Enjoy a free big day out
PUBLISHED: 10:54 16 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:49 20 February 2013
Castles, historic houses, river tours and steam trains are among the many attractions offering thousands of free tickets to local residents for the fourth Kent Big Day Out, taking place this year on 27 March
Words by Delphine Houlton
Pictures courtesy of Visit Kent
The Kent Big Day Out initiative is organised by Visit Kent at Kent County Council to showcase the best the county has to offer and to enable local people to find out more about all the experiences there are to be enjoyed right on their doorstep.
And this year the fourth Kent Big Day Out is offering an even wider choice of fun experiences, ranging from discovering the secrets of Chislehurst Caves to learning the skills of the Saxon Stars Cheerleading Squad. Less familiar hidden gems welcoming visitors will include the Shell Grotto and Drapers Windmill in Margate and the delightful Secret Gardens of Sandwich, devised by Gertrude Jekyll to complement an outstanding manor house designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Garden lovers will find plenty to admire in the many spring displays at such popular destinations as Scotney Castle, Groombridge Place, Emmetts Garden, Riverhill House, Chartwell and Sissinghurst Castle.
A trip to one of the many participating grand houses such as Squerryes Court, Knole, Hever Castle and Gardens, Ightham Mote, Godinton, Belmont, Smallhythe Place or Penshurst will open the door to many different aspects of great lives in Kent and the events that have shaped its landscape, towns and villages over the centuries.
This years Kent Big Day Out is also ideal for people enjoying a breath of fresh air either watching a great football match at the Princes Park Stadium in Dartford or seeking more solitary surroundings, such as the RSPB Dungeness Nature Reserve, Bedgebury Pinetum, Samphire Ho, and at Romney Marsh via the Romney Marsh Visitor Centre.
Go Ape at Bedgebury Forest and Leeds Castle offers a host of physical challenges and the energetic will also appreciate the chance of experiencing the facilities at Stonelees Golf Centre or the Revolution Skatepark in Thanet.
Animal lovers and children are sure to be keen to take advantage of the many free tickets to such attractions as the Wildwood Trust, near Herne Bay, Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, Eagle Heights Wildlife Park and the Rare Species Conservation Centre at Sandwich.
Meanwhile, there are the thrills and spills for all the family at Diggerland and the chance to step back in time and enjoy past times at Dickens World, Chatham, and at the Canterbury Tales.
Exploring the past and gaining a greater understanding of Kent is made fun for all at such key destinations as Canterbury Cathedral, Chatham Historic Dockyard, Upnor Castle and Rocheter Castle. Numerous museums will also be welcoming Big Day Out visitors and drawing attention to their special collections, including the fine keyboards at Finchcocks, memories of one of Kents greatest writers at the Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs, and the RAF Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum at Ramsgate.
In addition to its fascinating coastline and areas of outstanding natural beauty, Kent is famed for its orchards and its fine foods and drink. As part of the Kent Big Day Out, local residents will have a chance to explore the tree collections at Brogdale, near Faverham, as well as the skills of vine growing and producing the best of English wines at the Chapel Down Winery, at Tenterden, and Biddenden Vineyards.
And beer enthusiasts are bound to welcome a visit to the Ramsgate Brewery. Many of the countys attractions also take pride in serving local produce in their cafes and restaurants.
The range of attractions taking part in the Kent Big Day Out 2010 is fantastic, says Fran Warrington, head of Visit Kent at Kent County Council.
Enthusiasm for this event is growing year on year. It is a marvellous opportunity for all our local tourism, leisure and hospitality providers to demonstrate the excellence of their attractions. And local people taking advantage of all the free tickets are able to find out more about all the things to do and places to go in Kent, which they can then recommend to their friends and family.
Ninety-three per cent of people questioned during last years Kent Big Day Out said they would recommend the attraction they visited to friends and family and a tremendous 97 per cent said they were proud to live in Kent.
And we were particularly delighted that local transport providers, including Stagecoach, took part for the first time, as well as a large number of golf clubs and leisure centres marking our commitment to the environment and also supporting Kents reputation as a sporting destination.
Fran adds: Tourism is vital to Kent. We entertain more than 45 million visitors every year, who contribute 2.5 billion to the local economy and support more than 50,000 jobs.
And there are exciting developments in the pipeline which will see even more visitors coming to Kent, such as the opening of Turner Contemporary and the development of Margates heritage amusement park.
The Kent Big Day Out is part of Visit Kents Celebrating Kent campaign which has also included the launch of a countywide network of Kent Greeters local volunteers prepared to meet and greet visitors to the county and offer advice about how to get the most out of their time in the county and visit places to match their key interests.
Visit Kent is also working with established tourism, leisure and hospitality businesses offering free and low-cost training courses for staff focusing on core customer service skills and key industry issues, such as ensuring accessibility. And the Visit Kent business advice team provides free consultancy to both new and longstanding businesses in the sector to assist in gaining recognised national quality standards accreditation.
Tourism is incredibly competitive and businesses have to focus on providing top quality service whether they are aiming for wide appeal or targeting niche markets. Our aim at Visit Kent is to ensure that we are able to provide the practical business support they need, says Fran.
We are also committed to making sure that all businesses in this field have access to the latest sector intelligence locally and nationally to assist them in making the right decisions for their business planning.
We collate the data into our Visit Kent Business Barometer which is published monthly online with details of all our business support. This year we are expanding the research data available through the barometer so that our local providers can react even more quickly to market trends.
Kent big day out
The free tickets to all the top attractions and hidden delights that entertain visitors to the county throughout the year will be available to download from www.kentbigdayout.co.uk and from local visitor information centres from 26 February. Additional tickets will be added to the website during the run up to the Big Day Out.