From glorious gardens and romantic castles, to the homes of statesmen and rolling countryside, National Trust places in Kent make for truly inspiring family days out. Here are just a few of our favourites.
The homes of distinguished figures await, with Sir Winston Churchill’s much-loved Chartwell resting just south of the peaceful village of Westerham. Wander the rooms of his family home and admire his paintings. There is an expanse of trails to follow around the surrounding woodland and estate, and a children’s play area. Those after a longer walk can follow a trail into the heart of Westerham, to visit Quebec House. Time travel back to the 1730s when General James Wolfe and his family lived there.
A visit to Knole in Sevenoaks puts you right in the centre of the medieval deer park where Henry VIII once hunted. Whether you have an hour to spare or a full day ahead, there’s lots to see and do. Wander the courtyards, climb the Gatehouse Tower or escape into the wilds on a parkland trail. The 600-year-old house boasts an elaborate collection of royal furniture, textiles and paintings.
A visit to the perfectly preserved medieval moated manor house of Ightham Mote offers a glimpse through the ages. 700 years old and surrounded by peaceful gardens, lakes and streams, a call here offers a tranquil day out accompanied by stunning views.
Past Tunbridge Wells, the ruin at Scotney Castle is the centrepiece of a vision created by Edward Hussey III, which can be seen from his comfortable Victorian mansion. The conservation charity looks after hundreds of acres of countryside surrounding Scotney, with way-marked trails to help you explore.
In Kent the National Trust’s gardens are the epitome of the English country garden and none could be more iconic than Sissinghurst Castle Garden, the creation of famous poet and writer, Vita Sackville-West and her author husband Harold Nicolson. Explore the beautiful garden and discover a wide estate of lakes, woods and farmland. Down the road visit a hidden cottage garden at Smallhythe Place, the home of Victorian actress Ellen Terry. Wander the sixteenth-century rooms, take in a performance in the seventeenth-century thatched Barn Theatre or treat yourself in the vintage tea room.
Near Sevenoaks, exotic Emmetts Garden is awash with bluebells in spring and roses in summer. Families will love the wild play area, complete with den, swing set and tepee. Or why not follow a waymarked trail into nearby Toys Hill wood for spectacular views of the Weald.
There are some truly stunning National Trust places along Kent’s coast, with none more dramatic than the White Cliffs of Dover. A clifftop walk upon this national icon offers views across the English Channel towards the distant French coast. Rising up from the White Cliffs, South Foreland Lighthouse is a historic landmark and the first electricity-powered lighthouse. Here you’ll find a fascinating tale which stretches back to the Victorian age.
Get free entry to these special places and help the National Trust look after them forever, for everyone by becoming a member. For more ideas on places to visit in Kent visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/days-out/kent.
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