24 romantic days out in Kent
PUBLISHED: 10:52 24 January 2015 | UPDATED: 10:52 24 January 2015
Sometimes you want to push the boat out, at other times the right person and a beautiful Kentish view will suffice. Here are 24 romantic days out to enjoy this month, that will suit all budgets
FREE OR INEXPENSIVE
1 Explore the forest
Perfect for couples with a love of fresh air and bracing walks, beautiful Bedgebury Forest (TN17 2SJ) has miles of paths and cycle routes through dense evergreen forest. There is a charming lakeside café, a bike rental centre and even a Go Ape tree climbing adventure area.
2 Day trip to Margate
For a cultural day out together, visit the free art exhibitions at the Turner Contemporary, walk along the beach, peruse the vintage shops in the old town and have a bite to eat in one of the independent restaurants or tea rooms – try The Mad Hatter (01843 232626) and The Greedy Cow (01843 447557).
3 Fly a kite at Joss Bay
There are plenty of places to fly a kite on a bright, windy day but there are few with such a stunning backdrop. Joss Bay (CT10 3PG) in Broadstairs is well known as the best surfing beach in Thanet but it’s also the perfect beach for a bit of romantic kite flying and a picnic.
4 Rock pooling at Samphire Hoe
Take a wintry walk at a nature reserve built during the creation of the Channel Tunnel. Samphire Hoe Country Park (CT17 9FL) is a wildlife oasis located between Folkestone and Dover. The seashore is accessible via footpath and at low tide there are some great rock pools to peer into.
5 Walk the White Cliffs
Take a bracing walk on the edge of the country, along this important and memorable stretch of cliffs. The National Trust cares for the magnificent White Cliffs of Dover site (CT16 1HJ) and the wildlife that calls it home. Hold hands on the cliff top and on a fine day you can see right across the Channel to France. See also page xx.
6 See the deer at Knole
The grand, 600-year-old house may be closed for the winter but you can always enjoy a romantic walk through the deer park that surrounds Knole (TN15 0RP) in Sevenoaks. The outdoor café and the visitor centre are open throughout February.
7 Wander through the ruins
It doesn’t get much better than a country house with acres of wood and parkland, topped off with the ruin of a fairytale castle in the grounds. And at Scotney Castle (TN3 8JN) there’s also that all-important National Trust tea room for a hot drink and cake.
8 Seaside fun in Deal
If your idea of a romantic day out is a visit to the seaside, try Deal. This quiet and charismatic little town is a perfect place to enjoy a stroll along the beach, a promenade on the pier, play some games in the arcade and have an enormous ice cream sundae - no matter the weather.
WON’T BREAK THE BANK
1 A spa experience
Book your partner in for a relaxing facial, a massage or a treatment at their favourite local spa or, if you’re uncertain, buy a gift voucher. If it’s something a bit more romantic you were planning, many also offer couples massages so you can de-stress together. See our guide to spas on page xxx.
2 Cosy winter glamping
There are plenty of places that offer year-round glamping, so you can cosy up together in front of a fire in a shepherd’s hut on the Sheppey marshes at Elmley Nature Reserve (www.elmleynaturereserve.co.uk) or in a yurt or a hopper’s hut at Little Halden Farm, near Tenterden (www.littlehaldenfarm.co.uk).
3 Wine country tour
Kent is English wine country and although the vineyards are at their best in the summer, you can visit the wineries any time of year. Biddenden Vineyard (TN27 8DF) has 23 acres of vines and produces excellent wine. There’s also Chapel Down Winery in Tenterden (TN30 7NG). You can tour the land, enjoy a tasting and even eat the vineyard’s own restaurant, The Swan.
4 Step back in time
Reopening in February after its winter break, the Historic Dockyard Chatham (ME4 4TE) can feel surprisingly romantic. Offering a glimpse of a bygone era, when far too many couples parted here for the last time as their loved ones went out to sea, it’s like something we would only see in a movie today.
5 Ride the rails
There is no denying there is something romantic about steam engines. Hop aboard a vintage train at Spa Valley Railway in Tunbridge Wells (TN2 5QY), or at the Kent and East Sussex Railway at Tenterden (TN30 6HE) or on a smaller version at the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (TN28 8PL).
6 Explore an enchanted forest
Groombridge Place (TN3 9QG) is a magical place. Couples can walk through the formal gardens, have a warming drink and a snack at the café, and then venture into the Enchanted Forest. With animals to see along the way and a bird of prey display area, it’s a great day out.
7 Dinner with the Trust
The Mote restaurant at Ightham Mote (TN15 0NT) will be hosting its annual Valentine’s Dinner on 14 February. Guests will be treated to a glass of sparkling wine on arrival and there’s a three-course meal and musical entertainment from a pianist. Book on 01732 811314.
8 Taste some of Kent’s finest brew
Shepherd Neame brewery (ME13 7AX) in Faversham offers beer lovers a tour and a tutored tasting in their visitor centre. It’s not everyone’s idea of a romantic outing but for some people it doesn’t get much better than getting to taste some fine local ales.
PUSH THE BOAT OUT
1 A luxury spa weekend
Beautiful Eastwell Manor (TN25 4HR) near Ashford, is one of the best choices in the country for a spa weekend for two. Residential packages can include massages, facials, time in the relaxing pool, therapies, golf, dinner in the Manor restaurant and a stay of one or two nights. Visit www.eastwellmanor.co.uk
2 For the animal lover
Book your animal lover a one-to-one big cat encounter at Wildlife Heritage Foundation (www.whf.org.uk), a Port Lympne keeper experience day (www.aspinallfoundation.org), or fix it for them to feed the tigers at Wingham Wildlife Park (www.winghamwildlifepark.co.uk). Plenty of places, including Leeds Castle (www.leeds-castle.com), also offer falconry experience days.
3 Live like royalty
Live like royalty and stay the night in the luxurious bed and breakfast in the Astor Wing of Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home (TN8 7NG). You can enjoy an after-hours private walk around the gardens and book a private tour of the building too. Book at www.hevercastle.co.uk
4 Touch of sea air
Treat your loved one to a romantic break in this popular seaside getaway. We recommend a day of shopping, fresh oysters, a glass of wine or two and a night spent as close to the beach as you can get – in one of the old converted fisherman’s huts owned by the Hotel Continental (01227 280280).
5 Valentine’s at Leeds Castle
It’s a rare chance to stay in one of the loveliest castles in the world as Leeds Castle (ME17 1PL) opens for a special Valentine’s night event. The butler will call you to dinner in the grand banqueting hall and you can even add on an overnight stay in one of the bedrooms if you’re really pulling out all the stops. Call 01622 767855 to make a booking.
6 Food of love
It’s the best restaurant in Kent, according to readers of Kent Life and the Kent On Sunday, having scooped the top spot in our Food & Drinks Awards. Run by chef Andrew McLeish, it’s not the first award to have been won by Chapter One in Locksbottom (BR6 8NF), near Bromley. Book a table or buy a dining gift voucher to experience the impressive European menu. Call 01689 854848.
7 Tower watch
Peverell’s Tower in Dover Castle (CT16 1HU) is a unique place to stay with spectacular views over the Channel. Owned by English Heritage and run as luxurious holiday accommodation, it was built by Henry III in the 13th Century. These days it’s been converted into a contemporary living space just for two. Visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/book-and-buy
8 Speed freak’s treat
We’re lucky in Kent to have one of the world’s greatest race tracks at Brands Hatch (DA3 8NG). For a really exciting day out, treat beloved to a driver experience in a single-seat race car, a sporty BMW M3, a rally car or a 4x4. Or if you’d rather watch than drive, buy some tickets to a race day. Visit www.brandshatch.co.uk