Try the muddy tracks off-road cycling in the borough of Tunbridge Wells

Try the muddy tracks off-road cycling in the borough of Tunbridge Wells

D Hodgkinson

Autumn Breaks 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 your relaxing break in Kent and get away from it all.

There are so many brilliant things to do across the borough for the autumn season we bet you’re wondering where to start?

So here are 6 themes for what’s going on in the region of Tunbridge Wells during September, October and November. Such is this cultural oasis, we can only present a mere drop in the ocean here!

1. Celebrate Local Food and Drink

One of the top things to do in Tunbridge Wells this season is to eat!!  We are well known for our produce and top notch eating and drinking venues so this is the ideal place to celebrate all things edible.

The end of summer spells harvest time so amongst other events going on, we have The Pantiles Market on during the first and third weekends of each month. Not only is there a dizzying multitude of different foods to try, bites to sample, meal ideas, dining out ideas, ales to taste, fizz, spirits, cocktails, and live music too, but there are quality made gifts, toiletries and the heartfelt atmosphere of a flea market.

Post Lockdown Gin & Steam is being served at the Spa Valley Railway once a month until February 2021. Kent gin maker Anno Distillery will be starring alongside the steam locomotive. Tickets include steam train ride, 3 gin drinks and a snack to enjoy in style.

Our hop and apple heritage can be enjoyed on the Bulleid Pacific Real Ale Train at the Spa Valley Railway . This is so popular that a new date was added as the first one was sold out. Book quickly for the new date of 16 October 2020.

Commercial Manager at the railway, Jonnie Pay said: “Whilst we can't offer our full Real Ale & Cider Festival this year, we wanted to organise something involving beer and cider during what would have been our 10th anniversary event.” 

The Bulleid_Pacific Engine, Sir Keith Parks by Matt Dives on the Spa Valley Railway
The Bulleid_Pacific Engine, Sir Keith Parks by Matt Dives on the Spa Valley Railway

The Drive In Garden Party with Tom Kerridge is a new experience for 2020. Instead of Pub in the Park the team has come up with something suitable to enjoy the festival foodie vibe whilst maintaining social distance. Book your ticket now for 18 – 20 September, make a weekend of it and enjoy a local market on at the same time.

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

The last Jazz on the Pantiles of the year will take place at the end of October, you don't want to miss this. For 2020 only, it is Dinner and Jazz on the Pantiles – a pre-bookable spectacular at one of the divine restaurants in the oldest part of the Royal Town. Please note that you need to have a reservation in order to attend, it is not the usual drop in arrangement.

Music Festivals are usually the lifeblood of the town but many concerts have had to be rescheduled. We are pleased to say that we now have a delightful repertoire to look forward to this Autumn. Check out the listings of soirees at the atmospheric Church of King Charles the Martyr, Trinity Theatre and the Assembly Hall Theatre.

These include Jazz Brunches from Café Séociety, Autumn Serenade at The Assembly Hall Theatre, and classical concerts at the Church.

3. Culture and heritage in Tunbridge Wells

Part of our heritage is the vineyards dotted liberally in the region. Learn some of the basics about wine tastings from the Kent Wine School at Hotel du Vin over the coming weeks as well as about Malbec, Sauvignan Blanc and Champagne.

London's Comedy Store is making an appearance at the Assembly Hall Theatre to brighten your day, once a month until the end of the year. The Theatre has been awarded the Society Of London Theatre & UK Theatre's 'See It Safely' mark. The mark certifies that the team is complying with the latest Government and industry COVID-19 guidelines, to ensure the safety of all.

Trinity Theatre & Arts Centre is offering up giggles every week on Friday nights. Head on over to the Friday Night Comedy Club at this boutique venue and enjoy some good food and laughter therapy seated in cabaret style.

Take yourself outside on one of our two self led walking tours for the town which can open up this glorious world to you even more. Download the app for the Tales of Tunbridge Wells audio tour for free from your usual app store. More details of its content is on our Town Tour page.  

Alternatively The Heritage Walking Trail leaflet is available to explore our historical 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’!

4. 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.

There are an incredible number of walks in the area not least the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk! And what a great way to walk off all that food and drink consumed!

The High Weald Partnership’s September Walking Festival is for 2020 a self guided walking celebration. Guides and maps will be available to download from the High Weald web site in early September.

Open year round, the 27.5 mile Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk is highly recommended. It rambles through the rolling rural landscape and is one of the best around. It can be done in one but we suggest enjoying a total digital detox and completing it in stages.

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 walking leaflets ranging from 1km to around 6km in the Forest.

The countryside is waiting to be discovered so don your boots and raincoat 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 carefree way to 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

5. Autumn Gardens

Be dazzled by the riot of colour for walks through the breath-taking stately homes at 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 manor 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 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 or friends.

With two free-to-access estate walks, which are open all year round, providing the opportunity to appreciate the natural local Wealden countryside you can catch 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’ is the bright burst of sparky blooms throughout September until they close for the autumn on 28 September at Pashley Manor. Dahlia Days is a delightful and blousy farewell to summer taking place from 4 – 14 September.

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. Open on Wednesdays and Thursdays until 31 October and Sundays throughout October.

Scotney Castle, as a National Trust property, is yet another one of the ultimate places to admire the best of Mother Nature in autumn in the region of Tunbridge Wells. Don’t forget your camera, a truly Instagrammable inspiration! Book in advance for entry, the castle and house are closed for now but you can partake of an afternoon tea in the servery.

6. 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! A simple meal of bread and cheese made elegant with the addition of tasty local chutneys and salad.

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 each village page and you can also download the brochures for Visit Cranbrook and Beyond and Hawkhurst – your guide to smuggling in Kent and Sussex to take with you.

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

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 range of luxurious and cheap accommodation to choose from. Some of the best deals to be had are midweek.

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!

What's On Highlights

Penshurst Place Christmas Gift Shop, near Tunbridge Wells

Christmas Gift Shop at Penshurst Place

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Christmas Dining Train at Spa Valley Railway, Royal Tunbridge Wells. Photo: Hugh Waghorn

Christmas Dining on a Steam Train at The Spa Valley Railway

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The Annual Winter Lantern Parade in Royal Tunbridge Wells

Winter Lanterns Parade 2020 Royal Tunbridge Wells

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