10 reasons to love Tonbridge
PUBLISHED: 09:19 03 July 2018
Head to this revitalised town for its fascinating history, exciting events and blossoming foodie scene
1. Fit for foodies
Tonbridge has become a foodie paradise, with restaurants, bars, coffee shops and cafés springing up all over town. Look out for pop-up food events at the Old Fire Station and check out Fuggles Beer Café, Havet, The Gate House, Gurkha Planet, Finch House, The Bakehouse at 124, Basil and Saltwaters fish and chips. Taking over the former Graze site by Big Bridge, ‘green kitchen’ and wine bar Verdigris was on the verge of opening as we went to press. And don’t miss the award-winning Tonbridge Farmers’ Market on the second Sunday of every month.
2. Life on the river
If you’re driving through Tonbridge its natural riverside setting can be overlooked, as the High Street passes right over the narrow River Medway. So park the car and explore the unseen side of town by boat. Tonbridge River Trips is based beneath Big Bridge and offers rowing boats for hire and an electric launch, Enid May, which takes up to 12 passengers on short river cruises and longer wildlife trips.
3. King of the castle
The heart of Tonbridge is its ancient castle. One of the UK’s best examples of a motte and bailey, with its 13th-century gatehouse it sits in a commanding position overlooking the river. Visit the castle today to learn about what life would have been like and take an audio tour of the buildings. Don’t miss Castle Lawns; concerts, film screenings and events are held on this natural stage throughout the year.
4. Summer swims
Tonbridge boasts one of only a few outdoor swimming pools in Kent, with the bonus of being able to swim both indoors and out, thanks to interconnecting pools. A particularly popular spot for families, on a hot summer day you could be fooled into thinking you’re on holiday. The first outdoor pool here opened in 1910 and in 1996 was joined by the rest of the indoor leisure complex, offering three indoor pools: lane swimming, teaching pool and a toddler pool.
5. Step back in time
As well as exploring the castle, look out for Tonbridge School, which dates back to 1553, and churches including the Victorian Gothic St Stephens and the ancient parish church of St Peter and St Paul. There are many links between the town and Jane Austen, whose father George was born in Tonbridge in 1731. Take a 2.4 mile circular Jane Austen Walk around the town to uncover more of the story. Download a map at www.explorekent.org or pick up an audio guide from newly refurbished Tonbridge Library.
6. Green scene
Plentiful green spaces range from the quiet reflection of Tonbridge Memorial Garden to the wide open space of the Racecourse Sportsground. To the south of town lies Haysden Country Park; 165 acres of woodland, marshland and lakes offering sailing and angling.
Tonbridge is rightly proud of its independent retailers and the active Town Team runs a popular reward card scheme, with many local businesses signed up. Shops to look out for include Mr Books, gifts, wine and spirits at Gorgeous George, Ian Chatfield butchers, Sankeys fishmonger, ArtSpring gallery and Bea children’s store.
8. Fun for the family
Leisure facilities for active families include trampoline park Jump In, with 120 trampolines, dodgeball and battle beams. Nearby is Clip ‘n’ Climb, where climbing walls and activities are laid on for kids aged four and above. Or enjoy crazy golf at Mr Mulligans Dino Golf.
9. Play’s the thing
If you’re into your arts and culture, Tonbridge boasts two theatres to choose from. The EM Forster Theatre is based at Tonbridge School (Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales, 24-25 July) while the home of popular amateur dramatics group, The Oast (The Ladykillers, 21-28 July) is on the way to Hildenborough.
10. Fun events
Many fun events are held throughout the year and this month sees Tonbridge Castle Music Weekend (6-7 July) and Luna Cinema’s outdoor screenings of Gladiator, Pretty Woman and The Greatest Showman (20-22 July), both held in the grounds of the castle. Look out for jazz concerts, live theatre, food festivals, the Medieval Fair and Heritage Weekend (8-9 Sept), when the popular annual Dragon Boat Race on the Medway is a highlight on the Sunday.