Covering almost a quarter of the county, Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty lies in the Eastern part of the North Downs and spans from the London and Surrey’s borders right up to the renowned White Cliffs of Dover. Covering 878 sq. km of lush land, Kent’s countryside has been widely regarded for its value as a natural area of beauty and has been awarded as such for its stunning landscapes. An impressive part of the country, it easily attracts thousands of holidaymakers each year looking for scenic landscapes with a rewarding expedition into its unique structures and with its many diverse features, the area does not disappoint. With many sporting activities on offer, walking and cycling routes and many local towns and villages to visit, there really is something for everyone when you make your visit to the Kent Downs AONB.
The White Cliffs of Dover are one of the most notable landmarks within the North Downs and are historically valued as the first site-see for travellers venturing into England. With fantastic coastal views out towards the French coast, there is also a National Trust centre built on the site that teaches its guests about the archaeology and the historical importance of the area. The Knole deer park – the only medieval park in the region, is also a brilliant area of interest and holds a herd of Sika and Fallow deer, all of which are direct descendants of animals from the Tudor era. The park remains mostly unchanged from its 17th century origins and its vast country house with its impressive collection of textiles and furniture attracts visitors from around the globe.
Faversham – one of the UK’s most historic market towns, sits on the edge of the Kent Downs AONB and dates back to the pre-Roman era when it was once heralded as one of the key centres of the UK’s explosives industry. Home to many charming tea shops and restaurants, Faversham also lays claim to having Britain’s oldest Brewery, Shepherd and Neame, offering tours with audience participation encouraged! Where there was once a large Roman settlement established in the town, Faversham sees many Roman architectural influences spread around the area with the surviving remnants of a Roman theatre and outdoor auditorium giving modern day visitors a unique insight into the historic importance of the town. Faversham is believed to have been the summer epicentre for Saxon Kings and their influence can be seen today in the Faversham Parish Church, established by King Stephen in 1147.
For the more active holidaymaker, the Kent Downs boasts a wealth of walking and cycling trails with beautiful scenery to enjoy along the way. The North Downs Way National Trail is one of the most popular and lasts for 153 miles, beginning at Farnham and ending at Dover. If that seems too long, then along the trail there are numerous circular routes that take you on a shorter journey around the Downs whilst still incorporating some of the best landscapes found in the Kent Downs. During the length of the entire route, there is a loop that takes you to the spectacular Cathedral City of Canterbury and many pilgrims today take the Pilgrims Way route from Winchester to reach this destination. Whilst walking this trail expect to see dense woodland, farmland and chalky grassland, alive with wildlife and rich in flora and fauna.
The Medway Trail is a great canoe route for the more adventurous visitors to the Kent Downs. Beginning at Tonbridge and ending at Allington, this 29km stretch of relaxing waters provides a calm and serene view of the Kent Downs without having to travel by car. Otters reside in the Kentish rivers and barn owls have been spotted hunting over the grasslands so looking out for these wonderful creatures whilst you slowly drift along the water is a must. If travelling the whole distance, there are various camping stops along the way to rest at and the entire activity proves to be a fun way of visiting the best villages and landmarks that the Kent Downs AONB has to offer.
Fondly known as the ‘Garden of England’ the Kent Downs offers a stunning landscape dotted with attractions for all ages. The younger ones will love a climb to the top of South Foreland Victorian lighthouse or a visit to Howletts and Port Lympne Wildlife Animal Park for an exciting day out. For those looking for something more sedate, wander the gardens of Doddington Place near Sittingbourne, visit Chartwell, the family home of Winston Churchill or take in an event at spectacular Leeds castle near Maidstone. Alternatively, visit one of the pretty Kentish villages such as Eynsford with its pretty meandering river, castle ruins, lavender fields and Lullingstone Roman Villa.
Overall, the Kent Downs AONB is an exciting and intriguing area with many interesting wonders to behold, and is perfect for those looking for an energising, jam-packed holiday destination. With such a large area to explore you might find yourself returning time and time again.