Blessed with rolling green hills dotted with apple, cherry, pear and plum orchards and miles of glittering coastline, it’s no wonder Kent is known as the Garden of England. Throw in a millennium’s worth of history, a dozen well-preserved castles and one of the UK’s most magnificent cathedrals and this sunny south-eastern county makes the ideal spot for an English escape.
Explore 1,400 years of history at Canterbury Cathedral, which is part of a Unesco World Heritage Site. Saint and martyr Thomas Beckett served as archbishop here until his murder in 1170, which sparked a wave of pilgrimages to the cathedral – a practice which served as the premise for Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
Canterbury Cathedral, Kent, England (Credit: Shutterstock, Numage)
Pocahontas, the famous Native American woman who encountered the early settlers of Jamestown, Virginia – going on to marry John Rolfe and travel with him to England – is buried at St George’s Church in Gravesend. The Nave windows commemorate Pocahontas’s life, and her statue can be found in the churchyard.
Hever Castle was once owned by William Waldorf Astor, the richest man in the USA – but it’s best known for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s ill-fated second wife. Leeds Castle was also used by the Tudor king for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon; 2019 marks its 900th anniversary. Today both castles are key family attractions, with falconry displays, maze gardens and more.
Hever Castle, Kent, England (Credit: Stanzi, Shutterstock)
Leeds Castle (Credit, Tang Yiu Pan, Shutterstock)
Ightham Mote is a Medieval manor house also previously owned by an American businessman. Charles Henry Robinson Jr bought the property in 1953. He later donated the house and its 500-acre estate to the National Trust. His crypt can be found near the Great Hall, and features the inscription ‘A Pilgrim Returned’ due to his ancestral links to the Mayflower Pilgrims.
Ramble along the beautiful North Downs Way until you reach the iconic White Cliffs of Dover. On a clear day you might catch a glimpse of France, just 20.6 miles across the channel. The spectacular chalk cliffs have greeted countless travellers arriving in England over the years, and has been seared in the memories of the many who’ve left – from soldiers in the Second World War to Pilgrims en route to the New World.
For more coastal culture, swing by the seaside towns of Margate and Whitstable. The former is a charming resort with a retro feel, complete with an old-school amusement park, while the latter is known for its quirky shops and abundant oysters.
Turner Contemporary, Margate (Credit: Shutterstock, Ron Ellis)
England’s sunny south is home to some of the UKs best wine producers. Take a tour of the Chapel Down or Hush House wineries to taste their creations. If beer is more your bag, try Shepherd Neame in Faversham – Britain’s oldest brewery. Their brews are served in over 300 pubs, including the Zetland Arms near Dover, situated on the edge of Kingsdown beach.
Vinyards near Lamberhurst, Kent, England (Credit: Shutterstock, Richard Semile)
For good old-fashioned fish and chips, make a beeline for The Smokehouse in Folkestone. Whitebait with garlic mayo, Kentish pies and buttermilk fried chicken also feature on the menu. Alternatively, opt for an unforgettable meal at the Michelin-starred Sportsman, near Whitstable.
Our team of researchers and genealogists at has put together the following '101-Must-Visit' locations and trips for you for Kent. We only pick the best locations to visit, dine in or stay at, and the best ancestral research resources we can find in that area. Enjoy!
Looking forward to visiting Kent, exploring the magnificent towering cathedrals and castles, experiencing the history of over 1000 years and strolling in wooded valleys and far-reaching landscapes.
Just back from my first visit to Canterbury Cathedral and it was pretty amazing. 1400 years of history. Looking forward to going back soon with my young kids. And plan on heading back to Gatwick via their Wine region next time.