Dining Al Fresco

Dining Al Fresco

by D Hodgkinson

Press and Media

Please see our COVID19 page for the latest updates. Check the events listing for the most recent news on individual activities.

Experience Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent, the only historic spa town in the South East of England, equidistant from London and the coast.

Royal Tunbridge Wells lies at the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, unspoilt ancient countryside famously known as the Garden of England.

The Pantiles, Royal Tunbridge Wells | David Hodgkinson    Credit: David Hodgkinson

Set amongst a rich heritage of orchards, hop farms (and hop picking), vineyards, market towns, iron production and cloth weaving, the wider region of Tunbridge Wells possesses a fascinating depth of heritage and history.

With most of the region designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and dotted with ancient churches and oast houses, there is plenty of opportunity to soak up the English rural scenery which inspired greats such as Thackeray, EM Forster, Chagall and Tattershall Dodd I.

Blossom and oasts in Tunbridge Wells countryside | David Hodgkinson
Credit: David Hodgkinson

The birth of Tunbridge Wells was over 400 years ago when a natural spring welled up from the ground. And it was named “The Tunbridge Wells” (the wells near Tonbridge).

In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, ‘The Wells’ became a favoured destination for fashionable society needing accommodation and places of entertainment such as coffee houses, gaming-rooms and an assembly room for dances and balls. Thus the town began to grow.

Royal Tunbridge Wells | credit: D HodgkinsonSir Christopher Wren sent his chief plasterer Henry Doogood to create the magnificent ceiling in the Parish Church of King Charles the Martyr. It was here that Princess Victoria attended church services with her mother, the Duchess of Kent. When in the country, Princess Victoria (later Queen) stayed at what is now Hotel du Vin overlooking Calverley Grounds.

In 1909 Edward VII honoured the town with the Royal prefix as testament to his mother’s (Queen Victoria) love of the town.

Did you know? The origin of the nom de plume “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” is a local newspaper editor desperate to reverse the decline of the publication. In the 1950s a certain Nigel Chapman instructed his staff to write letters to the paper with the famous sign off and thus it has stuck, for better or worse!

Immersive activities in the Tunbridge Wells region

Get your Digital Detox programmed in with these activities for improving your wellbeing:

Spa Valley Railway by John Nye
Spa Valley Railway | Credit: John Nye

Jazz on the Pantiles | D Hodgkinson | Royal Tunbridge Wells
Credit: David Hodgkinson

Best of the attractions in Tunbridge Wells are:

  • The Seven Wonders of the Weald (a discount pass for 7 places to visit) including Hole Park (famed for Bluebells) and 2 National Trust properties (fairy-tale Scotney Castle and the world famous Sissinghurst Castle Gardens) which celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2020. Staying in Tunbridge Wells means you have easy access to at least 5 NT properties!
  • Pashley Manor Gardens, famed for tulips, dahlias and garden sculpture; and
  • Penshurst Place, well known as a fabulously maintained Tudor palace, manicured gardens and filming location for Wolf Hall and The Other Boleyn Girl amongst others.

    Bluebell walls galore in and around Tunbridge Wells | David Hodgkinson
    Credit:David Hodgkinson

Weddings in Tunbridge Wells

The choice of wedding venues is not so much prolific as stunning and full of quintessential English romance. Those mentioned above are of course on the list but there are also the exquisite historic town hotels, country manor hotels and woodland or lake settings too. With plenty of spas, bars, bridal boutiques and handsome homeware stores everything can be catered for the special day in Tunbridge Wells.

The Pantiles Bride shop in Royal Tunbridge Wells
The Pantiles Bride, Tunbridge Wells. Credit: David Hodgkinson

The Latest Tourism News from Tunbridge Wells

  • Watch out for the Royal Tunbridge Wells Audio Walking App (Tales of Tunbridge Wells) to launch in 2020;
  • A brand new Premier Inn is opening in 2020 in the town centre by the railway station for more choice of budget breaks in Tunbridge Wells;
  • In place of the postponed 149th Open in Sandwich (which is only a leisurely 2 hour train ride or 1.5 hours’ drive) local golf courses are open to channel the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods;
  • The hotly anticipated Bollywood film release of ‘83’ will be launched in August 2020. The plot is based on a biographical story of one famous cricket player, Kapil Dev, who scored a huge 175 not out in 1983 at the Nevill Cricket Ground in Tunbridge Wells. An Indian audience is expected to be very enthusiastic and 2020 coincides with the 150th anniversary of Kent County Cricket too!

Nevill Cricket Ground, Royal Tunbridge Wells
(c) TWBC Nevill Cricket Ground

  • High Weald Walking Festival September – Get Outside in the mellow month of September and enjoy the change in the seasons amongst these annual rural rambles. Get a feel for the wildlife, and flora, in the temperate south of England accompanied by a human guide.  NB. Please check beforehand that dogs are permitted;
  • Newly relocated Richard Burnett’s Heritage Collection of Harpsichords (formerly at Finchcocks in Goudhurst).  The most stunning antique harpsichords decorated most beautifully. Still playable so keep an eye out for the rare concerts and tours, in an intimate venue on the outskirts of the town of Tunbridge Wells;
  • A new foodie foray is Central Market, adjacent to the shopping mall, Royal Victoria Place. An undercover outdoor experience sheltered with marquee style canopies, fairy lights and patio heaters around wooden tables and benches. A variety of food is available from artisan chocolate to bowls of bliss and gourmet burgers;
  • New dog friendly shopping centres in town: Royal Victoria Place undercover mall and The Pantiles. Browse the dog friendly page for more places to go with the pooch.

Vintage keyboard from the Richard Burnett Harpsichord Collection, Tunbridge Wells
Credit: Richard Burnett Harpsichord Collection

General facts and figures about Tunbridge Wells:

  • Value of tourism to local economy: £277,796,000 in 2017 (2018, Cambridge Model of Economic Impact of Tourism);
  • 4.65m trips made in 2017 to Tunbridge Wells, this is an increase of 5.7% compared to 2015. 0.3million trips were overnight stays with an average length of stay of 3.8 nights.  246,000 were domestic visitors and 65,000 were from overseas;
  • £223 million was spent by tourists during their visit to the area in 2017;
  • Of total trip expenditure the main areas of spend were as follows: 10% spend on accommodation, 37% spend on shopping and 31% spend on food and drink;
  • Accommodation:  21 hotels (including country inns) and 1 motel;
  • Other types of accommodation available: Bed and Breakfast; Self-Catering; Camping;

Map of South East round Tunbridge WellsEasily accessible by train from Hastings or London Charing Cross and London Canon Street in under an hour, Royal Tunbridge Wells is only 40 miles from London.

Credit link to photos for publication is www.visittunbridgewells.com – free to copy any photos as long as credit is given to the source (www.visittunbridgewells.com ) and the photographer if the name is published. See the Image Library for more information and please do contact us on email: touristinformationcentre@tunbridgewells.gov.uk

Further Research

Facts and Figures for the Kent Visitor Economy from Visit Kent Business.

District Fact Files available from Visit Kent

Any further media enquiries can be made to the Communications team by email or telephone 01892 526121 and ask for the Press Officer.

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