A country forest view in Tunbridge Wells region

A country forest view in Tunbridge Wells region

by Mike Bartlett

Autumn in Tunbridge Wells

When the kids go back to school at the beginning of September, peace reigns in the countryside! Take a moment or two to plan a relaxing break in Kent and get some dates in your diary.

There are so many brilliant things to see and going on across the borough for the Autumn season we bet you’re wondering where to start?

So here are our suggestions of things to do in the region of Tunbridge Wells during the Autumn, this is just a small slice though!

September Food Festival

Firstly, we have the second Royal Tunbridge Wells Food & Drink Month in September.  Some might say, a long time coming since we are known for our produce and top notch eating and drinking venues.

Aside from a month long list of events, at the beginning of September there will be the annual Food Festival in The Pantiles, then a huge special Royal Tunbridge Wells Food & Drink Festival in Calverley Grounds on 23 and 24 September. It's all free, there'll be lots of different kinds of food to try, the best local chefs cooking their wares in the open air, vegan bites to sample, cooking demonstrations, ale, cocktails, and with live music too.  Bon appetit!

The Pantiles Market of course will be on during the first and third weekends in September, with local producers selling their delicious fruit, veg, meat, fish, bread, eggs and deli items.

In Cranbrook, there is fun and games slightly later, at harvest time, at the annual Apple Carnival. This is a great carnival atmosphere previously starring the hysterically funny Red Wheelbarrows!

Cranbrook Apple Fayre, have fun with the antics at this harvest time event

Feed Your Mind

Wadhurst Arts Festival is in September each year showcasing “skilled and imaginative works”, free to visitors.  The 2018 show is on 8-17 September open each day from 10am – 8pm. Pop up café delectables will be there for feeding the body too!

The biennial Cranbrook Literature Festival is on the 28 and 29 September. A charming market town with its own smock windmill standing proud, it couldn’t be a lovelier spot to immerse yourself in books and reading for 2 days. Special guests contributing to this successful event are Johnny Duddle, Natasha Farrant, Davina McCall, Jeremy Vine and Ann Weir to name a few.

Ballet, comedy, dance (Flawless!!) and musicals are all the order of the season as well at the Assembly Hall Theatre.

Go to the Trinity Theatre for live transmissions of acclaimed National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company plays. 

See plays, comedy and entertainment at Trinity Theatre in Roya Tunbridge Wells
Trinity Theatre in Royal Tunbridge Wells

On 19 September, Trinity plays host to Gardeners’ Question Time to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

The play ‘Three Sisters’ has a week long run in October. This is a Chekhov piece so cue the emotional drama fest!

Greg Wallace from Masterchef will be making an appearance with tales from behind the scenes and some great entertainment. 

If discovering new stand-up comedy is your thing, you must go to the popular Comedy Café on once a month at Trinity Theatre. 

Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee, Seann Walsh will show off his “millennial man child” persona, to hopefully make you laugh!

Rich Hall’s Hoedown and Hal Cruttenden are appearing later in the year to keep you going through the darker evenings.

If music be the food of life…..look no further!

Spend a delightful evening listening to talented musicians in the most atmospheric venues here in Tunbridge Wells!

Jazz on the Pantiles continues in the mellow autumn evenings on Thursdays from 7pm.  Burrito Cat is performing on 6 September, Son Picante on 13 September and more until the end of the month.

The Church of King Charles the Martyr has a long-standing tradition as an ideal venue for classical music concerts.

Having formerly hosted Dame Felicity Lott, Sam Stadlen, Matchbox Opera and their own King Charles Singers, come and feel truly uplifted by some exquisite performances this season.

Beautiful pieces are planned this year including a devotional concert to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War One on the 11th day of the 11th month.

And since it is not any old church but one with grand historical merit, you can be sure it is worth a visit.

Classical music and choral concerts at The Church of King Charles the Martyr in Royal Tunbridge Wells
Church of King Charles the Marytr, David Hodgkinson

The Grey Lady Music Lounge, The Cross Keys, The Beau Nash, The Bedford, The Royal Oak, The Sussex Arms (to name but a few) are all more intimate venues which hold live gigs from Indie to Jazz on a regular basis in town.

Further afield in the country pubs, you can frequently find live bands performing at The George Hotel in Cranbrook, The Milk House at Sissinghurst, The Knoxbridge and The Bell & Jorrocks both at Frittenden.

Larger concert venues

The Assembly Hall Theatre has a packed programme of popular music over the cooler months. There will be sooo much live music from classical choral and opera to Bob Marley and 80s Mania via The Doors, Genesis and a good old rock ‘n’ roll variety show.  There are too many to mention but make sure you book in advance before they're all sold out!

Music in the alternative Trinity Theatre in autumn includes Tenors Unlimited and award-winning band The Bluejays (some members having starred in The Buddy Holly Story, Dreamboats & Petticoats and Million Dollar Quartet) jiving live through their extensive and popular fifties song sheets! We guarantee you’ll be bopping!

During September and October, Hawkhurst Kino Cinema is transmitting live opera from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden – Mayerling and La Bayadere. Also showing the National Theatre plays on screen: Julie, King Lear and The Madness of King George.

The Merry Wives of Windsor will be making an appearance in September live and direct from the Royal Shakespeare Company. This cinema is an intimate venue in a quaint part of the Weald where you take your wine or cuppa in with you and popcorn is banned!

The Lamberhurst Music Festival hosts the Tenebrae Consort in October, and Emma Abbate and Julian Perkins in November this year in another of our lovely villages in the countryside as part of their acclaimed live classical music season.

Enjoy classical music at the Lamberhurst Music Festival is held in St Mary's Church
St Mary's Church, Lamberhurst

Not forgetting of course the most famous and iconic contemporary music venue in the borough, The Forum. Discovering many new bands, it is an integral part of the music scene here in Tunbridge Wells.

See also Live Music and Festivals for the details on the distinguished RTW International Music Festival.

History & Heritage

Discover the history on our doorstep. Many places have the most fascinating stories to tell. Explore our varied sights and attractions!

For instance, Winnie the Pooh used to go to church in Royal Tunbridge Wells! 

The Corn Exchange used to host famous Shakespearean actors.

And in the 1600s, one of the smallest villages in the borough used to be one of the most important internationally thanks to guns!

Search out more curiosities like the ‘Cold Bath’, medieval woodlands and ‘pan tiles’!

The best way to find out the regions secrets is to take a guided tour of the town with one of our excellent storytelling Blue Badge Guides.

Exhibitions at Tunbridge Wells Museum and Cranbrook Museum also elaborate on the extraordinary heritage of this region.

A self led walking tour can open up this glorious world to you even more. Download The Heritage Walking Trail.

A further delight at this time of year is the Heritage Open Days on 6-9 and 13-16 September this year.

Many historical buildings that are normally closed to the public will open their doors to visitors for tours free of charge. This includes a former public convenience, a town hall and a masonic lodge. Some booking may be required but not all.

Our hop heritage can be enjoyed at the 8th CAMRA Real Ale & Diesel Gala at the Spa Valley Railway on 19-21 October.

Enjoy Real Ale and Cider, vintage diesel trains at the Spa Valley Railway Gala in Royal Tunbridge Wells
Photo: Spa Valley Railway Real Ale and Cider Diesel Gala

Can you believe there will be more than 125 Real Ales?! There is much more, so do check the event listing for all the exciting things happening.

Call Of The Wild – Autumn Walks

Now that the summer sun is giving way to a softer glow, saunter out and enjoy the refreshing coolness that is in the air.

And with the September Walking Festival organised by the High Weald Partnership, you can join in the celebrations with a guided walk or explore for yourself. There are an incredibly amazing number of walks on the programme and we highly recommend this month long event! What a great way to walk off the Food Festival!

Year round, we also recommend the 27.5 mile Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk in the rolling Wealden landscape as one of the best around.

For an easy access walk of 1.5km, visit Birchden Wood near Groombridge.

What will you discover on the 16km of the Forest Way? This disused railway line is an important habitat for wildlife as a ‘green corridor’.

It’s great for wildlife spotting, some is easy to see and some not so easy!

Ashdown Forest offers the visitor wide open spaces and far-reaching views. There are thirteen guides of walks ranging from 1km to around 6km in the Forest.

The countryside is waiting to be discovered so get your boots and raincoat on and get out there!

Create your own adventure in Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest where there are miles of trails for walkers of all abilities.

The traffic free cycle tracks provide a great way to see and enjoy the beauty of the woods in their spectacular autumn colours.

Cycling is also welcomed at Bewl Water Country Park round the 20 kilometre shore line of the reservoir.

Another more soothing outdoor activity at this time of year is fishing.  See our Fishing page for where to go for the best bites!

Photo: Bedgebury Pinetum by David Hodgkinson
Bedgebury Pinetum by David Hodgkinson

Autumn Gardens

Be dazzled by the riot of colour for walks through the breath-taking stately homes anat this time of year. The trees are turning from green to glorious yellow, fiery red and burnished gold.

Penshurst Place is a quintessentially stunning English stately home which is as popular with Hollywood film producers as with visitors to the area. Oozing Tudor charm it has been the location for The Other Bolyen Girl, The Princess Bride, Merlin, Wolf Hall and now JK Rowling’s The Silkworm.

The foliage in the arboretum is ablaze of colour at Penshurst Place and it is a particularly beautiful time of year for a stroll with or without the family, the dog and friends.

With two free-to-access estate walks, which are open all year round, providing the opportunity to appreciate the natural local Wealden countryside with exciting glimpses of Penshurst Place from all angles.

The Parkland Walk and the Riverside Walk are marked with numbered and colour-coded signs to follow and both can be completed in a day, starting and finishing in the visitor car park.

Alternatively, trail maps can be purchased from the Gift Shop.

Admire Hole Park Gardens in Autumn, Tunbridge Wells region
Hole Park Gardens, Autumn

A ‘must-visit’: see the bright burst of sparky blooms throughout September until they close for the autumn on 29 September at Pashley Manor. Dahlia Days is a delightful and blousy farewell to summer.

Hole Park Gardens is a cherished gem of an estate garden in a rural location at the edge of the borough near Rolvenden.  Really very beautiful, and after the bluebell season, autumn is a shining beacon in their botanical calendar.  The cafe is often staffed by the owner, Edward Barham who provides the archetypal English afternoon tea with homemade scones, jam and cream and that blissfully reviving cup of tea.

Scotney Castle, as a National Trust property, is just one of the ultimate places to admire the best of Mother Nature in Autumn in the region of Tunbridge Wells.

Villages Of Character

Discover more by staying longer. Explore our numerous charming Wealden villages scattered among a rustic undulating countryside.

The pretty villages of Brenchley, Horsmonden, Goudhurst, and Matfield are just a few of the many endearing places to visit.

Why not stop and sample some Kentish hospitality in one of the numerous country pubs which serve a varied menu made from fresh locally sourced ingredients?

Top tip: try a ‘Ploughman’s’ lunch!

Follow the scenic country car tour to visit our villages, maybe take elevenses in one, lunch in another and tea in a different spot and choose your favourite?

Photo: Tudeley Church by David Hodgkinson
Photo: Tudeley Church by David Hodgkinson

There is more information on our Towns and Villages page and you can also download the brochure Visit Cranbrook and Beyond to take with you.

Our churches are absolutely fascinating and a great excuse to look around and then get a drop of afternoon tea <link>.

On the Wealden Church Trail leaflet, there is a tour and information about the history of the village churches.

If you want to stay longer and explore further our accommodation pages have a wide range of luxurious and cheap hotels and other accommodation to choose from.

Bookmark What’s On for all the details and more events which are added to continuously.

The hardest part of planning your time will be deciding what to do first!

Hear live music at Grey Lady Music Lounge on The Pantiles, Royal Tunbridge Wells by David Hodgkinson
Photo: Grey Lady Music Lounge on The Pantiles by David Hodgkinson

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