Guide To Holidaying In Kent
A guide by Julia Buckley
It's not for nothing that Kent is known as "the garden of England." Drive through any village and you'll be hard pressed not to stop and sample the apples, cherries and even wine on sale at numerous farms.
If you're really passionate about fruit, make sure you make it to Faversham. The National Fruit Collection at nearby Brogdale grows over 2000 varieties of apples.
In the past, Kent was equally famous for its hop-growing tradition, and the countryside is still littered with the remnants of the practice in the shape of oast houses - the circular, brick windmill-like structures topped with white cones. The majority have now been converted into houses, their massive towers looking like modern-day castles.
The Kent Downs - which cover about a quarter of the county, from The White Cliffs of Dover to the London and Surrey borders - are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and are perfect for exploring, with cycle routes and planned walks galore.
For culture vultures, Kent has plenty to offer. Royal Tunbridge Wells is, as the name suggests, one of the UK's smartest towns. And centuries of Roman domination have left their mark on the county; the best example of which is Dover's Painted House, said to be the finest Roman dwelling in Britain. Canterbury has a dedicated Roman Museum, as well as a rich legacy of medieval history - from the West Gate towers to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the cathedral.
Canterbury was, of course, immortalised by Chaucer; and the fascinating Canterbury Tales experience is a must-see in the town. An audio-visual trip through reconstructions of the stories, there are different audio guides for adults and children, so it appeals to everyone.
Fans of Dickens will also find many Kent names familiar - particularly in Rochester, where the writer was born and returned to before his death. There's a Dickens Centre in the town, and if you're left wanting more, try the Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs. The building was the inspiration for Betsy Trotwood's house in David Copperfield and is now devoted to letters and possessions of the great man.
Those who prefer to get closer to nature should head for the Isle of Sheppy. Meaning the Island of Sheep, it combines award-winning beaches with a thriving collection of wildlife. Try the Swale National Nature Reserve on the southern tip of the island, and the RSPB bird site at Elmley Marshes.
But if you want to stay on terra firma, England's oldest house, Knole, near Sevenoaks, is set in the middle of a 1000-acre deer park. Otherwise, the flat, open countryside of Romney Marsh - renowned for its smugglers - is home to the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. The smallest railway in the world, it runs from Hythe to New Romney, and over to the RSPB reserve at Dungeness.
The sea has played a huge part in Kent's heritage, and you can still get a taste of the past at Whitstable Harbour's fish market. The resort of Folkestone has a mile-long Edwardian cliff top promenade; and, of course, there's Dover and its port, with France just 21 miles away. Kent really does have something for everyone.
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