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South East - The Kent Weald

top 10 places

Top 100 places to visit in south east england

Sevenoaks and the Kent Weald

1. Knole House and Deer Park

Knole is one of England's greatest show houses, set in a magnificent 1000 acre deer park. The house has 365 rooms and contains a wealth of paintings, including important portraits by Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Reynolds, tapestries, ornaments and a rare collection of Royal Stuart furniture; the oldest billiards table in the world and an early mechanical clock. Take a walk in the park with its herds of fallow deer, which has changed little since Tudor times. Facilities include a gift shop and cafe.

2. Hever Castle and Gardens

This romantic 13th century castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth I. Exhibits include portraits, paintings, furniture and tapestries. Explore the magnificent gardens which include Italian, Rose and Tudor gardens, topiary, a yew maze and a splashing water maze, to the informal meanderings of the lakeside and Sunday Walk. Children can enjoy boating on the lake, and falconry displays. Facilities include two self service restaurants and a gift shop.

3. Chartwell

Chartwell was the family home of Sir Winston Churchill from 1924. There are beautiful rose and water gardens commissioned by the Churchills and countryside walks with stunning views over the Kent Weald. The rooms remain much as they were when Churchill lived here, with pictures, books, maps and personal mementoes, strongly evoling the career and wide ranging interests of this great statesman. Visit the garden studio containing many of his paintings. Facilities include a shop and restaurant.

4. Leeds Castle

Dating from 1119, Leeds Castle is set on two islands on the River Len in Kent, and over the years has been home to royalty, lords and ladies. The castle is an eclectic mix of period architecture, sumptuous interiors and family treasures. Perhaps most appealing is the interior design commissioned by Lady Bailie, the daughter of a wealthy American socialite and a British aristocrat, in the 1930's. Internationally renowned aviaries contain a fascinating collection of birds from around the world.

5. Sissinghurst Gardens

Sissinghurst is one of the world's most celebrated gardens, the creation of Vita Sackville-West and her husband Sir Harold Nicolson in the 1930's. In an intimate setting in the grounds of an Elizabethan mansion this is a garden that evokes the by-gone age of the years leading up to WW II. The gardens consist of romantic little compartments filled with colourful floral displays. Lakeside and woodland walks are open all year, with views of the lovely unspoilt Wealden countryside.

6. Ightham Mote

Ightham Mote is an outstanding 14th-century moated manor house set in a secluded valley, with lovely gardens, water features and lakeside and woodland walks. It was the subject of the National Trust's largest ever conservation project, begun in 1989 and completed in 2004. Highlights include a Tudor chapel with a hand painted ceiling and a grade 1 listed dog kennel! There's a shop selling books and gifts, and a restaurant serving good quality food cooked on the premises.

7. Down House, Charles Darwin’s home

It was at Down House that Charles Darwin worked on his scientific theories, and wrote 'On the Origin of Species' – the book which both scandalised and revolutionised the Victorian world when published in 1859. The house remains much as it was at the time. Ground floor rooms have been furnished to reflect domestic life, while the study holds his writing desk, chair and numerous objects connected with his work. The first floor offers an interactive exhibition on his life, research and discoveries.

8. Penshurst Place and Gardens

This medieval masterpiece has been the seat of the Sidney family since 1552 and retains the warmth and character of a much-loved family home. The gardens at Penshurst Place offer an abundance of variety throughout the year, from spring flowering bulbs, through fragrant summer roses and exuberant herbaceous borders to mellow orchard fruits. The garden culminates in a vivid blaze of autumnal colour before winter starkness reveals its original shape and structure.

9. Lullingstone Roman Villa

Lullingstone Roman Villa was built c. AD 75, and extended several times during 300 years of Roman occupation: it includes a room decorated with Christian symbols, among the earliest evidence for Christianity in Britain. Much is still visible today, including mosaic-tiled floors, wall paintings, and the extensive 4th-century bath complex, built when the villa was at its most prosperous. There is also a display of the skeletal remains found on site.

10. Lamberhurst Vineyard

See how wine is made in this lovley corner of south east England. Lamberhurst Vineyard was founded in 1971. There are 20 acres of vineyard here which the visitor is free to walk around. For the children, there is pets corner, while there is a beauty salon for the mothers! Plantbase and the vineyard shop offer the chance to buy souvenirs. When this all gets too much you can retire to The Swan pub! There's also a shop and a Bistro.
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