60 things to do in Kent this year
PUBLISHED: 12:29 16 January 2017 | UPDATED: 12:29 16 January 2017
2017 is shaping up to be a fantastic year in Kent. Sarah Sturt compiles your 2017 diary of events happening in Kent this year. In association with Visit Kent
1. New Year’s Day Walk
Jan | The White Cliffs of Dover
Start the New Year with a bracing walk across the White Cliffs of Dover to South Foreland Lighthouse, 11am-1pm. Booking essential on 01304 207326. Dogs on leads welcome. Meet at the Visitor Centre.
2. Child of the Commons Exhibition
Until 19 Feb | Westerham
Don’t miss the chance to see this fascinating exhibition focusing on the political career of Sir Winston Churchill, with many objects on display here at Chartwell for the first time.
3. Garden Photography
16 Jan-4 March | Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Brighten up your winter with a visit to an exhibition of the very best amateur and professional garden photography from across the world, brought to life by the Sissinghurst gardeners using plants from the garden.
4. Burns Night Dine & Stay
27-29 Jan | Hever Castle
Hever Castle is hosting its first Burns Night. Combine an overnight stay in five-star luxury accommodation with a tribute to the life, works and spirit of Scottish poet Robert Burns.
5. Chilli Dip
4 Feb | St Julian’s, Sevenoaks
Be brave and take part in an ice cold dip into the frosty waters of the outdoor swimming pool while raising money for Kent Life Charity of the Year ellenor hospice at home.
6. 180 Years of Scotney
February | Scotney Castle
It’s 180 years since the first stone of the new house was laid this February and there will be a series of activities to mark the anniversary, including a chance to view the original plans of the house and the architect’s model. Families can plan their own dream house and spot the difference between archive pictures of the house when it was built compared with today.
7. Fairytale Castle
13-17 Feb | Dover
Step into Dover Castle’s real fairytales with storytelling brought to life in spellbinding adventures. Journey into a realm where fairytales and England’s past collide.
8. Open Day
19 Feb | Port Lympne
Port Lympne Hotel invites couples looking at wedding venues to take a tour of the historic building, its beautiful ground-floor rooms, picturesque gardens and luxuriously decorated bedrooms (10am-2.30pm). Meet the hotel’s wedding coordinators and suppliers as you explore the unique mansion, surrounded by Port Lympne Reserve.
Kent Life launches its eighth Garden of the Year Awards this month, with an added category: Community Garden of the Year. The March edition is on sale from 16 February and you can also visit our dedicated website to see last year’s finalists and winners.
9. Lambing weekend
12-13 Mar | Hadlow
Watch lambs being born in the lambing shed (11am-4pm) with expert commentary by Agriculture students, tour the Animal Management Unit which houses reptiles, invertebrates and small mammals as well as outdoor llamas, pigs, otters and goats, enjoy a tractor ride and stock up at the Produced in Kent Farmers’ Market.
10. An American Interlude
11 March-23 Dec | Ightham Mote
This new exhibition explores ‘Queen’ Palmer’s stay at Ightham Mote from 1887-1890 as it became something of a hub for the elite of the Aesthetic Movement. The centrepiece of the exhibition is John Singer Sargent’s 1890 portrait of Miss Elsie Palmer or Young Lady in White - on loan from Colorado Springs Fine Arts Centre - which he painted during his visit. Sargent’s dramatic backdrop to the painting was inspired by Ightham Mote’s linen-fold panelling.
11. Children’s Book Festival
24-26 | Knole
Knole will play host to children’s book writers and illustrators who will run workshops and activities for schools on the Friday and families on the Saturday. One of just two properties taking part in the festival nationwide, it will also mark the opening of a new children’s book area in the bookshop.
12. Mother’s Day Lunch
26 Mar | Port Lympne
Treat your mother to a delicious Champagne afternoon tea or lunch in the heart of Port Lympne Reserve at Port Lympne Restaurant.
13. Kent Big Weekend
1-2 Apr | Across Kent
More than 100 attractions across the county will welcome lucky ticket holders for Visit Kent’s special celebration of tourism.
14. Easter Fun at the Farm
1-17 Apr | The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood
Egg-citing fun in the Family Park with Easter egg hunts, lambs, chicks and children’s rides for younger family members to enjoy.
15. A Castle in England
1-23 Apr | Scotney Castle
Scotney’s writer in residence, Jamie Rhodes, has studied archive material at Scotney to find unusual snippets about its history and create five short stories illustrated by graphic fiction artists. As part of the exhibition there will be items on display from Scotney’s hidden collection that visitors wouldn’t normally see.
16. Festival of Steam & Transport
16-17 Apr | Historic Dockyard Chatham
A carnival spectacular for all ages, with an all-inclusive Steam Funfair, street entertainment, live music, walkabout acts and all the fun of the fair at The Historic Dockyard.
17. Doggy Day
29 Apr | Faversham Charter Market
It’s official, Faversham loves dogs. So much so that the Charter Market plays host to an annual ‘Doggy Day,’ when our canine friends are firmly ‘top dog’. Is your dog a champion sausage catcher? Then register them for the charity Fun Dog Show or come along and browse the stalls and watch the fun.
18. Literary Festival
30 Apr-2 May | Chiddingstone Castle
The second annual Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival 2017 will again feature celebrated and established authors, poets and theatre groups giving talks and performances over three days (including a day dedicated to schools).
19. Sweeps Festival
29 Apr-1 May | Rochester
This modern-day Sweeps Festival is a colourful mix of music, dancing and entertainment with more than 60 Morris sides and entertainers celebrating throughout the three-day festival. Expect lots of dancing, folk music, real ale and plenty of local stalls throughout Rochester city centre.
20. Weald of Kent Craft & Design Show
29 Apr-1 May | Penshurst
Discover beautifully crafted British products, with 250 stands and activities to experience and enjoy, workshops, demonstrations and live music throughout the day.
21. May Day Festival
1 May | Whitstable
Lots of stalls, children’s entertainment, circus skills, Punch & Judy Morris dancing, May Pole dancing, music and live entertainment to welcome in the merry month of May at Whitstable Castle. Starts 11am, admission by donation/free.
22. Motors by the Moat
6-7 May | Leeds Castle
Get up close to hundreds of vintage, high-performance and classic cars from around the world, displayed in all their glory on the castle lawns. Plenty of other entertainment for the whole family to enjoy in the heart of Kent.
23. The Beast @ Betteshanger
27-29 May | Deal
The ultimate bouncy castle experience for adults is coming to Deal. At 272m ‘The Beast’ is the world’s largest inflatable obstacle course and its first UK outing will be at Betteshanger Park. Run and bounce your way around the 32 obstacles including inflatable walls, rings and balls. Bounce for fun, sign up as a team and help each other through or, if you can’t tame your competitive side, power on through and get your name on top of the leader board.
Kent Life and its sister title Kent on Sunday launches its fifth Food & Drink Awards this month, with a dozen categories ranging from Restaurant of the Year to Customer Service and Food & Drink Hero. The May edition is on sale from 13 April and you can also visit our dedicated website to see last year’s finalists and winners.
24. Battle of Medway Commemorations
8-17 Jun | Medway
Throughout June 2017 Medway will commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway with a spectacular river event and a series of exhibitions and activities.
25. The Dutch are Coming!
10-11 Jun | Medway
A family friendly event depicting the brave but ineffective battle in1667 when the Dutch sailed up the river to attack the English fleet at anchor. Visitors will be able to hear the stories and learn the tactics that led to the raid, resulting in the capture of the HMS Royal Charles and other ships moored at Chatham being burnt. Living history activities and demonstrations will take place throughout the weekend, including a blacksmith, canon displays, cooking, drill displays, weaving and children’s drill fun.
26. Taste the Best of Produced in Kent
11 Jun | Biddenden
Biddenden Vineyards’ annual Food Day, in aid of Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust, showcases a range of great produce the county has to offer. Visitors can meet, taste and buy from a wide variety of Kentish producers with the vineyard shop open as usual for award-winning sparkling and still English wines, ciders and juices. Ploughman’s lunches and refreshments will also be available. Visitors are invited to take the opportunity to follow the self-guided tours round the vines. Free admission.
27. Open Quarter
16-18 Jun | Folkestone
An annual celebration of Folkestone’s thriving creative community where you get a chance to not only meet many local artists, but also explore their studios, see works in progress, discover award-winning digital artists, designers and makers, take part in workshops, hear fantastic live music and explore the Creative Quarter’s independent shops, galleries, restaurants, cafés and bars.
28. Dickens Week
17-23 Jun | Broadstairs
Each year Broadstairs revels in Dickensian delights with talks, performances, fairs, walks and demonstrations of everyday life in the Victorian era. Highlights include spotting costumed ladies and gentleman strolling around town, the festival play, a Victorian country fair and Dickensian beach party.
29. Leeds Castle Triathlon
24-25 Jun | Maidstone
Take part or watch the Standard Triathlon and Sprint Triathlons at Leeds Castle with an open swim in the moat, road cycle and cross-country run around the estate.
30. Kent County Show
7-9 Jul | Detling
Kent’s showcase event for farming, countryside and rural life, where the Agricultural area has large displays of cattle, sheep and goats, livestock competitions and sheep-shearing demonstrations each day.
31. Cherry Fair
16 Jul | Faversham
There are more than 400 varieties of cherry in the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale. Cherry entertainment includes a cherry pip spit, live music, local producers and a display of cherries like you have never seen.
32. Nautical Festival
22 Jul-23 Jul | Faversham
Come and see barges, smacks, steam tugs and other traditional vessels at the top of the Creek by the bridge. There will be exhibitors, a beer tent and live music on the Town Quay outside TS Hazard. Plus stalls, a bouncy castle and a Punch and Judy show on the Front Brents Green.
33. Oyster Festival
22-28 July | Whitstable
A week-long celebration of food, drink, music, parades and competitions in the picturesque seaside town. This hugely popular modern revival of an ancient festival dating back to Norman times is likely to be scaled back this year following an over-lively event in 2016.
34. Jousting Tournaments
Throughout July | Hever Castle
Knights of Royal England return to battle it out in the grounds of this mighty castle, a great family day out.
35. Fun at the Farm
Throughout August | Paddock Wood
Join Hopper the Rabbit and Friends at the Hop Farm Family Park this summer. Attractions, water fun, entertainment shows and more.
36. bOing! International Family Festival
26-27 Aug | The Gulbenkian, Canterbury
Join bOing! as it comes bouncing back in 2017 for a summer weekend of the very best theatre, dance, music, and films to excite and inspire all ages.
37. Folk Week
11-18 Aug | Broadstairs
Taking place all over town, thousands of people enjoy around 70 free events a day. Whether you are family looking for child-friendly events, younger generation wanting to burn off some dance energy or singers and musicians seeking out a session – Folk Week has something for you.
38. 2017 Triennial
2 Sep-5 Nov | Folkestone
The biggest visual arts event in the south east returns once again with internationally recognised artists commissioned to make new contemporary artworks exhibited in public spaces around Folkestone under the theme of ‘double edge’.
9 Sep | Kent
The Friends of Kent Churches Sponsored Bike Ride and Walk (part of the national Ride+Stride) is a sponsored bike ride or walk in which participants walk or cycle between churches, exploring and enjoying the Kent countryside while raising money to save historic churches, chapels and meeting houses for future generations by helping to fund urgent repairs and the installation of modern facilities.
40. Twilight Walk
15 Sep | Cyclopark, Gravesend
Join this popular 8km or 12km memory walk for ellenor through the streets of Gravesend.
41. Festival of Flowers
23-28 Sep | Leeds Castle
See the castle rooms transformed into works of art using flowers by international and award-winning florists and floral designers. Take part in floral workshops, talks and demonstrations throughout the event.
42. Food Festival
15-17 Sep | Faversham
The annual celebration of local food and drink begins on ‘Fishy Friday’ when fresh fish is landed on Town Quay at high tide and you can enjoy an evening of food and entertainment on the Creekside. On Saturday and Sunday, taste local brews on the Ale Trail; Saturday evening sees the award to this year’s Faversham Food Hero; Sunday is the day of the renowned Sausage Trail, with local butchers competing for Experts’ Choice and People’s Choice awards; Sunday offers a full programme of events with talks and demonstrations by local producers and businesses, followed by a celebratory Gala Dinner.
43. Hop Festival
2-3 Sep | Faversham
Expect the usual excellent selection of live music across three stages, plus the Shepherd Neame stage and a vibrant live music scene in the pubs around the town. Also featuring a wide range of Morris dancing, other dance troupes, and a family fun area providing entertainment and rides for younger visitors.
44. Salute to the 40s
16-17 Sep | The Historic Dockyard Chatham
Dance groups, 1940s bands, classic cars and vintage fair and fashion are all ensured to keep visitors enthralled all weekend in glorious Chatham Historic Dockyard.
45. Dragon Boat Racing
10 Sep | Tonbridge
Tonbridge Town Team’s annual Dragon Boat Race takes place on the Medway in the centre of town with Big Bridge the finishing line. Medieval Fair on the Castle lawn 9-10 September. Each crew takes part in three heats, fastest times compete in the semis and fastest three boats go head to head in the final.
46. Screamland at Dreamland
13-28 Oct | Margate
If you have a hankering for horror, then fear not, Screamland is back again! Experience the darker side of Dreamland with interactive and immersive scare mazes, sinister sideshows and unlimited use of the rides – some with an unexpected twist.
47. Halloween Extravaganza
October | Romney Hythe and Dymchurch
The miniature railway will be spooking passengers over the October half term with Halloween-themed journeys, scary sights and plenty of fun for passengers of all ages.
48. Canterbury Festival
Oct | Canterbury
Kent’s International Arts Festival attracts more than 70,000 visitors every year and brings internationally acclaimed artists to Canterbury while also celebrating its home-grown talent. With over 200 events during the Canterbury Festival fortnight, embracing theatre, music, comedy, circus, cabaret, art, sculpture, walks, talks and a whole division dedicated to science, there really is something for everyone across the whole glorious city.
49. Book Festival
17-26 Nov | Folkestone
An eclectic array of readers, writers, speakers and audiences tell stories, ask questions, launch discussions, explore different genres of writing, entertain and inspire.
50. Fireworks Spectacular
4-5 Nov | Leeds Castle
Two nights of this popular display, featuring moving images, music and fireworks.
51. Black Friday Weekend
24-26 Nov | Ashford Designer Outlet
Get your Christmas shopping started at Ashford Designer Outlet’s Black Friday Weekend event, with additional discounts.
52. Christmas Market
25-27 Nov | Chartwell
Kick start your Christmas shopping with free entry to the market (normal admission applies to the garden, exhibition and studio).
53. Christmas Lights Switch On
Nov | Kent
Towns and attractions across the county switch their Christmas lights on throughout November for the start of the festive season.
54. Winter Wonderland
Nov-Jan 2018 | Bluewater
The shopping centre’s annual Christmas activities include an ice rink, Santa’s Grotto, traditional rides and more.
55. Christmas at the Castle
2 Dec-1 Jan | Leeds Castle
See the castle rooms beautifully decorated for Christmas and visit the annual Christmas Market on the Cedar Lawn overlooking the castle.
56. Churchill Family Christmas
3-4, 10-11, 17-18 Dec | Westerham
Four rooms in the house will be decorated in the style of the Churchills’ first Christmas at Chartwell. Entry by timed ticket, available on the day from the Visitor Welcome Centre. Normal admission applies.
57. Magical Medieval Christmas
16-24 Dec | Canterbury Tales
After the huge success of previous years, Magical Medieval Christmas returns for its third year of medieval festivities and Christmas cheer. Named as one of the best places to see Santa in 2015 by the Huffington Post, this is one not to miss.
58. Gala Ball
31 Dec | Port Lympne
This black and white-themed dinner dance for a New Year’s Eve to remember starts with a drinks reception followed by a four-course gala dinner and dancing to music by the resident DJ until 1am, £95 per person.
59. Ice Skating in the Park
Dec | Tunbridge Wells
Set in Calverley Grounds’ natural amphitheatre, the ice rink will be bigger and better than ever.
60. Dickensian Festival
Dec | Rochester
Held annually since 1988, Rochester becomes a feast of Victorian delights, carol concerts and Dickens characters during its popular festival.