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Maidstone in the spotlight

PUBLISHED: 16:09 27 June 2013 | UPDATED: 16:09 27 June 2013

Maidstone from above

Maidstone from above

Manu Palomeque

With bigger and better shopping facilities than Bluewater and some breathtaking countryside right on its doorstep, Maidstone rightly lives up to its status as Kent's county town

With bigger and better shopping facilities than Bluewater and some breathtaking countryside right on its doorstep, Maidstone rightly lives up to its status as Kent’s county town.

The river Medway is at its heart, weaving past ancient buildings steeped in history, and there’s a world-class museum that has undergone a spectacular makeover.

Whether it’s wandering down Gabriel’s Hill (site of the Battle of Maidstone in the Civil War) or historic Bank Street, relaxing by the river, soaking up some culture or enjoying a spot of retail therapy, this is a bright and lively place always on the move.

What to do and see

Visit: Maidstone Museum and Bentliff Art Gallery (01622 602838, ME14 1LH), Tyrwhitt-Drake Carriage museum (phone as museum, ME15 6YE), Hazlitt Arts Centre, incorporating the Hazlitt Theatre and Graham Clark Art Gallery (01622 758611, ME14 1PL).

Events: in July: Kent County Show at the Detling Showground (ME14 3JF) (12–14 July, see also page 104), Leeds Castle Open Air Classical Concert (01622 765400, ME17 1PL) (13 July), Shakespeare’s Richard the Third, an outdoor production at The Friars at Aylesford (19 July).

Scenery: Maidstone Millennium River Park, Mote Park, Whatman Park, Brenchley Gardens and White Horse Wood Country Park are all worth visiting.

Buildings: admire the mighty All Saints Church (grandest perpendicular church in England), note Bank Street’s quirky shops housed in 15th to 17th-century buildings and fall in love with the splendid Archbishop’s Palace that dates from the 1300s (now used as a registery office and wedding venue).

Out of town: don’t miss Leeds Castle (0870 600 8880, ME17 1PL), a truly magnificent fairytale castle set in 500 acres, or the tranquil Friars (see page 50).

Let off steam: at Maidstone Leisure Centre (0845 155 2277, ME15 7RN) and Lockmeadow Centre (01622 764410, ME16 8SF) (cinemas, bowling alley, night clubs restaurants).

Eat out: The White Horse (01622 738365, ME14 4DL) (Bearsted), The Mulberry Tree (01622 749082, ME17 4DA) at nearby Boughton Monchelsea, Turning Tables, (01622 763777, ME14 1SR), The Barge (0808 166 1024, ME15 6YE), The North Pole (01622 812721, ME18 5BJ). Pubs: The Flower Pot (01622 757705, ME14 2RJ), Style and Winch (01622 752351, ME14 1ED), The Dirty Habit (01622 880880, ME17 1UW), The Windmill (01622 889 000, ME17 1TR).

Shop at: pedestrianised Fremlin Walk and The Mall shopping centre, try the High Street for plenty of choice, Royal Star Arcade (largely boutiques, fashion), the Market Building and Corn Exchange (cafés, specialist shops). Gabriel’s Hill and Bank Street have many excellent independents.

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