Most capital-dwellers have experienced the day out of the city that seemed like a good idea at the time but that soured with the reality of traffic in and out of London, meaning dragging crying children away to beat the rush and peering at the lovely countryside you are missing as you hit the motorway. Why not instead make a weekend of it in Kent? – book a B&B, enjoy the landscape, and have a pub lunch.
North Kent Coast
Though not as popular as it was, the north Kent coast is a delight. Whitstable is a treat – a lovely, bohemian little place with beach huts and a long (slightly pebbly) beach. You can combine a stay here with a visit to Diggerland or go to Herne Bay with its pretty, quiet beach. Or take the train to Margate, Ramsgate or Broadstairs and enjoy some great old-fashioned British seaside fun with your kids, plus great beaches.
Attractions: Diggerland, Chatham Historic Dockyard, Dickens World, and the beaches!
Getting There: 75mins to Whitstable by car; 90mins by train to Margate from London Victoria.
Stay: Fisherman’s Huts on the harbour in Whitstable or Walpole Bay Hotel in Margate.
Weald of Kent
It’s a miracle that this beautiful treasure so close to London remains so little visited, with its unspoilt villages scattered about lovely rolling countryside. There are some fabulous pubs for lunch/dinner, great walks, amazing castles and historical sites – take the children to the Tudor delights of Hever or Penshurst, then maybe spend an afternoon at the fantastic Enchanted Forest at Groombridge.
Attractions: Hever Castle, Penshurst Place and Gardens, Groombridge Place Gardens and Enchanted Forest, Bewl Water Ourdoor Centre, Kent Life, Bedgebury National Pinetum.
Getting There: 55mins by train to Tunbridge Wells from London Charing Cross.
Where to Stay: Hoath House in Chiddingstone Hoath or Charcott Farmhouse, Leigh.
Pilgrims used to trudge through here on their long way to Canterbury; their route is now followed by modern-day nature enthusiasts and lovers of the great outdoors. Stay in a pretty village on the North Downs Way and combine a day out at award-winning Leeds Castle, with plenty for children, or the Hop Farm Family Park, then spend a lazy Sunday exploring the lovely villages. Bring a picnic lunch or pop into a local pub.
Attractions: Leeds Castle, Hop Farm Family Park, the North Downs Way.
Getting There: 1hr by car to Maidstone, or 1hr by train to Maidstone East from London Victoria.
Where to Stay: Little Dane in Maidstone or Wickham Lodge in Aylesford.
Heart of Kent
The heart of the Garden of England is a gorgeous place, stuffed with lovely villages and gardens and an increasing number of vineyards. This is a place to taste the England of 50 years ago: 'The Darling Buds of May' was filmed here, which seems to sum it up nicely. Take the family on a tour round the world-famous garden at Sissinghurst or to splendid Bodiam Castle, stopping off at a pretty pub for a quick bite. You’ll probably decide to move here before the weekend is out…
Attractions: Kent and East Sussex Railway, Sissinghurst Castle, Bodiam Castle, South of England Rare Breeds Centre
Getting There: Just over 1hr by car to Cranbrook, or just over 1hr by train to Headcorn from London Charing Cross.
Stay: Bishopsdale Oast in Biddenden or Cloth Hall Oast in Cranbrook.