A rambler's view in the lovely Weald village of Lamberhurst

A rambler's view in the lovely Weald village of Lamberhurst

by David Hodgkinson

Summer Holidays in Tunbridge Wells

A Different Kind of Summer in Tunbridge Wells

The long, lazy days of summer are upon us and the school summer holidays have arrived in a flash. This year will be a different kind of summer having already been at home for weeks.

We hope you do have some glorious fun in the coming weeks but sometimes doing nothing and chilling out to enjoy a peaceful moment is the greatest option.

Fear not though, we’ve got the staycation inspiration you need as more attractions and venues open up. Tunbridge Wells has some of the best things to do in Kent and here are some summer holiday ideas to get you started for all the family.

But first, two top tips:

  1. Please do bring your own hand sanitiser; and,
  2. Plan ahead. Be prepared to turn around and go to Plan B if its too busy.

Reunited with the Big Outdoors

Outside is still open! Make a date to meet up (as per the government regulations) with long missed and much loved family and friends in one of the stunning estates and gardens in Tunbridge Wells.

Bewl Water Country Park has the largest lake in the south east and usually offers a variety of exciting water sports and walks for the whole family. 

It is an amazing place to challenge yourself, choose from one of the many activities on offer.

The walking and cycle trails at Bewl present some physical tests to help reduce the lockdown lard! The circular lake walk can take up to 6 hours although there are many captivating seats upon which to enjoy a picnic, take in the views or watch the wildlife.

The kids can burn off any excess energy in the fantastic wide open space, roly-polys down the gentle slopes towards the water are good for a giggle. 

Laid back options are there to enjoy too. Admire the beautiful vast lake, sunbathe on the lawns, hire a boat to go fishing, takeaway a cuppa and cake from the café or take a short stroll over the dam to the other side.

Bedgebury is another idyllic place for a picnic as well as exploring the lovely trails on foot or by bike. With miles of footpaths in 10.5 square kilometres of forest to explore there’s no need to leave your four-legged friend at home.

Some toilets are open, the café is serving some takeaway refreshments, bike hire and Quench Cycles are all open!  Watch out for the Gruffalo, he may be about.

Read a little insight from our blog Walking in a year long wonderland.

The unforgettable adventurous Go-Ape zone is closed for now, however, may we suggest buying a voucher to support the leisure sector and use it to celebrate when restrictions are lifted!

Explore your doorstep idyll

Around the borough of Tunbridge Wells, we have some idyllic English villages and towns to explore.

The mediaeval market town of Cranbrook not only has some incredibly ancient architecture to admire, it has the advantage of boasting numerous independent art, gift, toy and clothes boutiques to browse too. A sure-fire way to keep the gloom at bay!

View our little of Cranbrook video on YouTube as a taster.

Hole Park is near the border of the borough on the far eastern side. Another utterly charming garden famous for bluebells, blossom, and a barrage of other blooms as well as short or long walks where you can wander/wonder wide-eyed! The Prom Spectacular and UK Queen picnic concerts arranged for August are going ahead, check them out on their site!

Goudhurst is a hilltop village with a fascinating history and far reaching views. Browse our village page and take a picturesque walk round the higgledy-piggledy tumbledown buildings.

The famous Penshurst Place has made some changes to reassure visitors that you can confidently visit them. Picnics are allowed, the café is unfortunately closed temporarily. The vast and beautiful Tudor estate is wide open with toilets to access as well as hand sanitiser stations. You need to book online in advance. All other indoor spaces are closed.

Pashley Manor’s 11 acres are open from 10am Tuesdays to Fridays until further notice.  This estate is well known for its tulips, roses, and dahlias. But, also, it is the quintessential English Garden infused with perennials, annuals, bedding plants, sculpted trees and pretty walkways in coloured themes providing a buzzy port of call for wildlife. Some top inspiration for gardeners!

Buy your tickets on arrival, with a contactless card please.  Free parking and limited toilet facilities are available however the café is closed for the time being.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden (National Trust) have re-opened to pre-booked visitors. This is arguably the most famous garden in the south east. Come and see what is so enchanting for yourself. The Garden is very near Cranbrook. Take a train to Staplehurst then Arriva bus number 5 goes nearby with a bit of walk at the end, or book a taxi from the station. 

The National Trust’s Scotney Castle and Knole have opened up their grounds only – some toilet facilities available, all dogs to be kept on a lead.  You must pre-book and prices have been dropped to welcome you back!

Chiddingstone Castle Grounds are open for walking around. This year they hosted their famous literary festival as a virtual event as well. The talks are all available to listen to now as podcasts.

Save a visit to Biddenden Vineyards for a celebratory visit when lockdown is over. They are shut to visitors for now but you can support this local family business by ordering their delicious wine, cider and apple juice for delivery to your door.

Budget Friendly Summer Staycation in Tunbridge Wells

First of all there’s the parks, the Common and woodlands in town and all around the Tunbridge Wells region. These wonderful green spaces cost nothing and will keep you and yours occupied for hours.

Pack a picnic (we’ve got some fabulous food businesses supplying locally made delights) and head out where you can burn off lots of energy whilst enjoying the greenery and fresh air.

Or how about a nature trail where you can look for birds, butterflies and bugs? If you look very hard you may even spot a grass snake. And don’t forget the ponds which are home to frogs, toads and newts.

Alternatively, make up some wacky contests such as wheelbarrow races, 3 legged races, or boules. What about a game of hide and seek? Or simply take a book and relax.

Discover the ducks, geese and swans on a stroll around the lake shore in Dunorlan Park, an oasis for wildlife and people. The café is open for takeaway purchases, toilets are open too. Please note that the playgrounds are now open and so is the boat hire!

In Grosvenor and Hilbert Recreation Grounds the café is open for takeaways, the playground has re-opened and the toilets are available however the sports facilities are closed.

Calverley Grounds has a café which is open for takeaways too, the toilets are open and so are the playground, tennis and basketball courts.

They are great places for the whole family to practice athletic skills in the open air! Why not try your own pond dipping, leaf identification and rubbing trails events.

Download the free audio heritage trail app to your phone in July when it is launched. In the meantime enjoy the excerpts online. This is a free and fascinating way to find out all the hidden history, the reason for the “Royal” and the spa waters in such an entertaining fashion.  We recommend that you choose a quiet time to fully appreciate the talks and admire some of the more unusual architecture round the town centre.

Walk the walk – Respect, Protect, Enjoy

For those days when you really want to go on a long walk in the big, wide outdoors, there are plenty more places to go.

There’s a lot to be said for fresh air and exercise and Tunbridge Wells is well designed for it with 69% of the Borough designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty!

From self guided heritage trails, to accessible paths, toddler walks to long rambles and hikes to Stone Age rock sites and on to the Tunbridge Wells Circular, we have it all. It’s hard to work out what to do next!

Remember your countryside code and that facilities are few and far between at the moment.

Cycling in Tunbridge Wells

Cycling is becoming understandably more popular in our get-away-from-it-all region, check out bike hire and trails on the Cycling page.

Bicycles of various sizes with attachments for children are offered for hire at Bedgebury and Bewl Water so you can make use of their family friendly tracks.

Bike hire is available elsewhere with changes made to services so websites do need to be checked and your trip planned in advance

Adrenaline-fuelling activities such as mountain biking and rock climbing are available in the region. Bedgebury has additional mountain bike trails.

Ideas for routes can be found on our blog Two wheels in the Weald.

Out of the ordinary in Tunbridge Wells

The Spa Valley Railway is back! Steam is returning to the High Weald on 29, 30 & 31 August with trains leaving Tunbridge Wells West station on a return journey to Groombridge.

Only £40 for a private compartment for up to 6 people to travel on board a steam hauled train through the glorious Kent countryside! Advanced booking is essential.

Hawkhurst Fish Farm is great for fishing with kids or for adults only. Set far out in the countryside, this is a peaceful way to revive yourself!

Hever Castle has a drive through event on 14-19 July in partnership with Pub in the Park team called Drive and Dine with Tom Kerridge.

Pub in the Park is now The Drive In Garden Party with Tom Kerridge and is still on for now but has been rescheduled for September 2020 in Eridge Park

Rainy Day Options

Don’t let the grey skies dampen your spirits as here we have plenty of ideas to delight and engage everyone.

All across the Borough you can find a range of virtual activities where children and adults can learn new skills and revel in the fun of beginner’s luck! There are music lessons, photography courses and Zoom kids parties amongst other interactive resources.

The museum team has put together a few dates for your diary to join in their Virtual Discovery Days and Virtual Park Safaris. Take a look at their learning resources web page for online activities whatever the weather.

For crafting and learning about the fascinating history of the Penshurst fortified manor, go to Penshurst Place’s Virtual Events to download activities to do at home.

For the creative souls amongst you, there are a series of virtual galleries to visit providing any future Turners with inspiration – Art Hub Gallery being one! The RTW Art Society on The Pantiles will be opening up in July as will others. Saltmarsh is the art shop to visit in Monson Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells to stock up on your artist materials – why not have a go at a happy Bob Ross style landscape?

At this time of year the South East Open Studios organisation is usually open for physical visits to artists’ private studios right across the borough and beyond  but for 2020 they are premiering a digital vision of delights. Undoubtedly this means you’ll see far more than before from the comfort of your seat.

After such stimulation explore your own artistic skills and take up online art workshops with Arty Farty Retreat, a local company based in Southborough.

Expand your horizons and discover more new skills in gardening, online dog courses and music through local online workshops.

More ideas and entertainment can be found on TWSocial including mini music and theatre performances as well as a number of art and culture podcasts and courses courtesy of The Amelia and Trinity Theatre.

Also on there is local business Clue Cracker (normally based in the cool John Street restaurant The Shuffle House) who urge you to try not to panic in the Escape Room as you hunt down DJ McDee! Don’t worry there are no horror stories or zombies here instead an exciting 30 minute challenge for you solving the clues. A great idea for teenagers at home or with friends on a video call!

Recommended reading

We recommend you check the Events listing in order to keep up to date nearer the time of your chosen activity.  Obviously at the moment, everything is rather fluid and subject to change. We will do our best to keep events up to date as far as we can but we suggest making your own enquiries before you leave home.

The Respect Protect Enjoy tag line is there to remind us that social distancing is still critical and plans may have to change if areas are too busy to accommodate more visitors.

Brush up on the countryside code and remember to leave this wonderful world for others to enjoy including the wildlife. Here’s a link to a lovely video to remind us of the countryside code.

For more inspiration from other visitors, read the blogs and itineraries linked here:

Scenic-driving-tour-around-the-weald-of-kent

Exploring-the-countryside-in-town

The-wonders-of-nature-in-the-high-weald-countryside

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