Seven wonders of the Weald: glorious places to visit in Kent



Kent is home to some of the England’s most famous gardens, notably Sissinghurst, created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson in the 1930s. Laid out as a series of “rooms”, it has become an icon of garden design, with different sections unfolding around the 16th-century castle. Stroll through the rose garden, admire the white garden and climb the tower for a bird’s-eye view, before dipping into the exhibition on Sackville-West’s life and work. Afterwards, check into the Milk House on the high street, a charming former coaching inn with four bedrooms and a welcoming bar and restaurant.
Doubles from £90 B&B;

Bewl Water

Bewl Water reservoir.
Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

The largest reservoir in the south-east, Bewl Water is surrounded by 800 acres of parkland, latticed with 12.5 miles of cycling and walking trails, ranging from gentle, pushchair-friendly strolls to more taxing hikes. In warmer months, the Aqua Park offers a splash-tastic hour of fun, involving slipping, sliding and scrambling over inflatables (wetsuits and buoyancy aids included) and there are stand-up paddleboards available, as well as a TriSwim centre offering wild-swimming lessons. Young kids will love the well-equipped adventure play area, and the Waterfront Café is a fantastic place in which to take a breather with tea and cake and glorious views across the water. Alternatively, head to the White Hart in Wadhurst, which has won an AA rosette for its elegantly presented dishes of hand-picked crab and South Downs pork fillet and locally sourced steaks.

Pashley Manor Gardens

Tulips at Pashley.
Photograph: Carolyn Clarke/Alamy

An idyllic example of a classic English country garden, Pashley is a family-owned garden open from 1 April to 30 September, with 11 acres of spectacular herbaceous borders, pristine lawns, rose walks, a kitchen garden and a Grade I-listed, wisteria-swathed house as backdrop. In April, the Tulip Festival sees almost 50,000 tulips in bloom across the beds, while Rose Week, usually in June, and Dahlia Days in late summer offer the chance to witness the gardens at their spectacular best. Alongside the shrubs and flowers, the garden is dotted with sculptural works, most pieces for sale, with an exhibition of botanical paintings in the Garden Room café and gift shop. Afterwards, settle in for lunch (or the night) at the charmingly quirky Bell in Ticehurst, a former coaching inn dating back to 1560, with an excellent restaurant and 11 rooms and lodges that ooze rustic chic.
Doubles from £135 B&B, thebellinn; pashley

Scotney Castle

Photograph: Hugh Williamson/Alamy

Dreamily picturesque, the highlight of the Scotney estate is the 14th-century ruined castle, surrounded by a moat, that forms the centrepiece of the spectacular gardens. As carefully designed as Sissinghurst, Scotney combines walled and quarry gardens with hidden walkways, a wooded glade and a heather-thatched icehouse, with the Victorian mansion also open to visitors, offering a fascinating insight into country-house life in the mid to late 19th century. Beyond the gardens, the estate sprawls across 780 acres of parklands, criss-crossed with walking trails; a great place to bring the dog – or children that need to run off steam, with some of the trails designed to be buggy-friendly. Stop for lunch, or tea and cake at the Coach House, and dip into the second-hand bookshop or well-stocked plant store.

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Bedgebury Pinetum

A duck at Bedgebury.
Photograph: Marie Cullinane/Stockimo/Alamy

A fantastic place for a family day out, Bedgebury Pinetum is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of pines and conifers, with more than 12,000 trees set across the rolling Kent landscape, latticed with walking, cycling and mountain biking trails that offer something for all levels and ages. Kids will love the chance to discover the Gruffalo and friends hidden among the trees, and there is an outdoor play trail for younger children, alongside a Go Ape course. There are bikes to hire and an on-site café offering a full range of homemade cakes and hearty lunches; alternatively, drop by the historic Star and Eagle in nearby Goudhurst, an atmospheric 14th-century pub serving hearty British classic dishes, which has 10 cosy bedrooms.
Doubles from £140 B&B,;

Biddenden Vineyard

Vines at Biddenden.
Photograph: Martin Apps/Alamy

The oldest commercial vineyard in Kent, Biddenden has been producing sparkling and still wines since the early 1970s, long before English wine was fashionable, alongside cider and pressed apple and pear juices. A tour of the vineyard is a great way to gain an insight into the process of winemaking, and the on-site shop offers a wide range of bottles to take away. Compare vintages with a stop off at nearby Chapel Down Vineyard (, which produces its own spirits alongside still and sparkling wines. Round off the day with supper at the Bull ( in the nearby village of Benenden. This cosy, historic pub, originally built as a private residence in 1608, features inglenook fireplaces and carved beams and is furnished with antiques and low lighting.

Hartley Farm Shop

Girl admires black and white rabbit.
Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Hartley’s is a fifth-generation farm in the small village of Winsley, offering produce from their own and surrounding farms, alongside a gift shop and café. The grass-fed meats, free-range poultry and organic vegetables come straight from the farm, while bread, cakes, pies and pasties are made in the farm’s bakery. Settle in for lunch at the buzzy Barn Café, where the wood-fired oven delivers crispy pizzas, or pick up artisan gelato from The Cabin, with tables set in the flower garden. Kids can run off steam at the play area, and meet the farm’s pet ducks, rabbits and chickens, and on Friday evenings there’s live music.