Ready to spend a few days in the Kent Downs? This break combines beautiful views with great food and unique experiences.
After what feels like an eternity being told to stay home or stay local, it’s felt amazing to hop in the car again and venture further afield. My latest trip was to Kent, a county I’ve visited numerous times, yet somewhere I’ve spent the majority of my time on the coast. The Kent coast is synonymous with London day trips, with towns like Whitstable, Margate and Folkestone top choices.
On this trip I was excited to explore a part of Kent I hadn’t visited before, spending time in the Kent Downs, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty renowned for its rolling countryside, vineyards, orchards and dramatic chalk cliffs.
The plan? A country walk filled with great views, followed by some tasty local food and a night in some relaxing accommodation. It turned out we picked a great time to visit too, being accompanied by warm sunshine and blue skies!
If you’d like to follow in my footsteps, this trip makes a great 1-night break, and is an easy region to reach if you’re based in London. It would suit families, couples or groups of friends looking for a short getaway. I’ve broken it down into three sections and thrown in a few tips and recommendations along the way.
Walk: Circular Walk In Wye, Kent
We started our trip from the New Flying Horse Pub in the picturesque village of Wye. This is a popular pub and is a great start and finish point for this circular walk around Wye. The route we followed was around 4 miles and took around 2 hours, which included numerous stops for photos along the way! I mean, with views like these, you’ll struggle not to.
Some of the route passed along the North Downs Way, a 156-mile footpath which connects Surrey to the Kent Coast in Dover. To make our trip extra special, we were hosted by Lisa from Coast and Country Rambles who organises bespoke self-guided walking holidays in Kent. Usually guests would contact her with their requirements and she’d then plan a break to fit their needs. This would include providing a detailed info pack containing walking itineraries with maps, organising suitable accommodation, reserving tables at restaurants and transferring luggage from point to point.
I loved this walk through the Kent Downs AONB as it had a little bit of everything! We left the quaint village of Wye and within minutes were passing fields of sheep, hiking along chalk paths and up into bluebell-carpeted woodland. There was a steep section around 20-minutes in, but the climb was all worth it as we emerged at an incredible view by the famous Wye crown.
We’d spotted this chalk crown when we arrived in Wye, but didn’t know anything about it. Lisa told us how it was carved by students of Wye college in 1902 to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII. We paused at the top to take in the epic views of rolling countryside, which at the end of April included luminous yellow fields of rapeseed.
From there we continued through lush fields into the Wye National Nature Reserve and an area known as the Devils Kneading Trough. With a name like that you know it’s going to be impressive. What a view! This is one of the steepest valley areas in the Kent Downs, and is guaranteed to have you reaching for your camera.
From there we walked to another panoramic viewpoint, which was so beautiful there was even a local artist using it as his inspiration! After that we descended a long wiggly set of steps which took us from the top of the hill all the way to the bottom of the valley. This was one of my favourite sections of the walk. It was a really beautiful route down, with stunning countryside vistas all around.
It wasn’t long before we were arriving back in the village of Wye. We took a quick stroll around the village to see the high street and Parish Church, before finishing our walk and saying goodbye to Lisa. The New Flying Horse was closed on the day we visited, but it’d be a great option for post-walk refuel on a future trip.
This circular walk from Wye was a stunning introduction to the North Downs Way and the Kent Downs AONB. I couldn’t believe it’d taken me so many years to realise there was so much more to Kent than the coast!
If you’re considering a walking break in Kent, definitely take a look at what Coast and Country Rambles offer. In particular, there are some great Family Walking Adventure Holidays launching shortly, which include fun activity packs to keep kids entertained along the way.
Eat: Macknade, Ashford
There’s a reason Kent is known as the Garden of England! It’s a county famed for its fresh, local produce, with endless orchards, vineyards, fields of crops, farmland and rich coastal waters. You’ll see signs across the county for cheese, fresh meat, cider, rapeseed oil and English Sparkling Wine.
We waved goodbye to Wye and drove 15-minutes to Ashford to find out more about Kent’s food scene. Macknade in Elwick Place, Ashford is a luxurious food hall and dining destination, stocking a range of local produce, as well as foodie treats from around the world.
Its sister store in Faversham has built up a great reputation, and while the Ashford store opened during a challenging time in 2020, I have no doubt it’ll be a very popular spot, particularly with indoor diners.
As well as deli counters filled with cheeses, salamis and cured meats, and shelves stacked with everything from pasta and mustard to truffles, there are indoor drinking and dining options too. We ate out on the terrace and enjoyed some flavoursome brunch dishes.
The sourdough toast topped with goat’s cheese and roasted red pepper and aubergine ajvar was a taste sensation, plus the choripan panuozzo (griddled chorizo in Macknade’s popular sourdough pizza bap) took me back to my travels in Argentina.
After brunching we popped inside and picked up a selection of local items to take away. We couldn’t resist the Kentish cheeses, an incredible mushroom and truffle salami, some fig and plum chutney made in Whitstable, a can of local cider and a bottle of rapeseed oil.
Macknade has a well-stocked alcohol section which features 90 wines from around the world, including several English Sparkling Wines from Kent. We spotted a Gusbourne (a favourite from a previous trip) but decided to try Westwell’s Pelegrim NV which came highly recommended.
Later that evening, we popped all our purchases on a platter and snacked on cheese and charcuterie just as the sun was setting. What better way to enjoy Kent’s local produce!
Stay: Chilton Farmyard B&B
After a year staying home, it was exciting to pack an overnight bag and check in somewhere new. Chilton Farmyard B&B is located in the Alkham Valley, a short drive from Dover. If you love animals and rural surroundings you’ll adore this place! This is a small, family-run, working farm with dairy cows (including critically endangered rare breeds Albion and dairy shorthorn) sheep, horses, dogs and even a chicken living on site!
Part of the reason I love staying in B&Bs is you get to know the owners. Susannah and Keith are passionate about animals and nature, and it was lovely hearing their stories about living in this part of Kent. From Boxing Day swims in the sea near Dover to tips for local places to visit, their tales added to our Kentish experience. We were invited to look around the farm and meet the animals. I kept thinking how much my nieces and nephew would love having such a hands-on experience!
There are 3 accommodation units at Chilton Farmyard B&B, with a range of options sleeping 2 to 5 people. They’re all dog-friendly too, so you don’t need to leave your pooch at home!
The Dairy is a cosy double room, ideal for couples. There’s The Byre which has 2 sets of bunk beds and an extra single bed. This unit would be perfect for a family or a group of friends. There’s also The Calf Shed which has a double bed and a bunk bed, which would be great for families.
Within moments of leaving the B&B you can be on footpaths and bridleways that connect areas around the Alkham Valley. Plus, it’s a short walk into Kearsney where you’ll find a train station, tea rooms, parks, pubs and a shop.
As it started to get dark, Susannah and Keith invited us to walk up the hill behind the farm. Not only is there a gorgeous view from up there, they’d also lit a bonfire. Sitting on logs chatting to the family over the flickery fire was a lovely experience and felt like a great welcome to the area. They’re considering offering a bonfire or a BBQ experience to future guests staying at the B&B too.
The next day Keith made us a delicious full English breakfast before we set off. This was another chance to sample some delicious local Kent produce, with the sausages and bacon coming from a farm just down the road.
We ended our time in Kent by driving to see the famous white cliffs of Dover and enjoying a walk along St Margaret’s Beach. The white cliffs are one of the landmarks I think of when I think of Kent, but the rest of the trip had been wonderfully unfamiliar.
I hope this post helps inspire you to get out and explore some new areas of England. It’s been a tough year for everyone working in tourism, and I’m keen to shine a light on some local businesses who have braved the storm and are offering something unique.
If you’d like some help planning your trip to the Garden of England, the Visit Kent website and the Kent Downs websites have lots of great suggestions for beautiful places to visit. Alternatively, for other staycation recommendations read about my top 27 UK weekend break ideas.
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