50 easter days out
PUBLISHED: 12:15 02 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:54 20 February 2013
Enjoy the Easter break with our guide to the best family days out
For the family
WHAT Leeds Castle
WHERE Near Maidstone
WHY Lots of themed activities
The lovely grounds at Leeds Castle will be just bursting into spring colour this Easter. Head for the craft marquee to make animal masks, visit the Bunny Burrows and follow a trail through the grounds, with chocolate bunnies the reward at the end. For youngsters aged five-plus, there's the Knights' Realm adventure playground, and children of all ages will love getting lost in the maze.
Tel: 01622 765400
WHAT Dickens World
WHERE Chatham Maritime
WHY Making literature fun
A great way to get the kids interested in literature without them realising your cunning plan is to take them to Dickens World, which celebrates the life, work and times of one of Britain's best loved novelists. You'll get to step back into Dickensian England as you are immersed in the urban streets, sounds and smells of the 19th century.
Tel: 01634 890421
WHAT Port Lympne
WHY Wild animals. In Kent
No need for a trip to Africa for your budding Attenboroughs, when right here at in Kent you'll find the largest breeding herd of black rhino outside Africa, not to mention African elephants, Siberian and Indian tigers, small cats, monkeys, Malayan tapirs, Barbary lions. You can even have a go at being a zoo keeper for the day. Port Lympne is set in 600 acres that includes the historic mansion and beautiful landscaped gardens.
Tel: 0870 7504647
WHAT The Hop Farm
WHERE Paddock Wood
WHY Hopping good family fun
This once working hop farm, whose oast cowls have been a familiar sight on Kent's skyline for more than 100 years, is packed with entertaining things to do. Regular encounters with cute spring animals are promised and, if you're lucky, you can watch fluffy chicks hatch in the animal farm. Let the little 'uns enjoy one of the daily Easter egg hunts, get arty at the craft and pottery centre or let off steam on the giant jumping pillows.
Tel: 01622 872068
WHAT The Kent and Sussex Railway
WHY Fun for kids of all ages
The Kent and East Sussex Railway is one of the UK's finest examples of a rural light railway. The line gently wends its way from Tenterden for 10.5 miles through the unspoilt countryside of the Rother Valley until it pulls up in the shadow of the National Trust's magnificent Bodiam Castle. Magic.
Tel: 01580 765155
WHAT Rare Breeds Centre
WHERE Woodchurch, nr Ashford
WHY Your first pig race
If your lot love animals and are partial to a bit of betting, take them to their first pig race. The pigs thrive on human contact and love crowd noise, so cheer on your favourite porker: first one back inside the sty is the winner.
Gentler pursuits include admiring the lambs or enjoying the aviary, bluebell walks and woodland trails, two indoor play barns, an off-ground assault course, the Activity Barn, and more than 100 acres to run around in.
Tel: 01233 861493
WHAT The Canterbury Tales
WHY Rediscover Chaucer
Join Chaucer and his pilgrims on their way from The Tabard Inn to the shrine of St Thomas Becket in the nearby Cathedral. Housed inside the former church of St Margaret's, Chaucer's stories of love, romance, jealousy and trickery are vividly re-created.
Tel: 01227 479227
WHERE Herne Bay
WHY British wildlife past and present
From owls to otters, bees to beavers, experience close encounters with native wildlife in 40 acres of ancient woodland. Travel back to Saxon times to meet the locals and find out how humans and nature got along when you catch a live demonstration.
Tel: 0871 7820081
WHAT Museum of Kent Life
WHY A museum, but it's outdoors
Home to Kent's last coal-fired oast house and the last hand-picked hop garden, with a working farmyard and tea rooms, this is a great day out for the whole family. You can even get here via The Kentish Lady river boat.
Tel: 01622 763936
Tel: 01622 753740
WHAT Animal encounters
WHY It's a learning experience
Get up close and personal with an albino python, Madagascan hissing cockroaches and Africa hedgehogs this Easter at Ruxley Manor, or just get your face painted, learn to pot a plant or discover the best way to look after your pets.
Tel: 0208 3000084
For the history buff
WHAT Canterbury Cathedral
WHY There's no building like it
Dating from 597AD, Canterbury Cathedral has attracted hundreds of thousands of pilgrims over the years. Explore this historic structure and its city, and take in special performance of Stainer's Crucifixion and Faure's Requiem in the Nave on Palm Sunday.
Tel: 01227 464764
WHAT The Historic Dockyard
WHY Maritime history at its finest
The world's most complete dockyard of the Age of Sail, this year Chatham Historic Dockyard remembers the 25th anniversary of its closure and looks back at events from the past 200 years. And even better, if you're celebrating a 25th birthday or wedding anniversary this year, yours is a free ticket!
Tel: 01634 823807
WHAT Rochester Castle
WHY It's a proper Norman castle
One of the best-preserved examples of Norman architecture in England, Rochester Castle also has one of the tallest keeps in the country. At 113ft high, with walls measuring 12ft thick, it's an impressive sight.
Tel: 01634 402276
WHAT Richborough Roman fort
WHERE Two miles from Sandwich
WHY Where Roman rule began
Richborough is the most important of all Roman sites in Britain, having witnessed both the start and end of Roman rule. It's now amost two miles from the sea but once overlooked a harbour. A must for the Roman hunter!
Tel: 01304 612013
WHAT Kits Coty & Little Kits Coty
WHERE Blue Bell Hill, nr Maidstone
WHY Older and nearer than Stonehenge
Thought to be older than Stonehenge, the ruins of two prehistoric burial chambers take their name from a shepherd called Kit, who used the stones for shelter in the 17th century. Kit's Coty has three uprights and a massive capstone, while its little sister, alias the Countless Stones, is now a jumble of sarsens.
Tel: 0870 333 1181
WHAT Godinton House
WHY 500 years of fascinating history
One of Kent's principal houses, Godinton was the home of the Toke family for 455 years and presents a real architectural puzzle to today's visitors. Jacobean in style, it incorporates Dutch-influenced compass gables and has an eclectic mix of rooms added by different generations of the family. Twelve acres of beautiful gardens, surrounded by one of the world's longest yew hedges, incorporates formal and wild gardens with roses, delphiniums and other seasonal delights.
Tel: 01233 620773
WHERE Otham, Maidstone
WHY For NT addicts who think they've seem 'em all
This delightful 15th-century, half-timbered Yeoman's house was built as a hall-house with a central hall that rose the full height of the building. Owned by the National Trust, it was restored in the 1920s and is surrounded by beautiful cottage gardens and wildflower meadows.
Tel: 01622 862157
WHAT Walmer Castle
WHERE Walmer, near Deal
WHY See Wellington's boots
Originally built during Henry VIII's reign as part of a chain of coastal artillery defences, and official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, it's not hard to see why the Duke of Wellington, who held the post for 23 years, enjoyed his time here so much. You can see the armchair in which he died on 14 September 1852, his campaign bed and a pair of original Wellington boots.
Tel: 01304 364288
WHAT St Augustine's Abbey
WHY Where Christianity was reborn
This great abbey, marking the rebirth of Christianity in southern England, was founded shortly after AD 597 by St Augustine. Originally used as a monastery, it is part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site, along with the Cathedral and St Martin's Church.
The abbey is situated outside the city walls and is sometimes missed by visitors - make sure you don't. There's also a museum and free audio tour.
Tel: 01227 767345
WHAT The Grange
WHY Pugin lived here
Augustus Pugin built this house in 1843 to live out his idea of life in a medieval, Catholic community. His vision was of a family home nestling in the shadow of a benevolent monastery and he bought enough land to erect St Augustine's Priory next door. Here Pugin produced much of his finest work, including the design for the interior of the House of Lords.
Tel: 01628 825925
Getting back to nature
WHAT Falconry course
WHY Try an ancient sport
With more than 150 raptors, Eagle Heights is one of the UK's largest bird of prey centres.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to fly these magnificent hunters, the instructors at the centre will teach you how to handle the birds, including a bald eagle with a 5.5ft wingspan. Not for the faint hearted!
Tel: 01322 866577
WHAT Howletts Wild Animal Park
WHY Up close and personal with international wildlife
Where else are you likely to see tigers, gorillas, leopards, monkeys, tapirs, wolves and rhinos wandering around the Kent countryside?
Set up by the late John Aspinall, Howletts and Port Lympne aim to protect and breed rare and endangered species, returning them to safe areas in their native homeland. One for the whole family.
Tel: 01227 721286
WHAT A walk on the wild side
WHERE Saxon Shore Way
WHY Slow down to catch nature
For wildlife spotting it's best to be moving slowly, so we'd recommend a walk. Although it may be more famous for its historic connections, the Saxon Shore Way runs through two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, several sights of Special Scientific Interest and a handful of nature reserves, including the important North Kent Marshes. Strap on your binoculars and start walking!
For more information, click on 'links'
WHAT Learn a trade
WHY Never too late to change careers
Whether you're after a change in career or you just want to inspire the kids, Hadlow College runs a continuous series of talks and open days this month, from equine demonstrations, course information evenings, taster days and talks from experts. The best way to get back to nature is to work with it, so get stuck in!
Tel: 0500 551434
WHAT Bike around Bewl
WHY Eco-friendly pedal power
Bewl Water, the largest inland body of water in the south east, has a round-reservoir route that weaves through woodland, open fields and winding country lanes.
Easily do-able with the kids, there are adventure playgrounds to play on, boats to watch and a chance to cycle aross the dam wall. There are also a couple of great pubs on the way round for mid-route fortification, or pack a picnic and drink in your peaceful surroundings. And if you don't fancy cycling, take the boat tour instead!
Tel: 01892 890661
WHAT Garden tours
WHERE Sissinghurst Castle Garden
WHY We all need a little inspiration
Whether you're trying to re-create your own mini National Trust garden at home, or just interested in how the gardens are managed, join Alexis Datta, Sissinghurst's head gardener, for a guided tour of the famous property. Ask as many questions as you like, and hopefully be inspired for your own green spaces!
Tel: 01580 710701
WHAT Kent on horseback
WHERE All over the county
WHY It's quicker than walking
With more than 30 TROT routes and hundreds of miles of bridleways, Kent is ideal for the equine enthusiast or the nervous beginner. Learn to handle your steed and strike out across country.
Tel: 07900 208938
WHAT Tree spotting
WHERE Bedgebury Pinetum
WHY Trees are interesting, too
So they don't growl or fly or leap about, but trees are an awesome and important part of nature. With nearly 10,000 examples, Bedgebury Pinetum boasts the most complete collection of conifers anywhere in the world, and you can spend hours walking, cycling or sitting among them.
Tel: 01580 879842
WHAT Seal spotting
WHERE Herne Bay
WHY Makes a change from birdwatching
Barrow Sands, a five-mile stretch of sand bank off the north Kent coast, is home to a large seal colony which never fails to entertain.
A short boat ride out, the grey and common seals are friendly, nosy and make a cracking family day out.
Tel: 01227 373372
WHY It's becoming fashionable
No longer the reserve of tweed-clad bearded folk, Kent's unique and varied landscape means that native species and ones on their way to warmth are prolific. Grab the binoculars and head for one of the RSPB's reserves.
Tel: 01797 320588
For the food lover
WHAT Chapel Down Winery
WHERE Smallhythe, Tenterden
WHY English wines
Kent is blessed with great vineyards, and Chapel Down Winery is the largest producer of English wines.
Shop at the wine and fine food store, take a guided tour to learn about the history of English wines and wander around the landscaped grounds, herb garden or vineyards themselves.
Afterwards, why not pop into the new restaurant, Richard Phillips at Chapel Down, for coffee, lunch or a gourmet dinner.
Tel: 01580 766111
WHAT Shop at a Farmers' Market
WHERE All over Kent
WHY Keeping it local and seasonal
There are more than 30 Farmers' Markets in Kent, all superb places to shop if you're self-catering, picnicking, or just fancy some local colour on your plate.
Choose from fresh-baked bread, preserves, cheese, organic eggs, free-range meat, veg, fruit, Kentish cobnuts, juices and wines. You'll be helping to maintain the viability of local farmers, too, and using up fewer food miles helps protect the environment.
WHAT The Goods Shed
WHY Buy and eat on one site
Canterbury's permanent Farmers' Market also has a restaurant so you can enjoy a menu that varies according to season and suppliers.
Open Tue-Sat, 10am to 7pm and Sun 10am to 4pm, the restaurant serves lunch from 12pm and dinner from 6pm.
Tel: 01227 459153
WHAT Eat foods in season
WHERE Farm shops and markets
WHY Good for you and the economy
Eating seasonally gives you food at its nutritional peak and April is simply bursting with new growth, including the first of the year's herbs. Look out for purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes, sea kale, sorrel, wild rocket and watercress. Rhubarb is at it best, as is wood pigeon, while fish lovers can feast on cockles, crab, Pollack, wild salmon and sea trout.
WHAT Go on a gourmet weekend
WHERE Burrow House, Broadstairs
WHY A break from the kitchen stove
A stone's throw from Viking Bay, Burrow House offers boutique guest accommodation in a substantial Victorian house. Its gourmet weekends are a great way to add a sparkle to the Easter holidays. Enjoy a five-course dinner with vintage wines, overnight accommodation and in the morning, a 'gourmet breakfast' with a glass of Bucks Fizz (maximum six people). Cost is £155 per person, including accommodation.
Tel: 01843 601817
WHAT Enjoy the finest seafood
WHY You'll never taste it fresher
On the South Quay of Whitstable Harbour, this long-established fish market sells a wonderful variety of fresh, sustainable fish and shellfish, smoked seafood and oysters.
The fish market was once the site of The Crab and Winkle line's goods sheds, reputed to be the world's first passenger railway, which linked the harbour to Canterbury.
Tel: 01227 771 245
WHAT Thanet Beer Festival
WHERE Winter gardens, Margate
WHY It's beer. You're on holiday
Head for Margate's Winter Gardens from noon until 10.30pm on Good Friday and Easter Saturday for the fourth Thanet Easter Beer Festival. Free entry if you're a card-carrying CAMRA member.
Tel: 01843 591731
WHAT Visit a tea shop
WHERE All over Kent
WHY You're British, dammit
Stop for a refreshing cuppa; Kent is blessed with some delightful examples. If you're heading for the coast, try Café G at Margate (01843 225600), or Chives Café (01227 281255) at the Whitstable Horsebridge community centre. Inland, try the Maro Food Café at Yalding Organic Centre (01622 814650) or Tiny Tim's in Canterbury (01227 450793).
WHAT Go on an Easter egg hunt
WHERE Brogdale Farm
WHY It's Easter. You need chocolate
Brogdale Farm is running an Easter Egg hunt for under-16s on its guided and self-guided walks.
Grown-ups can pop into the farm's Marketplace to stock up on lamb at the Butcher of Brogdale and home-made Easter eggs from The Creamery.
Tel: 01795 536250
WHAT Cookery classes
WHERE Gavin Gregg, Sevenoaks
WHY Impress the Other Half
Gavin Gregg restaurant offers courses run by head chef Andrew Wilson that will make you shine like a star in your own kitchen. On 24 April, you'll cook rack of lamb and apple tart tartin with vanilla ice cream (£50 per person).
Tel: 01732 456373
For the adventurous
WHY It's just fun
An opportunity to cover your friends/family/children/loved one in fast-travelling paint.
If you've always fancied charging around some woodland in a full
face mask and dressed like Darth Vader, sign yourself, and aforementioned loved ones, up to a day's paintballing at Saltwood Paintball Games, near Hythe. And not a Dulux tester in sight.
Tel: 01303 237099
WHAT Motor racing
WHERE Brands Hatch
WHY It's best left to the pros
If you can't trust yourself behind the wheel of a fast car, leave it to a professional. The home of British Motorsport, Brands Hatch, is also host to the British Touring Car Championship this month, so position yourself at Paddock Hill bend at the end of the pit straight, and watch the drivers struggling with one of the most challenging corners in the race series.
Tel: 08709 509000
WHAT Go Karting
WHERE Buckmore Park
WHY Watching just isn't good enough
Current F1 Champion Lewis Hamilton honed his skills on this tight circuit as a youngster, as did many other race stars, so if you've always dreamed of the Formula One lifestyle, this is where it begins.
Great fun for the kids, even more fun for competitive dads, and a chance to find that competitive streak in mum you never knew existed.
Tel: 08456 037964
WHAT Parachute jump
WHY There's no other rush like it
You just haven't lived unless you've thrown yourself out of an aeroplane. Hurtling toward the Earth at terminal velocity with nothing more than an oversized dishcloth to slow your descent may not be everyone's cup of tea, but you'll be desperate to do it again.
Tel: 01959 578101
WHERE Paddock Wood
WHY If paintballing is too mundane
Heft a shotgun to your shoulder and attempt to focus on a rapidly disappearing clay. West Kent Shooting School has open days for novices over Easter, for both kids and adults. A great sport for the whole family.
Tel: 01892 834306
WHAT Scuba diving
WHY Feel like Jacques Cousteau
It might still be a little cold to be leaping into the sea, but you can start your training in a warm pool - perfect if you want to be ready for the summer season. Breathing underwater looks complicated, but Kent Scuba will happily explain all you need to know.
Tel: 01843 297430
WHAT Flying a helicopter
WHERE Biggin Hill
WHY It's the only way to travel
Just because you can fly a helicopter on your son's Playstation, doesn't mean you can control a proper one. With more controls than a small power station, learn to hop into the air, fly backwards and turn in circles with a qualified instructor.
Tel: 01959 540803
WHAT Go Ape
WHERE The Weald and Maidstone
WHY You're never too old to be Tarzan
This is for anyone who has jealously watched Wildlife on One and wished they, too, could swing through the jungle like a big monkey. Climb trees, slide down high wires, crawl through tunnels and zip to the ground in a frenzy of primate playfulness. Whooping noises optional.
Tel: 08456 439215
WHERE Folkestone and Chatham
WHY Cheaper than Meribel
It's a far cry from Whistler, but you don't want to buy all the kit, fly the kids to a resort and then find out you don't like snowsports.
Kent has two dry ski slopes for the family to have a practice on before committing to a holiday, and you won't even have to queue for the lifts.
With both ski and snowboard instructors on hand to help you decide between sports, make sure you have gloves, a scarf and money for a warming cuppa afterwards!
Tel: 01303 850333
Tel: 01634 827979
WHAT Rock climbing
WHERE Tunbridge Wells
WHY Team building for the family
There's nothing quite like the sense of achievement gained by scaling an improbably high bit of rock safely. Great fun for kids and adults alike, climbing is a brilliant reason to be outdoors, excellent exercise and mildly educational (in a largely geographical sense) to boot.
Tel: 01892 665665