hISTORIC HOUSES AND GARDENS
Historic manors and world-famous gardens nestle enticingly amid the splendour of the Kent countryside.
World-famous gardens and ancient houses - Ashford and Tenterden sits among gorgeous floral spaces and bewitching historic homes.
Godinton House & Gardens, near Ashford, is one of Kent's finest hidden gems. Here, wood panelled interiors are crammed with evocative oil paintings, fine porcelain and antiques. Formal topiary, yew hedges and immaculate lawns frame walled, Italian and Rose Gardens, clouds of delphiniums and irises stretch all around. Wild spring flowers and greenhouses full of fruit and veg add to the appeal.
Theatrical flourishes are everywhere at 16th century Smallhythe Place, near Tenterden. In the early 1900s, it was home to the acclaimed Shakespearian actress Ellen Terry, and her absorbing collection of stage memorabilia is now on display. Don't miss a film or performance in the thatched Barn Theatre; or opt for a magical summer-time outdoor show.
From spring, through summer, to autumn, you'll find spectacular arrays of colour at Rolvenden's Hole Park Gardens Clouds of bluebells, tulips and tree blossom lead onto vivid wisteria and rhododendrons; autumn brings stunning displays of soft green, red and orange leaves.
Pines, firs and oaks combine to create a delightful woodland setting at the informal Beech Court Gardens, near Ashford. Here, drink in displays of azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and climbing roses.
Just 10 miles north of Ashford, at Belmont, discover an extraordinary neo-classical house, commanding views over the North Downs, and one of Britain's finest clock collections. Next, roam grounds dotted with a pinetum, walled garden and kitchen garden; a nuttery, sundials and pergolas also await.
And for a unique experience, check events at Chilham Castle Only occasionally open to the public, the Capability Brown-designed grounds are also sometimes the venue for prestigious equestrian events. Expect thrilling dressage, cross-country and show-jumping amid the estate's grand park. And on the fringes of Ashford and Tenterden sit two sites in many a horticulturalist's top ten. Great Dixter, famously the home of gardener and writer Christopher Lloyd, is dubbed the ultimate English garden. With good reason. Wonky half-timbered 15th century houses meet sympathetic Edwin Lutyens designs; sweeps of colour fill meadows, beds and the renowned Long Border.
Another mustn't-miss is Sissinghurst, near Biddenden. The exquisite, intimate creation of writer Vita Sackville-West, is famous world-wide for its series of outdoor 'rooms'. Wind between its warm, weathered, re-brick walls to encounter brightly-coloured flowers then climb to the top of the fairy-tale tower for jaw-dropping Weald of Kent views.