12 bluebell walks in Kent with pubs along the way
PUBLISHED: 13:47 06 April 2018 | UPDATED: 13:47 06 April 2018
From the rolling Wealden countryside to small perfectly manicured gardens, there are carpets of fragrant bluebells popping up throughout Kent. We pick 12 wonderful woodland walks with pretty country pubs and cafés
King’s Wood, nr Ashford
This 1500-acre woodland, managed by the Forestry Commission, is one of the biggest and oldest forests in Kent. In spring, carpets of fragrant bluebells and wood spurge bloom beneath the unfurling leaves of sweet chestnut and beech trees.
The mixed woodland has a fantastic sculpture trail, managed by Stour Valley Arts, and a wealth of wildlife, including night jars and woodpeckers. There are also fallow deer here, harking back to the days when the woodland was a royal hunting ground. Download walk routes and maps from the Friends of King’s Wood website; only one route through the wood is accessible by wheelchair.
Where to refuel: head into the pretty village of Chilham after your walk and to the quintessential English country pub The White Horse, whose history goes all the way back to the 14th century.
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Hole Park, nr Cranbook
Hole Park is a delightful, privately owned 15-acre garden set within 200 acres of gorgeous parkland. In late April and early May the woodland is carpeted in a sea of deliciously scented bluebells, and in the garden there are other spring joys in flower, including magnolia, camellia, wisteria, wild garlic and tulips. Drink in the colour and the scent, and gaze at glorious views over the Kentish Weald. The garden is open daily in spring and a lot of the garden is accessible by wheelchair; dogs are allowed in the parkland, but not the gardens.
Where to refuel: light lunches and teas are available at Hole Park. Alternatively, The Bull Inn in Rolvenden serves traditional pub food and welcomes dogs, and The Milk House pub in Sissinghurst, a little further afield, is excellent, and has tasty options for vegetarians.
Ightham Mote, nr Sevenoaks
The 546-acre National Trust estate around this moated 14th-century manor house boasts a great display of bluebells in the spring, especially in Scathes Wood. As well as enjoying the bluebells in the woodland, take time to see the garden, which includes lakes, a formal garden and an orchard, and the romantic old house. Some of the garden is suitable for wheelchairs. Dogs are welcome on the estate (but not in the gardens) and in the outdoor part of the Mote Café. Download the three walk routes around the estate from the National Trust website, or pick up a leaflet at Ightham.
Where to refuel: the Mote Café at Ightham Mote serves lunches and teas. Alternatively, The Papermakers Arms in Plaxtol offers hearty dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.
Scotney Castle, nr Tunbridge Wells
Enjoy swathes of bluebells at Scotney from mid to late April and into early May. The romantic 14th-century moated castle sits within a beautiful wooded estate that spans 770 acres. Enjoy a walk upon one of the three easy-to-follow trails that runs through the parkland and woodland. Four-legged friends are very welcome in the estate, but must be kept on a lead. Afterwards stroll around the beautiful gardens (which are a riot of colour and scent, courtesy of rhododendrons, azaleas and wisteria, in late spring) and explore the house.
Where to refuel: The Scotney Castle tearoom serves substantial hot lunches and lighter lunches, as well as cream teas. Alternatively head to The Vineyard close by for a pub lunch; food is raved about and there are traditional English options, as well as more exotic dishes and vegetarian choices.
Trosley Country Park, nr Vigo
This wonderful 170-acre park, situated on the North Downs, is owned by Kent County Council and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The chalk grassland slopes provide wonderful views and are an important habitat for flora and fauna, such as orchids and butterflies, and the Trosley woods bloom with bluebells at the end of April and early May. There are three waymarked trails through the park (including the Trosley Trail, which is accessible to wheelchairs), and the option of three circular walks, ranging from 3.5 to 7.5 miles. From here, you can also visit the ancient Sarsen Coldrum Stones. Dogs are welcome but must be on a lead around grazing animals.
Where to refuel: Trosley’s Bluebell Café serves light lunches, cakes and even home-made dog biscuits! Alternatively, The George pub in Trottiscliffe serves traditional country pub fare.
Ashenbank Wood, nr Cobham
This broadleaved ancient woodland of oak, hornbeam and sweet chestnut is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and a great place to see bluebells and wood anemones in spring. Look out for veteran trees with six-metre girths, some of which are 350 years old, as well as interesting archaeological features such as the Bronze Age barrow. There are two waymarked trails; and if you fancy a long walk, it’s possible to do a circular walk encompassing Shorne Woods Country Park, which is also fabulous for bluebells, up on the 12km Darnley Trail. There is often a 10km charity run and walk along the Darnley Trail in May.
Where to refuel: The Cock Inn in the village of Luddesdowne is a pretty, historical pub clad in ivy and a welcome retreat after your bluebell walk. No children are allowed in The Cock Inn.
Perry Wood, nr Faversham
Enjoy gorgeous walks in this ancient mixed woodland when the bluebells bloom in late April and early May. Formed of sand mounts that rise from chalk downland, the site has wonderful views to the Wye Downs and the Isle of Sheppey. The woods are rich in history – once the site of a windmill, and a semaphore tower, and containing an old pulpit (where it’s thought that sermons were once preached) and an earthwork, assumed to be Roman. You can also download a map of walks and historical sites from the Perry Wood website.
Where to refuel: The Red Lion in Badlesmere Lees offers hearty food which you can match with well kept craft ales or a bottle of wine. Food at the Red Lion is completely gluten free.
Mariners Hill, nr Edenbridge
Drink in the panoramic views of the Weald from the top of Mariners Hill and inhale the scent of bluebells in the woods. Enjoy short circular strolls or join the Greensand Way, which runs along the hill’s northern boundary. The Octavia Hill centenary trail west, which commemorates the National Trust’s founder, leads you through her birthplace, Crockham Hill, and encompasses Mariners Hill; the six-mile route can be found on the National Trust website. Chartwell is very close, if you fancy exploring Sir Winston Churchill’s 700-year old house, painting studio and hillside garden.
Where to refuel: head east to the Fox & Hounds pub in Toys Hill, which serves traditional English dishes and Sunday roasts, or eat in the Landemare café at Chartwell, which serves hot and cold lunches and cream teas with home-baked scones.
Hucking Estate, nr Maidstone
Situated within the Kent Downs, this Woodland Trust estate has a good show of bluebells in spring. A mix of ancient woodland, new woodland and chalk grassland, with archaeological remains and gorgeous views over the Weald of Kent, this is a great place for a walk. There are two way-marked trails – a one-miler (the blue route) that begins west of Hucking village (beside the former village pub) and a three-miler (the red route), which begins at the Woodland Trust car park (on Church Road, east of Hucking village). Look out for butterflies (21 species live at Hucking), a 200-year old beech tree (close to the car park) and an ancient herdsmen’s road called The Droveway.
Where to refuel: enjoy a good pub meal at The Dirty Habit in the nearby village of Hollingbourne; this 11th-century inn was once used by pilgrims on their way to Canterbury.
Ham Street Woods, nr Ashford
The ancient woodland around the village of Hamstreet is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. In spring, carpets of bluebells and wood anemones bloom, and wildlife abounds: rare moths and butterflies, dormice and crested newts all make their homes here; and, if you visit at dusk, listen out for the song of the nightingales. This 400-year old wood is the last standing part of the oak forest that once covered the Weald. There are three way-marked trails (of up to 5 km) or, if you fancy a longer stroll, pick up the Saxon Shore Way or the Greensand Way, which both run through here; or find walk routes at hamstreet.info. There is a car park at the end of Bourne Lane and further parking in the village.
Where to refuel: Although not a pub, The Cosy Kettle is a fabulous coffee shop in Hamstreet offering light lunches, cakes and hot drinks. Or if you’re feeling a little decadent after your walk, try an afternoon tea.
Sissinghurst Castle, nr Cranbrook
Sissinghurst Castle Garden is a joy in spring and summer; at this time of year, the Nuttery, the Orchard, the Delos and the Lime Walk especially are a treat. But the surrounding 460-acre estate is also wonderful, producing an indigo explosion of bluebells between April and May. There is a mapped 3-mile walk on the National Trust website, which take 1½ hours and passes through the bluebell wood, as well as the surrounding fields. Afterwards climb the stairs of Vita’s enchanting writing tower to gaze over the fields you’ve just walked.
Where to refuel: in the castle’s Granary restaurant (which prepares hot lunches with produce freshly plucked from Sissinghurst’s organic vegetable plot) or the Old Dairy café, which serves light snacks and sells second-hand books. Alternatively, head to The Milk House in Sissinghurst village.
Emmetts Garden, nr Sevenoaks
This lovely hillside garden is a bluebell wonderland between April and May. The Edwardian estate, now managed by the National Trust, has panoramic views over the Weald and a vibrant spring garden of rhododendrons and azaleas. For a lengthy bluebell adventure, grab your OS map and do a longer stroll that encompasses the surrounding Scords Wood. Alternatively, you can find woodland walk routes in the ticket office, which you are welcome to enjoy with four-legged friends; dogs are allowed in the gardens as well, but must be kept on a lead.
Where to refuel: the café at Emmetts offers light lunches, cakes and hot drinks. Or head to The Woodman in Ide Hill for traditional English pub food surrounded by historical interior features such as wooden beams and exposed brick.