Dynamic Ashford is alive with aspirations - and is achieving them too. International rail links ensure a cosmopolitan vibe; a well-preserved past adds intriguing appeal.
Ashford is just 38 minutes from London by train; Paris and Brussels are less than a two-hour rail ride away. So you can rejoice in this bustling town's cool contemporary feel. Bag big-brand bargains at the Ashford Designer Outlet, browse top-name high street stores at County Square shopping Centre, then chill out in a welcoming cafe.
There's cutting-edge culture on offer too. ShivaNova brings pulsating world-music to town. At exquisitely restored St. Mary the Virgin Church, Revelation St. Mary's performances include acclaimed acoustic sets.
Nearby, eco-themed Stour Valley Arts pioneers ultra-modern installations in ancient Kings Wood; it has an in-town gallery too.
This forward-thinking town is pioneering a 'shared-space'; visit to see how pedestrians, cyclists and motorists can exist happily, side-by side. The Ashford Green Corridor brings soothing nature reserves to the heart of town.
Superb eateries abound; Ashford Bowling offers the ultimate 10-pin experience. Eureka Entertainment adds a high-tech multiplex, while local accommodation notches up the accolades - there's everything from a facility-packed, five-star caravan park, to a luxury four-star hotel with its own super-swish spa.
And amid all these bursts of the new, Ashford proudly preserves a still-vibrant past. In Middle Row medieval, Georgian and Jacobean buildings flank narrow alleys; weather-boarded cottages frame a historic church. Heritage comes to life at Ashford Borough Museum; see centuries-old graffiti and evocative railway exhibits, including a ticket office, tools and speeding model trains.
On Ashford's fringes, don't miss Godinton House & Gardens, one of Kent's finest historic estates. Here wander wood-panelled rooms, replete with antiques, then relax and recharge in grand grounds where clipped hedges fringe deep-green lawns and sweeps of spring and summer blooms.
Nearby sits picture-perfect, still-working Willesborough Windmill, offering an enthralling insight into our pre-electricity past, and home-baked cakes too.