When crisp autumn leaves underfoot give way to the first flurries of snow, all attention turns to curling up in front of a roaring log fire with toasted crumpets slathered in butter at the ready. But with spring still a few months away and a brilliant assortment of winter activities on offer throughout Kent, it’s time to get those winter woollies on and get stuck into the last season of the year.
From African-style safaris and delectable food festivals to frost-topped castles and sparkling Christmas trails, there is sure to be something to get you in the mood. So, wrap up warm and uncover 10 of the best winter wonders in the area!
Step back in time with a trip to what is said to be the oldest village in the county. Owned by the National Trust, this beautifully preserved Tudor village is the perfect winter wonder. Stroll around the pretty houses and little shops, some of which could have been taken straight out of the pages of a children’s book!
One of these, The Tulip Tree, is believed to be the oldest working shop in England, dating back to 1453 and at one point the property of Anne Boleyn's father. Pick up some souvenirs, enjoy a scrumptious cream tea and pray for snow, as this village is best experienced under a magical sprinkling of frost.
Hot foot it to one of the most majestic castles in the country and find out what all the fuss is about. Not only is this glorious fairytale fortress surrounded by its very own moat, it's home to a puzzling maze and underground grotto as well as the fascinating Dog Collar Museum, a showcase of rare and unusual canine neckwear spanning five centuries. Visit during November and December and pop into one of the Christmas markets – magical.
For other glorious castles, have a look at our Castles of Kent and Sussex guide to give you some pointers.
Get on your bike and explore the beautiful Weald of Kent countryside atop an electric bike. Power up with lunch in the café beforehand and then sit back and let the bike do all the hard work. No need to get all red-faced as you ride along peaceful lanes and pretty villages – the bike will do it all for you.
With organised tours too, you can even stop at a historic castle or one of Kent’s famous gardens on the way. Our favourite has to be the trip which takes in the oldest vineyard in Kent at Biddenden as well as a hearty pub lunch - just make sure that you do the wine-tasting at the end of the ride.
Thinking of doing your own vineyard tour? Read our Vineyard Tour of Kent and Sussex to plan your route.
If you’ve had to leave your four-legged friend at home this time and are in need of an animal fix, settle down for the 2-hour safari at Port Lympne. Imagine you're in the depths of deepest darkest Africa as you traverse the plains on a traditional truck, coming face to face with rhinos or giraffes. With the ranger's approval, you may even have the opportunity to feed them, something you definitely wouldn't be able to do on the real thing!
Budding historians and those with an interest in wartime paraphernalia should head along the coast to Dover Castle. Perched majestically at the top of the famous White Cliffs, this imposing fortress is famously referred to as the ‘Key to England’ due to its strategic position overlooking the English Channel. Explore the castle and peek through the stained glass windows of the Great Tower before heading down to the wartime tunnels.
Take a partly-guided ‘Operation Dynamo’ tour along Churchill’s secret tunnels, an abandoned complex 125 steps down under the chalky cliffs. Built on the Prime Minister’s orders, you can feel the danger of the Dunkirk evacuation as you journey through the tunnels with special effects, projections and authentic film footage bringing the experience alive.
Tread in the footsteps of Charles Dickens as you wander around the oldest parts of this town; one that he spent an impressionable childhood in. Relive his books through the Victorian cobbled streets and little tea rooms, where many of the buildings carry plaques explaining how he managed to incorporate them into his books.
Stroll around the graveyard which will reveal inspiration for some of his famous names – a strange experience but essential if you are a Dickens fan! Visit Restoration House, the Six Poor Travellers House and Rochester Cathedral and if you're in Rochester at Christmas, pop along to the Dickensian Christmas Weekend with its many Victorian delights, including costumed characters and traditional Christmas carols.
Step off the beaten path of the well-trodden high street to discover Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, where an interactive tour walking alongside costumed characters and pilgrims offers intriguing recreated medieval scenes. Watch all the different characters come to life as you experience five different tales of love, infidelity, intrigue, courtship and death throughout the streets of Canterbury, finishing at the shrine of St Thomas Becket.
When you arrive in the centre, make sure you take a tour around the majestic cathedral and cobbled streets of this enchanting city. Then finish your day by taking in an evening show at the Marlowe Theatre: a spectacular illuminated glass structure dominating the city and home to some fabulous touring operas and ballets, from Glyndebourne to The Northern Ballet. Some of these sell out really quickly so book in advance if you want to be assured of a ticket.
If you're in Canterbury around the Christmas season, head to the festive market where you can browse amongst 50 covered stalls with a glass of mulled wine in hand – what could be more civilised than that?
Romantic weekenders will love the mysterious Shell Grotto, discovered early in the 19th century. Passageways lined with murals made up of millions of shells were built at some point, but by who? Nobody knows, and this is what makes it all the more magical.
For something more modern, have a look around the fantastic historical and contemporary exhibitions at Turner Contemporary and finish off the afternoon at one of Margate’s vintage-inspired tea rooms. Just don’t forget to take home a stick of famous Margate rock!
Experience the sights and sounds of Christmas by night at Bedgebury National Pinetum. Wind your way along the 1-mile Tunnel of Light, a magical line of fir trees lit up as a glistening winter wonderland. Keep a lookout for frosty snowflakes and gigantic baubles as illuminated boats full of Christmas gifts glide slowly across the lake. Romantic types can toast marshmallows in roaring fire pits and share a hot chocolate as an array of lights twinkle silently above.
Experience vintage travel aboard one of the beautifully restored Victorian coaches of this fine example of a rural steam railway. Departing from the charming Cinque Ports town of Tenterden, known as ‘the Jewel of the Weald’, it weaves and winds its way for ten miles through the picturesque Kent countryside. Even though the train transports you across to East Sussex to visit the enchanting Bodiam Castle, you do start and finish in Kent so we think it deserves a place on our list. If you are coming in December, hop on one of the Santa specials – certainly not just for children!
Not only a winter destination!
We have a wonderful selection of properties all across Kent, suitable for any time of the year. Perhaps you'd like to come to Kent for a beach or spa day - have a look at our Five spa days in Kent guide for a selection of the best pamper days on offer in the county.
Whether you are looking for a romantic retreat nestled in the pretty countryside, a contemporary beach house for all the family or a dog-friendly property for you and a group of friends, we have the perfect property whatever the season. Take a look!