Northerner in Kent

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I’m a proud Northerner while Tara is a proud Southerner. Many people who visit England will automatically aim to visit London but we can tell you that there are many beautiful places both in the north and south of England that don’t involve our capital.

I somehow managed to persuade Tara to move to the north with me but several times a year we jump in the car for the 300+ mile journey to visit her family who all live in the Garden of England aka Kent.

Just one hour drive from London, this beautiful county has something for everyone. Couple of words of warning though if you are visiting from the North…

They put extra letters in words

This makes them sound posh and educated. Northerners tend to miss out letters – g’mornin’ meaning “good morning” or have bizarre names for everyday items – th’ole in th’wall being an ATM for example – or just dropping g’s off the ends of words – lazy bunch! On the flip side Southerners add letters in – Tara’s niece was learning to read and sounded out the word phonetically to work out what it was “B-A-TH – barth!” I shook my head partly in despair and partly envious that she sounds a lot posher than me.

It’s a lot warmer than Oop North

I denied this for a few years then one year we went for a visit. While we were down there, we were in shorts and spending time at the beach. Driving back up, the temperature gradually dropped and dropped until finally at the top end of the M6 we got caught in an almighty hailstorm around 15 degrees cooler than we’d enjoyed the day before. At this point I grudgingly had to admit she may be right about the temperature difference.

There’s a dinosaur named after the County!

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(Copyright: Mouth Watering Travel)

OK this one may not be true but while wandering around Port Lympne (more about that later) I discovered a Kentrosaurus which existed in the Jurassic period and I was suitably impressed by the idea that it could have been possible (maybe?).

Why should you visit Kent?

Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral

(Source: Wikipedia)

Famous for its Tales by Chaucer and its cathedral, Canterbury is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages, the Roman walls still circle the puzzle of cobbled streets and timber framed houses. You can simply absorb the atmosphere and enjoy the local coffee shops or visit attractions such as The Canterbury Tales museum; go on a ghost walk or enjoy a historic river tour on the River Stour.

Castles

There are plenty of castles in Kent but here are 4 of my favourites:

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(Source: http://www.leeds-castle.com)

Leeds Castle 5 miles from Maidstone has over 500 acres to explore including a maze, grotto, falconry displays, punting and adventure playgrounds as well as beautiful gardens and parkland. Amazing firework displays for Bonfire Night and watch out for music events such as Katherine Jenkins or Il Divo. (Prices: £25.50 adult, £17.50 child (4 – 15), all tickets include free repeat visits for a whole year, concession available).

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(Source: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk)

Dover Castle sits atop the White Cliffs of Dover into which you can descend to explore the medieval tunnels; visit the underground hospital where WWII soldiers were treated and discover the oldest surviving lighthouse in the country. (Prices: £20 adult, £12 child (5 – 17), family pass and concessions available).

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(Source: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk)

Rochester Castle stands on the east bank of the River Medway. The 12th century stone tower is one of the best preserved in England. Having been subjected to siege on three occasions, it was partly demolished in 1215 by King John who used the fat from 40 pigs  to set fire to the pit props. (Price: £6.40 adult, £4 child, family and concessions available).

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(Source: http://www.hevercastle.co.uk)

Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. With stunning grounds and ornamental gardens, there are also mazes, a beautiful lake and a collection a miniature model houses. Plenty of events to entertain the youngsters who can try their hand at archery,  painting a shield or watching a jousting event. (Prices: £16.25 adult, £9.20 child (5 – 15), family pass and concessions available).

Port Lympne & Howletts Wild Animal Parks

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(Copyright: Mouth Watering Travel)

The Aspinall Foundation – a renowned animal conservation charity – works in conjunction with Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Parks.

Port Lympne, near Ashford, houses over 760 animals from over 90 different species. You can go on an African Safari – included in the price of your ticket – where you get to see giraffes, black rhino, zebras and bears amongst others roaming the countryside.

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(Copyright: Mouth Watering Travel)

Also included in your ticket price is The Dinosaur Forest – great for younger guests.

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(Copyright: Mouth Watering Travel)

On the day prices for tickets: £25 adult; £21 child (3 – 15) with family tickets available. However if you are going to visit, it’s worth buying tickets online the day before for a 20% discount.

Howletts, near Canterbury, is home to over 400 rare and endangered animals. Discover their Animals of the Ice Age exhibition to see models of woolly mammoths, giant sloths and many more.

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(Source: http://www.aspinallfoundation.org)

There is an on-site Treetop Challenge too – an exciting high ropes course with balance beams, tyre curtains, cargo nets and a zip wire back to earth for only £7 per person.  For younger visitors (2 – 5), there is the Animal Adventure Challenge for £2.50 per child.

On the day prices are £21.95 adults, £18.95 child (3 – 15) with family tickets available but as with Port Lympne, there is a 20% discount if you buy online beforehand.

Both Parks also offer experiences including Keeper Days and overnight stays in a choice of glamping pods, 4* hotel or various lodges. Visit http://www.aspinallfoundation.org for more information.

White Cliffs of Dover

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Of course we can’t talk about Kent without mentioning The White Cliffs. I can’t say I’ve ever seen bluebirds over them a la Vera Lynn but there is a beautiful walk along the tops where you can sit and contemplate and/or watch the ferries in the port heading off towards France.

Whitstable

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(Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk)

Infamous for its oysters, Whitstable is a seaside town on the North coast. With museums, galleries, beach huts, quirky shops and of course a harbour, it’s a lovely place to spend some downtime.

Whitstable Oyster Festival takes place in July and celebrates all things oyster.  Starting with The Landing of the Oyster, the colourful Oyster Parade then heads from the harbour and along High Street and Oxford Street. Of course there’s an oyster eating competition in the afternoon where hardy types take on the challenge of eating 6 oysters and half a pint of beer in the fastest time.

Blue Flag Beaches

Where we live, we don’t have beaches on our doorstep so when we go to Kent, we have to visit one to get our intake of salty sea air and musical waves. With 207 miles of coastline, there are plenty to choose from.

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(Source: tankertonbeachhuts.co.uk)

In Whitstable,  Tankerton beach is a pebble beach. Postcard-worthy with its  beach huts and wooden groynes, the beach is perfect for families with a walk at low tide that takes you out to sea where you can paddle or explore rock pools whilst taking in the amazing views and sunset.

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(Source: markkilner, Flickr)

In Birchington, Minnis Bay is a sandy beach perfect for sandcastle building. An outdoor play area and paddling pool is great for families or alternatively for the more adventurous, the bay has water sports such as windsurfing and kiteboarding!

From the Bay, you can walk 3.7 miles to Reculver Towers – 12th century Roman towers that are haunted (allegedly).

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(Source: dayoutwiththekids.co.uk)

Margate – home of Turner Contemporary Gallery – has a fabulous 200m long sandy beach known as Margate Main Sands. With a promenade and boardwalks, there is also a tidal bathing pool and children’s play area. Take a 4 mile walk along the coast on the Turner and Dickens  Walk to Broadstairs.

For details of more blue flag beaches, visit http://www.kent-life.co.uk

Shopping

For a little retail therapy, Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone and Canterbury have some great offerings but the must visit shopping centre has to be Bluewater in Greenhithe. Around 18 miles out of London, the fifth largest shopping centre in the UK has over 300 shops, 50 restaurants and a 13 screen IMAX cinema – plenty to see and do.

Anyone looking to bag a bargain could try the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet at Ashford. Over 70 designer stores with more currently being added plus a range of cafes and restaurants make for a great visit. Adding in the children’s play area which over the summer has zorbing and go-carting activities makes this fun for all the family.

After all that walking/ sunbathing, exploring/discovering and shopping, treat yourself to a fabulous ice cream from any of the wonderful cafes anywhere in Kent. These ones are from Kaspa’s:

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They were delicious!

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