The Pantiles & Chalybeate Spring
The pretty colonnaded walkway known as the Pantiles has become probably the most well known view of Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Once the playground of the gentry and royalty, the Pantiles remains a pleasant place to browse, shop, eat, drink and stroll.
The Pantiles and Tunbridge Wells itself, owe their beginnings to the discovery of the Chalybeate Spring in the early 17th century and the popularity of the spa water amongst the gentry and royalty of Georgian England.
As Tunbridge Wells grew in popularity as a spa resort, so did the area surrounding the Spring - eventually leading to the building of the colonnaded walkway in the 18th century, later known as The Pantiles.
In its heyday in Georgian times, the 'Walks' as they were then known, were the place to see and be seen for visitors to Tunbridge Wells.
A strict protocol was adhered to - gentry on the 'Upper Walks', the colonnade, and everyone else on the 'Lower Walks'.
Richard Beau Nash, a dandy of the day made it his business to ensure that this protocol was adhered to by acting as a kind of Master of Ceremonies during 'the season' in Tunbridge Wells and in the town's rival, Bath.
Things are much more relaxed nowadays and the Pantiles is now a very attractive and stylish part of Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Much of the colonnade has been renewed since its beginnings in the 17th century but most of the surrounding buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Pantiles is now home to a fascinating variety of small specialist shops, antique shops and open-air cafés, restaurants and bars.
An entertaining and varied programme of regular events, including a fortnightly Farmers' Market, is held on the Pantiles.
The Seven Wonders of the Weald are unique places to visit and only a short drive from one another, offering ample opportunity to discover and enjoy several attractions while visiting and staying in the area.
From the beautiful gardens at Marle Place to the 200 acre forest at Bedgebury with a wide range of outdoor activities, there is plenty to choose from to plan a day or several days out in the area. Royal Tunbridge Wells is one of the attractions to recently become on of the Seven Wonders of the Weald, with the Royal Wells Hotel being in the heart of the town. A perfect place to start your exploration.
The Seven Wonders of The Weald include:
Royal Tunbridge Wells
Chiddingstone Castle & Gardens
Kent & East Sussex Railway
Marle Place Gardens & Gallery
All of the above attractions are within easy reach of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Also, all of the attractions have a programme of activities - summer concerts, sports and charity events, art, garden and sculpture shows and historical re-enactments.
Hollingbourne, Maidstone, Kent, ME17 1PL. Tel: 01622 765400
'The Loveliest Castle in England', surrounded by a lake and 500 acres of parkland landscaped by Capability Brown, is within a short drive of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Some of its many attractions include; Knights Realm playground, Castle Craft Cafe; Dog Collar Museum; Bird Aviary; Falconry; Gardens; Vineyard; Gift shops; Restaurant and cafe.
Hever, Edenbridge, Kent, TN8 7NG. Tel: 01732 865224
Just 8 miles from Royal Tunbridge Wells, is best known as Anne Boleyn's childhood home. Built around a central courtyard and surrounded by a moat, the castle was also once home to the Astor family.
Penshurst, Kent, TN11 8DG. Tel: 01892 870307
Has been in the ownership of the descendants of the Elizabethan poet Sir Philip Sidney for the last 450 years. An extensive medieval manor house, it is as well known for its beautiful Elizabethan style gardens as it is for the magnificent Baron's Hall, the finest example in England.
FINCHCOCKS MUSICAL MUSEUM
Goudhurst, Kent, TN17 1HH, 01580 211702
Finchcocks, a fine Georgian manor in Kent, houses Richard Burnett's celebrated collection of over 100 keyboard instruments: harpsichords, pianos, organs and many more. Some forty of them are in full working order, with a staff of professional musicians providing live demonstrations throughout your visit. Finchcocks also invites keyboard players of all ages to play the instruments, and to experience first-hand the sounds that composers such as Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Brahms made as they created their masterpieces, or simply entertained their friends. In between musical interludes, enjoy the pictures and prints in the museum, stroll in the beautiful gardens, visit the Cellar Restaurant, or browse in the gift shop.
HOLE PARK GARDENS - A GARDEN FOR ALL SEASON'S
Hole Park, Benenden Road, Rolvenden, Cranbrook, Kent, TN17 4JA - 01580 241344
Tucked away in the Weald of Kent, between the pretty village of Rolvenden and the charming town of Cranbrook, lies Hole Park Gardens which has to be one of the best gardens in Kent. An attractively laid out, privately owned 15 acre garden, Hole Park is often referred to as a hidden gem, and there are plenty of treasures to be found within its walls and hedges. Hole Park has been owned by the Barham family for the past four generations and is set in over 200 acres of superb classic parkland. The colourful gardens enjoy far reaching views over the hills, woods and fields of the picturesque Kentish Weald. They are a skillful mix of formal design and more naturalised planting, giving colour throughout the seasons. Hole Park Gardens are open everyday in spring with limited opening times in summer & autumn.
PORT LYMPNE WILD ANIMAL PARK
Lympne, Nr Hythe, Kent, CT21 4PD. Tel: 0844 842 4647
Port Lympne Wild Animal Park near the town of Hythe in Kent, England is set in 600 acres and incorporates the historic mansion and landscaped gardens designed by architect Sir Herbert Baker for Sir Philip Sassoon during World War I. The estate was purchased in 1973 by John Aspinall to solve lack of space at Howletts Wild Animal Park, and it was opened to the public in 1976. Since 1984 the animal park has been owned by a charity (The John Aspinall Foundation). Port Lympne houses the critically endangered Sifaka and the largest breeding herd of Black Rhinoceros outside Africa. As well as Siberian and Bengal tigers, there are small cats, monkeys, Malayan tapirs, Barbary Lions, African Hunting Dogs and many more rare and endangered species, some of which are on the circular walk. The Palace of the Apes is the world's largest gorillarium and home to a complete family group of gorillas. There is also an open enclosure near some of the rhinos and colobus monkeys.
NATIONAL TRUST PLACES TO VISIT
CHARTWELL-FAMILY HOME & GARDEN OF SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL
Mapleton Road, Westerham, TN16 1PS. Tel: 01732 868381
Chartwell was the much-loved Churchill family home and the place from which Sir Winston drew inspiration from 1924 until the end of his life. The rooms remain much as they were when he lived here, with pictures, books and personal mementoes evoking the career and wide-ranging interests of a great statesman, writer, painter and family man. The hillside gardens reflect Churchill's love of the landscape and nature. They include the lakes he created, Lady Churchill's rose garden, the kitchen garden and the Marycot, a playhouse created especially for the youngest Churchill daughter.
Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, TN3 8JN. Tel: 01892 893820
Country house, romantic garden, 14th century moated castle - all in a beautiful wooded estate. Venture into the wonderful woodland and parkland with over 770 acres to explore. Discover the delights of the Victorian country mansion with its secrets and stories. Enjoy a delicious meal in the tea-room or bring your own food along to eat in the newly created woodland picnic area. The estate is open all year, offering a variety of walks through the beautiful parkland, woodland and Hop farm.
SISSINGHURST CASTLE GARDEN
Biddenden Road, Sissinghurst, Cranbrook, Kent, TN17 2AB. Tel: 01580 710700
A sixteenth century tower, and other buildings, with the most famous twentieth century garden in England. Sissinghurst garden is a prime example of the Arts and Crafts style. The garden was made on the site of a medieval manor and some structures survive. Harold Nicolson, a diplomat and author, laid down the main lines of the Sissinghurst design in the 1930s. Vita Sackville-West, a poet, a garden writer and Harold's wife, took responsibility for the planting at Sissinghurst garden. The historical importance of Sissinghurst Castle Garden comes from its role in transmitting Gertrude Jekyll's design philosophy to a host of visitors. The most famous and influential feature of Sissinghurst is the White Garden. It exemplified and popularised Jekyll's idea of using colour themes in planting design.
BATEMAN'S - HOME OF RUDYARD KIPLING
Bateman's Lane, Burwash, TN19 7DS. Tel: 01435 882302
A Jacobean house and the home of Rudyard Kipling.
'That's She! The Only She! Make an honest woman of her - quick!' was how Rudyard Kipling and his wife, Carrie, felt the first time they saw Bateman's. Surrounded by the wooded landscape of the Sussex Weald, this 17th-century house, with its mullioned windows and oak beams, provided a much needed sanctuary to this world-famous writer. The rooms, described by him as 'untouched and unfaked', remain much as he left them, with oriental rugs and artefacts reflecting his strong association with the East. Bateman's is very much a family home, but impressive none the less.
Bodiam, Near Robertsbridge, TN32 5UA. Tel: 01580 830196
This fairytale castle is one of Britain's most romantic and picturesque, set in the heart of 1066 country. With spiral staircases, battlements and a portcullis, 14th century Bodiam Castle is the real thing. Windows where arrows were once fired, a tower that was once a look-out and ruins that were once walked upon by knights; this is a place where you can relive your childhood memories and let your imagination run riot. In the impressive gatehouse is the castle's original wooden portcullis, an extremely rare example of its kind. Enough of the interior ruins survive to give an impression of castle life. Gruesome and surprising tales can often be heard from our miller, baker and other colourful characters from the past. Plus we have lots of season events throughout the year.
ENGLISH HERITAGE PLACES TO VISIT
DOWN HOUSE - HOME OF CHARLES DARWIN
Luxted Road, Downe, Kent, BR6 7JT. Tel: 01689 859119
www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/home-of-charles-darwin-down-house/ With its unique place in the history of science, Down House, the home of Charles Darwin, is one of the major visitor attractions in the South East. See the study where Darwin wrote 'On the Origin of Species', still as it was when he worked here, and stroll through the extensive gardens that so inspired the great scientist. Equally fascinating are the glimpses you get into the life of the Darwins in the family rooms. And there's an exciting interactive multimedia tour, narrated by David Attenborough, to tell you more about how Darwin developed his ideas. For anyone with an interest in science and evolution, this is a fascinating family day out in Kent.
BAYHAM OLD ABBEY
Clay Hill Road, Lamberhurst, Kent, TN3 8DE. Tel: 01892 890381
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/bayham-old-abbey/ Bayham Abbey makes a fascinating day out on the Kent Sussex border. The impressive ruins include much of the 13th to 15th-century church, the chapter house, and a picturesque 14th-century gatehouse. Now set in grounds designed by famous landscape gardener Humphry Repton, who also planned the grounds of Kenwood House in London. Rooms in the 'Georgian Gothick' dower house are also open to visitors.