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Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

Lakewood, Colorado
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Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

My ancestors came from the region of Tunbridge Wells, Seven Oaks, Matfield, and Tonbridge. I am planning to stay four nights in the area. I will choose a village to stay in and plan excursions from that area. My husband is willing to drive though I have reservations about driving on the opposite side of the road. Driving would definitely give us some freedom to explore the countryside. We wouldn't rent a vehicle until we arrive in the area so we will need to get ourselves from Heathrow to Kent. I have thought about scheduling a pick up at the airport by a driver to take us to Kent. Does anyone have a recommendation of a company to hire for this transport?

I have also considered hiring a taxi to take us to areas of interest listed at the beginning of this query should we opt not to drive. We have some interest in seeing castles/gardens in the area. We also might consider taking a train for a day trip from our base. Does anyone have a recommendation for a castle/garden to see while in the vicinity?

At the end of our stay in Kent we will need to take a train to Edinburgh, Scotland to begin a packaged tour. It is my understanding I will need to return to London to take a train to Edinburgh.

I am considering our base to start in either Royal Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge. I would appreciate advice anyone has to offer. As an alternative to staying in a city center we might consider staying in a bed and breakfast more in the countryside. Thank you for any advice you can provide.

20 replies to this topic
Sheffield, United...
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1. Re: Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

"Does anyone have a recommendation for a castle/garden to see while in the vicinity?"



Most of the building is closed to the public, it's all about the gardens, which in June will be spectacular.

Albufeira, Portugal
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2. Re: Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

I was born in Sevenoaks lived there for years, then lived in Tunbridge Wells for 10 years and in Tonbridge for 25 years before moving to sunnier climes.

I cannot help with road transport from Heathrow as I would always opt to go by train as a solo traveller who doesn't drive. The cost of a car pickup at Heathrow is far too much.

Tonbridge is not a big place, population about 35,000 and would make a good base for any visits as it has trains and buses to all points of the compass. The ancient Rose and Crown hotel is right in the town centre. Directly opposite are the remains of the 11th century castle by the river and a pub dating from the 16th century. It's not all olde-worlde ,but I liked it and in fact will there next weekend myself to visit the old friends and help them with the beer drinking.

A B&B stay there would be suitable as there are numerous eating places within a few minutes walk or they have their own restaurant.

Knole House near Sevenoaks is one place to go in my book. Check out the information online as the opening times can be a little eccentric. You can get there by bus from Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge if you didn't want to drive, but there would be a 10 minute walk through Knole Park to the house itself.

Also take a look at Igtham Mote. Car probably needed as it is a little bit out of the way.

"At the end of our stay in Kent we will need to take a train to Edinburgh, Scotland to begin a packaged tour. It is my understanding I will need to return to London to take a train to Edinburgh."

Correct. There are at least four trains every hour to take you from Tunbridge Wells to London on weekdays and Saturdays, and at least six trains every hour from Tonbridge, ie one about every 10 minutes. Sunday service is about half that.

Do book your train trip to Edinburgh in advance. Not only will you save a great deal of money, you will be guaranteed a seat on the London to Edinburgh train. You cannot reserve seats towards London from Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells as these are commuter trains but your ticket will include that portion of the trip. However I would recommend not travelling towards London during weekday rush hours (which are in fact are from around 630am to 9am) as you will be joining the commuter hordes heading for the fun time at the office.

Do make sure you allow enough time to cross London from one station to the other. I recommend searching times and fares at www.nationalrail.co.uk where information is normally available 12 weeks in advance.

If you opt to stay in the countryside around Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells, there are some places with decent train and bus services into towns and generally around and about, I can think of Hadlow, Leigh, Hildenborough to name but three. But for many you would need a car as in many places local transport is not available in the evenings or on Sundays.

I hope you enjoy your trip to my former part of the world. If there is anything I can do to help, just ask.

London, United...
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3. Re: Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

I expect you already know about Knole in Sevenoaks, but note that major conservation work is taking place this year: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/knole

Other suggestions to visit:

Scotney Castle, a picturesque ruined castle in gardens plus the country house which replaced it: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/scotney-castle

Bodiam Castle, ruined interior but otherwise remarkably complete, moat but no gardens: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodiamcastle

Hever Castle and Gardens: www.hevercastle.co.uk

Penshurst Place & Gardens: www.penshurstplace.com

If you are using public transport Knole (bus 402) and Penshurst Place (bus 231/233) are the easiest to visit from Tunbridge Wells (and Tonbridge for bus 402). There are frequent trains to Sevenoaks but the town and Knole are uphill from the station, bus 402 goes to the town centre and passes Knole Park entrance.

Royal Tunbridge...
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4. Re: Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

You will certainly get more out of your trip if you drive. I live in the adjacent village to Matfield.

Tunbridge Wells is prettier and less functional than Tonbridge.

I would recommend honotoncottage.co.uk as a good b&b in Brenchley if you have a car. I don't have any interest in this establishment, but it is an old quaint property in a quiet location and it scores very highly on TA. There are good pubs within walking distance.

Gardens / properties - Sissinghurst, Bodiam Castle, Scotney Castle, Chartwell former home of Winston Churchill and Penshurst Place. Rye Is a great day out and is c an hour's drive. Canterbury is also about an hour or easily reached via train.

Depending on where you stay, there are several train services per hour back into London.

Netanya, Israel
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5. Re: Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

I can warmly second every recommendation you've received so far. Once near Sevenoaks: Emmetts Gardens are well worth a visit too. Pashley Manor and the Groombridge Place - were not mentioned either.

Most places you've been recommended are National Trust properties. It may be worth to you, to buy this organisation's Visitor's Pass ( 1 week long version ), or to check whether it's a good value for your money to join the Royal Oak ( American organisation with reprocimal rights with NT ). If the Visitor's Pass is your better option, bear in mind, you have to take care of it online, prior to your visit.


Champlon, Belgium
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6. Re: Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

You will need a car to get around and I would suggest that you actually hire a car at Heathrow when you land. Getting to the Sevenoaks, etc, area by car from Heathrow is relatively easy, certainly easier than taking public transport, because they are connected (almost) by the M25 London Orbital motorway.

Now that motorway is distinctly busy and there are sometimes hold ups, but if you actually drive with the traffic it isn't that difficult and it is a good way to get used to driving a car with the driver's seat on the other side. Even if there are hold ups it will probably be a faster journey to Sevenoaks than by public transport.

When you want to go north, you could think of returning the car to Gatwick airport, whence there are normally four direct trains each hour to St.Pancras (which is literally "just across the road" from Kings Cross).

Netanya, Israel
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7. Re: Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

Renting a car would make it easier indeed. Jumping into one, right after landing is a very bad idea. If you'd have a one more day - to wear your jetlag off, it would be great. You could spend this day in Windsor, and pickup your rented car next morning at Heathrow. Or, you could spend that day in London, and to pickup a car in Bromley, next morning. Both options are fine.


Hampshire, England.
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8. Re: Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

" I would suggest that you actually hire a car at Heathrow when you land."

Surely not after a transatlantic flight and driving on unfamiliar/other side of the road, driving with jet lag is supposed to be equivalent to driving slightly drunk.

To the OP, if you do drive, please read the relevant sections of the Highway Code:


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9. Re: Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

Heathrow is one of the busiest in airports in the world and has 5 separate terminals. The motorways feeding into the terminals are also the most crowded in the UK. If you are not confident to drive abroad, I would urge you NOT pick up a hire car from the airport.

A taxi from Heathrow to any of the towns/villages you are considering will be very expensive. I live a little bit closer to Heathrow, use the same company (so benefit from customer loyalty) and currently pay about £65.00. You would pay more, for 2 passengers and 2 or more bags. Taxi firms usually have a set fee for the airport run, and if you google "taxis from Tonbridge, TWells etc to Heathrow" you'll get a list of companies with their contact details, so can ask for a quote. You'll have to tell them which terminal you are arriving into, as some drivers may have to use a short stay car park. The charge for which is in addition to the actual taxi fare.

Your other option is to travel to Kent by train or long distance bus ( we call them coaches). Kent has 2 main rail routes serving different parts of the county. Your trip from Heathrow, and trip back London for your train to Scotland, could be on different routes. London has 5 major rail stations serving different parts of the UK, and you'll need to know which railway station your train to Edinburgh departs from, in order to get the right line up from Kent.

For information on routes, timetables and fares on UK trains, please see www.nationalrail.co.uk

For info on travelling in, around and through London, please see www.tfl.gov.uk

You don't need to buy train tickets in advance ( except for London to Scotland), and can use debit/credit cards and cash.

Car hire.... I'd suggest you hire a car once you reach Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells....and after a good nights sleep!!! There are any number of well known hire companies ( Enterprise, Avis, Hertz etc) all with different terms & conditions, prices and models. You may find it easier to hire an automatic rather than a manual car.

Things to see or do....tons of stuff, and 4 days will only be scratching the surface. Although hiring a car with sat nav will be useful I'd still suggest getting a good local map, to help plan a route/see things on the way etc, reading the website info for the castles & gardens already provided by previous posters, and avoid travelling during the rush hour (after 9 am and you should be fine).

Food & drink.....pubs serve food & drink pretty much all day ( usually from 11 am) , as well as tea/coffee and snacks. The castles/gardens etc also serve food, but may be more expensive.

Tickets...... generally you won't need to buy any tickets in advance, except possibly for Sissinghurst. I'd suggest you check their website for opening times, travel directions & ticket costs.

Tenterden, United...
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10. Re: Planning a trip to Kent June 2016

Hole Park is a short drive away and is well worth a visit. Their opening hours are quite restricted so you would need to check.


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