering plenty of exciting events and places, Kent will also guarantee you the warmest of welcomes.
To take advantage of this, and the priceless power of local knowledge, a special service has been set up to help visitors learn about the county from those who live there.
Sandra Matthews-Marsh said: “One of the best ways of getting to know an area is through the eyes of someone who lives there and Kent Greeters provide a free service that will do just this.
“Your Greeter will walk with you through your chosen destination for two to four hours so you can take advantage of their knowledge and experiences, giving you lasting, cherished memories of the Garden of England. There are also Countryside Greeters too, who will accompany you on a walk or cycle ride.”
To find out more go to www.kentgreeters.co.uk.
And for our pick of the top 10 places to visit in Kent this summer, including guided tours at Charles Dickens’ former home and the oldest brewery in Britain, check out the list below.
1. Charles Dickens Museum at Gad’s Hill Place, Higham, 02074052127.
Activity/attraction: Tours of Charles Dickens’ former home.
Special Events: Guided tours, quill writing and Victorian craft workshops.
When: July 25-August 19.
Tickets/price: Adults £12, children £5.
For just four weeks, Dickens’ former home at Gad’s Hill Place will be open for guided tours as part of his Bicentenary celebrations.
The pre-booked tours take-in key reception rooms and the study where the celebrated author penned Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, A Tale Of Two Cities and the unfinished work Edwin Drood.
Personal possessions and objects have been relocated from the Dickens Museum and the interiors have been brought back to life to give an authentic feel to the novelist’s home.
The tours include afternoon tea served in the Conservatory that Dickens had filled with ferns and geraniums. There are also a number of workshops including craft-making and quill writing.
2. Broadstairs Folk Week, Various Locations, Broadstairs, 01843 604080.
Activity/attraction: Week-long series of concerts and music workshops.
Special event(s): Headliners include Eddie Reader, Oysterband, Benjamin Zephaniah and Tim Edey.
When: August 10-17.
Tickets/price: Different tickets available from day tickets, adults £31, youths £21, children £14 and week tickets up to £234 per adult and £591 family (with camping).
With more than 500 events in seven days, Broadstairs Folk Week is one of the hottest tickets in Kent this summer.
Featuring headliners including singer songwriter Eddie Reader, poet Benjamin Zephaniah and locally-based guitar hero Tim Edey, the festival offers a diverse and dazzling array of acts.
Whether you want to get your hands on a hurdy gurdy, have a go at Appalachian Clogging or sit back and listen to some of the country’s finest purveyors of folk music you won’t be disappointed.
From pub gardens to the promenade, the whole town is set to come alive with an intoxicating mix of music, maypoles, morris dancers and mayhem.
3. Hever Festival, Hever Castle, Hever, Edenbridge, TN8 7NG, 01732 865224.
Activity/attraction: Open air theatre, music, comedy and cinema.
Special Events: Jon Richardson (August 3), Macbeth (August 22), La Boheme (August 25), Cinema Under The Stars Festival (August 28 to September 1).
When: Various dates to September 2.
Tickets/price: From £11.
One of the premier events of its type in the South East, the Hever Festival offers an exciting programme of open-air theatre, music and entertainment in a stunning setting.
Located on the Two Sisters Lawn, within the grounds of the magnificent Hever Castle it is not to be missed.
This year’s eclectic line-up of acts includes stand-up star Jon Richardson, clarinettist Acker Bilk and Michael Law’s Piccadilly Dance Orchestra with Angela Rippon.
There is also a wide range of live theatre productions featuring everything from Macbeth to Sleeping Beauty.
Other highlights include an open-air film festival and a last night of the proms concert.
4. Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Biddenden Road, near Cranbrook, TN17 2AB, 01580 710700.
Special Events: Garden Suppers (July 14 and August 11), Smallholding Fair (August 18 and 19).
Open: 10.30am-5.30pm Friday to Tuesday. Estate open from dawn to dusk daily.
Tickets/price: Adult £11.50, children £5.50, family £29 (prices include Gift Aid).
The picturesque gardens at Sissinghurst are a treat at any time of year but look even more spectacular during the summer.
From the tumbling, sensory treat that is the Rose Garden to the bountiful Vegetable Garden and peaceful Lime Walk there is something for people of all tastes to explore.
Other attractions include walks around the estate and lunch in the fantastic restaurant.
On August 18 and 19 Sissinghurst is hosting its annual Smallholding Fair with Grand Design’s Kevin McCloud as guest speaker.
5. Penshurst Place and Gardens, Penshurst, Tonbridge, TN11 8DG, 01892 870307.
Special Events: Maize Maze (July 21 to September 9), storytelling (Sundays from July 29 to August 27) and farmers market (first Saturday of each month).
Open: Garden and grounds 10.30am-6pm daily, maze and cafe 10.30am-5pm, house and toy museum 12pm-4pm.
Tickets/price: Adults £9.80, children £6.30, family £26 (includes maze entry).
For a fabulous family day out come rain or shine head to Penshurst.
From exploring the grounds to looking around the toy museum, there is plenty to keep you occupied.
Children will love getting lost in the brand new maize maze and exploring the adventure playground, while adults will enjoy discovering the stately homes six and a half centuries of history and immaculate gardens.
Activity/attraction: Zoo and safari parks.
Open: Howletts 9.30am-6pm daily (last admissions 4.30pm) and Port Lympne 9.30am-6.30pm daily (last admission 3pm).
Tickets/price: £19.95 adults, £17.95 children (5-15).
Recently crowned as Kent’s Best Leisure and Tourism Business, the two Aspinall Foundation attractions offer an unforgettable animal experience for people of all ages.
Howletts, near Canterbury, houses some of the most rare and endangered species in the world in 90 acres of beautiful parkland. Highlights include the largest herd of African elephants in the UK and the world’s biggest captive group of western lowland gorillas.
The 600 acre Port Lympne Wild Animal Park near Ashford offers the nearest thing you can get to an authentic taste of the Kenyan Savannah without jumping on a plane and heading for Africa.
Its African Experience safari gives you the chance to see giraffe, ostrich, black rhino, wildebeest, zebra and many others roam freely together in 100 acres of unspoilt land.
The park also boasts the largest herd of black rhino in Europe and a magnificent 1920’s mansion nestled in beautifully landscaped gardens.
7. Camber Kitesurfing, 24 Denham Way, Camber, TN17 7XP, 07960 587482.
Activity/attraction: Kitesurfing, kite buggying and kite mountain boarding.
Open: Ring to book.
Tickets/price: Kitesurfing – one day lesson from £90, kite buggying or kite mountain boarding £60.
With another barbecue summer going up in smoke why not try your hand at a beach-based activity that you can do come rain or shine (along as it’s windy!).
With its often windswept coastline and flat, spacious beaches, Kent is one of the best places to have a go at a number of new and exciting extreme sports including kitesurfing and kite buggying.
Camber Kitesurfing offers a range of courses led by trained instructors suitable for everyone from beginners to experts.
8. Blue Flag Beaches, Various Locations in Thanet, including Herne Bay, Margate Main Sands, Botany Bay Broadstairs and Stone Bay.
The Kent coast has long been a favourite with British holidaymakers but it is now winning acclaim from the rest of Europe after 11 of its beaches were awarded Blue Flag status.
The prestigious awards are only given to coastal destinations which have achieved the highest quality in water, facilities, safety, environmental education and management.
As well as Botany Bay, Joss Bay and Westbrook Bay which were recognised in 2011, eight others have joined the list including Margate Main Sands, Stone Bay, Minnis Bay, and Tankerton.
And with resort towns as varied and exciting as Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Sandwich and Whitstable it is easy to see why the county’s beaches and coastline continue to be among its most enduring attractions.
9. Shepherd Neame Brewery, The Faversham Brewery, 17 Court Street, Faversham, ME13 7AX, 01795 542016.
Activity/attraction: Beer tasting and brewery tours.
Special Events: Regular music gigs, Beer Dinner (July 29) and Faversham Hop Festival (September 1 and 2).
Open: Ring to book.
Tickets/price: Brewery Tour £11.50.
What better way to spend a few hours in prime hop country than to visit one of Kent’s most famous breweries.
Set in the heart of historic Faversham, Shepherd Neame is the county’s oldest brewer and remains hugely popular.
These days it combines modern gadgetry with traditional methods and all of this can be witnessed firsthand with one of its excellent guided tours.
The 80 minute trip takes you behind the scenes before finishing with a tasting led by an expert.
10. TasteFest, Bedgebury Pinetum, Walled Garden, Goudhurst.
Activity/attraction: Food festival.
Special Events: Cooking demonstrations from the likes of Jean Christophe Novelli and Nigel Brown.
When: August 18 and 19, 10am-8pm.
Tickets/price: Adults £10, children and concessions £5.
Celebrating the very best of the county’s fantastic food, TasteFest offers a mouth-watering line-up of chefs, demonstrations and local produce.
From patisserie to organic poultry and beers to artisan breads there is something to tickle everyone’s tastebuds.
The festival will feature live entertainment and cooking demonstrations from the likes of celebrated chefs Jean Christophe Novelli and Nigel Brown.