10 reasons to visit Sevenoaks
PUBLISHED: 13:15 08 January 2019
This scenic small town is regularly voted one of the best places to live in the country. Here’s why
1. A place to browse
Sevenoaks is a compact town but it offers everything from a modern M&S store and big brands like Fat Face and Oliver Bonas to a varied number of individual independents. As well as the High Street, explore Sevenoaks’ quaint pedestrian side streets and Bligh’s Meadow shopping centre. Look out for Danish Collection, Sevenoaks Bookshop, The Chinaman and The Hardware Centre. Further out of town is the Holly Bush Lane area and its unique selection of independent retailers.
2. Beautiful Knole
There is something special about a winter walk in Knole’s ancient deer park. Close to the town and with 1,000 acres to explore, Henry VIII would have hunted here on his frequent visits. Owned by the Sackville family since 1603, it’s managed by the National Trust and offers a superb new café, shop and visitor centre. Inside the recently restored house there is reputedly one room for every day of the year.
3. Big events
In 2019 the Sevenoaks Festival, a two-week summer celebration of the arts, celebrates its 50th year, so expect it to be the biggest and best yet. Sevenoaks Literary Festival takes centre stage in September and October; last year saw talks from top authors including Sebastian Faulks and Patrick Gale, so the bar is set high.
4. Stage and screen
A 1930s art deco building, formerly The Majestic cinema, The Stag is a much-loved arts centre with a theatre, events suite, café and a two-screen digital cinema. There are many shows throughout the year and the popular Outside the Box comedy nights bring some of the biggest names in stand-up comedy here, but it’s the excellent local pantomime that has brought the biggest boost. This year it celebrated 10 years at the theatre.
5. Eating out
It’s a great place for eating out, with everything from big chain restaurants to cosy independent coffee shops. Restaurants to try include Hattusa, The Little Garden, Brisket + Barrell, Otto’s Kitchen, Raj Bari, Miller & Carter Steakhouse, Fego, Bill’s, Marco and the new Ephesus. For something lighter, choose from places including Nonna Cappucini’s, Beaux Bagels and Brunch @73. For a spot of fine dining head to The Vine, while highly rated pubs in the surrounding villages include The Windmill in Sevenoaks Weald, The Papermaker’s Arms in Plaxtol, The White Rock Inn in Underriver and The Bricklayer’s Arms in Chipstead.
6. Himalayan gem
Riverhill Himalayan Gardens is set on a hillside and owes much of its splendour to the planting of former owner and Victorian plant hunter, John Rogers, who loved Himalayan species. Still owned by the Rogers family, its glorious grounds include a walled garden which, in summer, hosts open-air theatre events. It’s famous for its spectacular bluebell festival and keeping the children entertained by hunting the ‘yeti’ in the woods.
7. Wildlife wonders
Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve is one of the UK’s most important wildlife havens. The site offers a unique landscape of land, lakes and ponds and is home to a wide range of native birds, insects and mammals. Last year a design proposal for a new £2m state-of-the-art visitor centre won a competition run by Kent Wildlife Trust. It’s set to include a café, shop, exhibition area, events space and, as a ‘Nature and Wellbeing Centre’, there will be treatment rooms too.
8. Moated manor
Ightham Mote dates back nearly 700 years. A medieval moated manor house, it was owned by a succession of notable families and at one point rented out to a wealthy American, who was visited by many of the artists and writers of the Victorian Aesthetic Movement, including John Singer Sargent. Now owned by the National Trust, the estate is great for a wintry walk and has a café and shop.
9. Stunning views
With one of the best views in Kent, Emmetts Garden in nearby Ide Hill is a great spot for a family walk. Its six acres were originally laid out by Edwardian plantsman Frederic Lubbock and in spring it becomes one of the area’s best bluebell walks.
10. Aviation star
Shoreham Aircraft Museum was set up by a group of Battle of Britain enthusiasts in 1978. The museum houses hundreds of aviation relics rescued from crashed British and German aircraft, as well as donated items. There’s a collection of flying helmets, uniforms and insignia, as well as a display of Home Front memorabilia. Open weekends and bank holidays between Easter and November, start planning for a trip to this little gem now. The quaint café is popular with visitors, walkers and cyclists, and there’s a gallery of prints by aviation artist Geoff Nutkins, one of the museum’s founders.