Some superb insights into old England await at Tonbridge and West Malling. Idyllic manor houses and a postcard-pretty castle sit in an ancient landscape where woods and fields undulate towards villages and hop farms.
At the centre of this fascinating portion of Kentish life sits Tonbridge, a market town since the Middle Ages that still buzzes today. Here, tucked in beside the River Medway, is 11th century Tonbridge Castle. This is Kent's best example of a motte-and-bailey gatehouse, where audio tours and interactive exhibits bring history to life.
From the castle, take the cycle route 5 miles west through tranquil woodland and countryside to Penshurst Place, a fortified manor house that’s rich with medieval and Tudor charm. The gardens overflow with fragrance and blooms, while neighbouring Penshurst village is quintessential, historic Kent.
Just 6 miles north of Tonbridge, you'll find one of Kent's most charismatic buildings, the moated manor house, Ightham Mote. Built in the 14th century, its half-timbered façade rises from the waters; a wood panelled Great Hall, cosy book-packed library and stunning courtyard lie within.
At Aylesford Priory, the Friars offers a fascinating insight into life within the centuries-old order of the Carmelites. The rare shrubs and exotic perennials at Great Comp Garden surround a 17th century manor house, while there's a profusion of scent at Downderry Nursery where you can stroll among swathes of vivid, fragrance-rich lavender and rosemary.
For a fun-filled family outing, head to the Hop Farm and experience a range of fascinating features and wonders including taking a Dray ride with the Shire horses, finding out about llamas, reindeer, goats and pigs in the recently expanded Animal Village or learning hop-picking heritage in the interactive Hop Story Museum.
Discover more at www.tmbc.gov.uk
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