10 great reasons to visit Sevenoaks

PUBLISHED: 10:54 30 January 2018

Knole�s 1,000-acre park is a joy to explore at any time of year

Knole�s 1,000-acre park is a joy to explore at any time of year

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

A proper country town, with historic stately homes, wonderful walks, a town-centre arts centre and a great selection of shops and restaurants. Let’s take a look at splendid Sevenoaks and its surroundings

1. In the Knole

You can’t visit this charismatic town without seeking out its crowning glory, Knole. The 1,000-acre park is a joy to explore at any time of year and the herds of wild deer you’ll meet along the way have been here since medieval times, when it was a favourite hunting ground of Henry VIII. At the heart of the park is one of England’s most important historic homes. Undergoing a huge conservation project and operated by the National Trust – but owned by the Sackville family since 1603 – it has a café, shop and visitor centre. The showrooms are now closed for winter. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Come back in Spring to enjoy the bluebell wood at Riverhill Himalayan GardensCome back in Spring to enjoy the bluebell wood at Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

2. Wildlife haven

Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve is a haven for birds, insects and native mammals. One of Kent Wildlife Trust’s most important locations, it has a unique landscape made up of equal amounts of land, lakes and ponds. A fantastic place to visit for wildlife lovers of all ages, the reserve has a visitor centre, a record-breaking bee hotel and puts on engaging family events throughout the year. With plans to improve the site, design proposals for a new flagship visitor centre are currently being considered. Visit www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk

The Stag arts centre has a theatre space, two-screen digital cinema, events suite and a caf�The Stag arts centre has a theatre space, two-screen digital cinema, events suite and a caf�

3. Top of the hill

For one of the best views over the Weald of Kent, as well as some stunning gardens, head to Riverhill Himalayan Gardens. As its name suggests, it’s set on a hillside and was once the home of Victorian plant hunter John Rogers. Keen to display some of his favourite specimens collected from the Himalayan region, much of his original planting can still be seen today. Still owned by the Rogers family and restored a few years ago, some of the other attractions include a bluebell wood, a rose garden, a walled garden and viewpoint. There’s a pretty café and all sorts of exciting events too. Visit www.riverhillgardens.co.uk

Sevenoaks boasts gorgeous independent shops tucked away down tiny alleysSevenoaks boasts gorgeous independent shops tucked away down tiny alleys

4. All the world’s a stage

Sevenoaks is lucky enough to boast The Stag – an arts centre with theatre space, a two-screen digital cinema, events suite and a café. Originally a Majestic cinema built in the 1930s, the theatre has faced its fair share of ups and downs over the years. It was finally taken over by the local council in 2009, in a bold move designed to guarantee the future of the much-loved venue. Throughout the year, all sorts of exciting shows, concerts and plays are held here, and each Christmas it hosts a very popular pantomime (Snow White this year, until 7 January), hotly followed by another in January, by local amateur dramatics group the Sevenoaks Entertainers (Aladdin, 25-28 January). Visit www.stagsevenoaks.co.uk

Sevenoaks’ Grade II Listed War Memorial was unveiled in October 1920Sevenoaks’ Grade II Listed War Memorial was unveiled in October 1920

5. Shopping and eating

For a fairly small town, Sevenoaks has an exciting mix of big brand and independent shopping. Visiting shoppers generally head to the open-air shopping centre, Bligh’s Meadow, to the High Street and to the newish M&S (opened 2014), but it’s well worth taking time to explore the pedestrian side streets too. A few of our favourite independent shops include Danish Collection, Vintage Attic and Sevenoaks Bookshop. And venture further out of town to the Holly Bush area for Hos Hother, Chic Et Tralala, Emily & Jack’s and much more. When it comes to eating out there is everything from Wagamama, Prezzo and Bill’s, to highly rated Anatolian restaurant Hattusa, The Little Garden, The Vine, El Matador, Brisket & Barrel and the new Fego. There are plenty of ‘proper’ pubs and comfy coffee shops too.

6. Moated Mote

A short drive from the town is another of the National Trust’s local properties. Ightham Mote dates back nearly 700 years and has been home to medieval knights, royal courtiers and wealthy Victorians over its life. The pretty manor house is surrounded by a moat, with pretty gardens, ponds, streams and woodland. Another great spot for a wintry walk, there’s a lovely gift shop, café and an exciting adventure play area for the kids to enjoy. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk

7. Going wild

Set in the nearby village of Eynsford, Eagle Heights Wildlife Foundation is home to a huge number of birds of prey, along with reptiles, farm animals and meerkats. Open to the public but also engaging in conservation work across the world and offering educational school visits, the foundation is a not-for-profit enterprise. Experiences available to buy include falconry, VIP tours and photographic workshops. Also at Eagle Heights is The Husky Experience, with a pack of working huskies making it one of the largest sled dog centres in the UK. Meet these rescue dogs at the visitor centre, go out trekking with them or even enjoy a unique summer camp overnight stay experience with them. Visit www.eagleheights.co.uk

8. What a view

The National Trust also manages the stunning Emmetts Garden in nearby Ide Hill. Boasting one of the highest positions in Kent, the views from this tucked-away place are quite spectacular. Walkers, wrapped up against the cold, can explore the six acres of gardens originally laid out by Edwardian plantsman Frederic Lubbock. It’s dog friendly, popular with families and has the usual National Trust café and gift shop too. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk

9. Country walks

It may only be a short train ride from London, but Sevenoaks is surrounded by Kentish countryside. As well as Knole, which is big enough to offer anything from a short stroll to a long hike, there are plenty of great country walks to be had around the town and its surrounding villages. Climb the steep Kemsing Downs for spectacular views or visit Shoreham Woods for a fabulous display of bluebells later in the spring. Walk around the pretty village of Otford, explore Lullingstone Country Park or stroll across Sevenoaks Common for a real countryside experience. For a few route ideas, visit www.explorekent.org

10. Excellent events

Sevenoaks is a town that likes a celebration. With regular events held throughout the year, some of the most popular are the Sevenoaks Summer Festival and the Sevenoaks Literary Festival. The Sevenoaks Summer Festival has been run by local volunteers for nearly 50 years and is the cultural highlight of the town’s calendar. Each June and July, it comes alive with events, concerts, talks and shows for a spectacular two-week arts festival. The Sevenoaks Literary Festival takes place each September and October. Having started out as a quite modest event in 2002, it has grown into a high-quality festival attracting some of the biggest authors.

Visit www.sevenoaksfestival.org.uk and www.sevlitfest.com for details of 2018 festivals.

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