Kent once was a kingdom independent from the rest of England; it is also the country’s oldest county. The fabled ‘Garden of England’ has a 350-mile-long coastline that stretches east from the Isle of Sheppey round to the beautifully desolate wonder of Dungeness. It’s named as such because of the largest amount of space historically given over to growing fruit and hops. Kent also consists of 28 percent AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Kent is most famous for being the gateway to England if you are travelling to the country by water.
Historic buildings in Canterbury
Previously home to Iron Age tribes and Roman forts, the kingdom of Kent was established by the invading Jutes in the 5th century, and remained its own kingdom until it became part of England in the 9th century – a fact which makes Kent the oldest county in England.
In later centuries, Kent continued to play a large part in English history. It was the site of several medieval rebellions, including the Peasant’s Revolt, and, following the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, the county town of Canterbury became an immensely popular pilgrimage site, helping to spark Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. A number of spectacular castles, including Hever Castle and Leeds Castle, were built to protect the coastline as well as the routes armies would have taken towards London.
From the 17th century onwards, Kent became a hub of maritime activity, with the Chatham Dockyard being especially productive. The act of smuggling also became very widespread across the coastline.
In more recent history, the Battle of Britain was fought in the skies above the county during WWII. It was where also the flotilla of boats were despatched from to rescue soldiers from Dunkirk.
Beautiful towns and villages
Colourful houses in Whitstable
From the seaside resorts of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs on the Isle of Thanet, to the airy retreat of Whitstable, Kent has traditional spectacle and natural beauty all along its considerable coastline. Further to the south is Deal and Kingsdown with their remnants of fortifications from as recently as the Second World War (WW2).
The major commercial and travel port Dover has strong connections to its military heritage dating back as far as the Romans. You can also take a day trip over to Boulogne or Calais in France and be back home for the evening news, so you could easily book a ferry for a quick bounce across the Channel. Folkestone is a busy fishing port and great for exploring the streets for interesting shops.
The pretty village of Biddenden
Inland, you’ll find the historic cities of Canterbury and Rochester, each with their own impressive cathedral, as well as a number of quaint and pretty villages. Tenterden is one example, which stands on the edge of remnant forest The Weald, while Biddenden is another, decorated with beautiful buildings.
Attractions for all
Boasting both coast and country, Kent is a varied county with something to offer everyone, and this can also be seen in its variety of attractions. From amusement parks offering some good old-fashioned seaside fun to heritage steam trains chugging their way through the countryside, Kent is packed with great days out for families. Highlights also include a number of zoos, historic castles, farm parks and fascinating museums.
Image: Justin Foulger
Find a fun family day out
Arts and culture
For lovers of art and culture, Kent also promises to be a fantastic destination. Year-round, its calendar is packed with a number of events and festival spanning music, theatre and more, while there are also some great art galleries, venues and collections, including the world-famous Turner Contemporary art gallery, showing the best of both established and up-and-coming talent.
Margate's Turner Contemporary
Check out our cultural highlights
Kent’s attractions also make the most of its varied landscapes. For lovers of the outdoors, there are beautiful gardens which have brought together plants from all over the world, set to the backdrop of Kent’s gorgeous countryside.
Doddington Place Gardens
Explore Kent’s gardens
Also set to the backdrop of the Kentish countryside are a number of magnificent castles and National Trust properties. Hever Castle and Leeds Castle are both fairy-tale-like examples of spectacular castles, while Chartwell, the former home of Winston Churchill, can also be found in Kent.
Kent is not only a great holiday destination for humans, but also for their four-legged friends as well. Together you and your pet can enjoy leisurely walks through the countryside or along a variety of beaches which welcome dogs for a run-about all year round. There’s also a number of attractions where dogs can come too, including the historic Battle Abbey and the fascinating Canterbury River Tours, as well as several pubs where you can all relax after a long day of exploration.
Find out more about dog-friendly Kent
Kent is well-connected to London via a network of roads and motorways. The main artery into the county is the M20, leading into the London Orbital M25, which filters traffic in from all across the south east. The A256 and A299 cover the majority of the coast from north to south, serving Margate, Dover and all in between.
The rail network is very comprehensive and you can reach all the coastal towns and many of the inland Medway towns with ease from outside the county. Eurostar operates a regular service from London St Pancras, stopping at Ashford and Folkestone before crossing into Europe. There is also a comprehensive Arriva bus service across the county with National Express coaches stopping at most major towns and some villages.
The great outdoors
Nature reserves and forest
Kent is home to 11 National Nature Reserves across the county, such as Rye Harbour and Elmley. Some are home to a wide diversity of birds on an annual rotation going to and from warmer and colder climes. With wintering birds, sedentary birds and those that migrate to the south, be sure to have a day out at some wetlands or a reserve on your trip to Kent. Beautiful forests and woodlands, including the Bedgebury National Pinetum, are also dotted throughout Kent.
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
Beaches are another main draw when it comes to tourism in Kent, and it’s easy to see why. The county’s long stretch of coastline, measuring over 350 miles long, has a variety of beaches and coastal scenery to discover. Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs are all renowned for their stretches of sandy beach, while on the south coast you’ll find striking white chalk cliffs and the unique coastal landscape of Dungeness, a stark and quiet shingle bank.
Botany Bay in Broadstairs
Miles of walks
With so many amazing landscapes to discover, Kent isn’t short of places where you can don your walking boots and trek for miles. If you’re seeking even more inspiration for a walking holiday, check out our recommendations for walks throughout Kent.
Food and drink in Kent
Kent is well known for harvesting hops, so it stands that its beer is very good. Kent has many local breweries, so if you love an ale you won’t have to wait long before sampling a new one. The country’s oldest and Kent’s best-known brewery is Shepherd’s Neame, who produce Spitfire. Kentish wines are growing in reputation, with no fewer than 50 vineyards across the county, many of which encourage visitors and host tastings.
As for seafood, Whitstable, is one of the best places for harvesting oysters and it hosts the annual Whitstable Oyster Festival. A particular local twist is called ‘Angels on Horseback’ – a bacon and oyster concoction. Being largely coastal, seafood restaurants are in abundance as fish is landed at Folkestone and some of the county’s smaller harbours.
Discover the increasingly popular vineyards of Kent
Interesting facts about Kent
- Kent is 1368 square miles in size
- It has 350 miles of coastline
- 85 percent of the land is green space
- Less than 2 percent of the land has buildings on it
- Ashford was the first place in England to paint a white line in the middle of the road (1918)
- John Buchan wrote The 39 Steps whilst staying in Broadstairs
- A Room with a View (1985) was filmed in Chiddingstone, starring Helena Bonham-Carter, Daniel Day Lewis, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench
- Pocahontas was buried in Gravesend in 1616, although her grave site is long lost
- England’s first aeroplane builder, Scot Bros., was based on the Isle of Sheppey
Come to Kent to discover all of the amazing experiences described above and more. Whether you’re looking to explore the countryside or the coast, we’ve got a variety of cottages in great locations across the county where you’re bound to find your perfect break.