Autumn in Kent
The long hot days of summer are drawing to a close. The leaves are starting to turning brown, we have all been on our holidays and there is now a chill in the early morning air. However, there is still so much to do and autumn is a wonderful time to celebrate all that the Garden of England has to offer. Vineyards and orchards prepare for harvest, castle walls are ablaze with burnished ivy, woodlands are rich with golden colour and attractions light up with dazzling fireworks and ghostly goings-on! With the help of Visit Kent we have compiled 10 hidden autumn gems that you won’t want to miss.
1. Kent Life
Mark hop harvest season and enjoy a rich slice of rural life at Kent Life, Sandling near Maidstone. This fantastic family attraction celebrates the county’s rich hopping heritage, and is home to Britain’s only remaining hand-picked hop garden. Sort your Fuggles from your Goldings, and savour the aromas as they dry in the country’s last working coal-fired oast house.
Kent’s gentle climate and fertile soils are the perfect environment for fruit growing, and at Brogdale National Fruit Collection in Faversham, you can be in apple heaven in September and October. The collection boasts more than 2,000 varieties of apple – take a walking tour of the orchards then sample from of the fruits on site. October’s annual apple festival is treat for all!
3. Biddenden Vineyards
Raise a toast to the gorgeous grape, as harvesting commences across Kent’s vineyards. Ortega, the grape variety for which Biddenden is best known, is harvested from September while apple pressing and bottling starts in October – you might see some of the juicy action on a tour of the vineyards. Chapel Down in Tenterden is another ‘grape day out’, offering tours and tasting of their award-winning wines, ciders and beers, and their luxury wine and fine food store selling local produce. If you’re salivating for more, the staggering Hush Heath Estate near Staplehurst offers stunning walks and tours, and pink fizzes that are sure to tickle your tastebuds.
Marvel at this 300-acre Pinetum, which contains over 12,000 trees and shrubs from across five continents. Ramble or cycle through this stunning forest as leaves begin to drop, and keep a look out for vivid yellow larches or show-stopping Dawn Redwood and Swamp Cypress amid evergreens. The red, chestnut, ochre and copper hues catch fire in the early morning autumn sunlight.
5. National Trust Properties
Kent is home to a number of National Trust properties: Knole House, Ightham Mote, Chartwell, and Scotney Castle to name a few. Escape to their grounds this autumn and enjoy woodland walks, breath-taking, picture-perfect gardens, historic houses and buildings packed full of stories to tell. Make some new memories this fall courtesy of the National Trust.
6. Walmer Castle
Who would have thought that the gardens at Walmer Castle near Deal, so frequently blasted by salty winds from the English Channel, would be such a picture all year round? The Kitchen Garden is at its height at this time of year with a wide range of fruit, vegetables and cut flowers; apples and pears splash colour across the orchard. Glimpse cyclamen peeping from beneath trees in the Paddock and Woodland followed by autumn crocus, and catch Japanese anemones in their starring role in the Queen Mother’s Garden.
7. Shepherd Neame
After your bracing autumnal walks and adventures, what better way to unwind then inside one of Kent’s traditional pubs? Shepherd Neame has a wide range of beautiful pubs based in period buildings, offering roaring fires, comfy arm chairs and delicious Kentish ales to warm your toes this autumn. Many establishments also have mouth-watering menus, packed with seasonal, Kentish fayre. Treat yourself!
8. Quex Park
This rambling, delightful estate in Birchington truly has something for everyone at this time of year – stunning grounds flush with autumnal colours, a fascinating museum of curio and games, a crafts village and brimming nursery, play centres for little and big kids, a bustling farm shop and delightful tea rooms. Their Halloween activities during half-term are not to be missed.
9. Churches Conservation Trust
Take a moment of quite reflection and visit some of Kent’s most hidden yet most striking venues. The Churches Conservation Trust look after a large number of deconsecrated churches across the country, many of which have fascinating stories and retain their eerie beauty. Escape the churches of Romney Marsh or visit the North Kent churches that inspired Charles Dickens.
10. Hever Castle
One of the most famous castles in England, Hever is a joy to behold all year round but it is ablaze with burnished beauty in the autumn. The castle – the childhood home of Anne Boleyn – is the perfect place for a romantic retreat, as guests can explore the castle and grounds, get lost in the maze, take a peaceful boat trip on the lake, and then bed down in the estate’s luxury bed and breakfast.