Tenderden, set among rolling hills, green fields and woodlands, is a lovely town centered around its wide, tree-lined High Street and several historic buildings , interesting small shops and listed houses, nearly all with their original facades dating from 16th to 18th century, including the church of St. Mildred (15th century) that can be seen for miles. There is more a Georgian feel to the town as a whole, but with many examples of older, Tudor frontages. It provides the opportunity to step back in time with a visit to the Kent & East Sussex (KES) Railway closed in the 50s but restored by steam engine buffs running vintage steam trains from Tenderden via Northiam to Bodiam. You can take a romantic ride through 10 miles of beautiful countryside on trains dating from Victorian times.
The far-sighted Edward III prohibited the export of unwashed wool (1331)and invited weavers from Flanders to settle here bringing with them their dying and weaving technology. Tenderden grew from wool trading into the manufacturing & trading center of broadcloth (Town Hall and the Woolpack Inn).
The historic William Caxton Inn honours the founding father of print in England (1422-1491) after learning his trade in Cologne, Germany and Bruges, Belgium.
Reassuringly traditional is the White Lion Inn (Lionheart), a 16th century coaching inn, with many original features (beams, inglenook fireplaces, old photographs and other memorabilia) retained. It offers a a pleasant surrounding, good selection of ales (e.g. Green King IPA, Adnams Broadside, Bass and Reverend James from Brains) and plenty of choice for meals.
Early October enthusiastic fans flock to its well-established friendly, family Tenderden Folk Festival promoting traditional and contemporary English folk song, music and dance.
Benenden, (6 miles W of Tenderden on B2086) a typical Kentish village in dense woodlands, is quiet and tranquil settlement round the large green.
The Bull (FP) a listed family-run pub dates back to 1608; it offers Harvey’s and Shepherd Neame on tap and good regional food.
Historic center around Middle Row, Lower/Upper High St
Ashford Designer Outlet center (Kimberley Way, Ashford; xit M20 at junction 10 and follow signs International Rail Station and Ashford Designer Outlet; Mo-Fr 10-8, Sa 10-7, Su 10-5, excl. bank holidays) offer guilt-free shopping at more than 100 fashion, gift and kitchen shops, some coffee shops, fast food court.
Man of Kent (Ashford), former village inn in area of outstanding natural beauty. Quiet location in beautiful village of Crundale. From Ashford turn right off the A28 at Godmersham (sign reads Crundale and Waltham). Follow the road for about 1/4 mile then turn left. (Sign again reads Crundale and Waltham). After about 1 1/4 miles you enter the village of Crundale, follow the road round a sharp right hand bend. The Man of Kent is 200 yards from the bend on your left.
Maidstone, developed town, historic houses around High St, Museum & Art Gallery in beautiful Chillington Manor House (St Faith’s ST).
Duke Without a Head Pub, (Wateringbury, 4 miles W of Maidstone) originally called “The Duke’s Head”; story for name change goes like this: when a request was made to move the license to a newer premise at the same place, the humorous order by the local magistrate stated “Permission is given to remove The Duke’s Head”. That’s exactly what they’ve done.
Open-air Museum of Kent Life (Cobtree, Lock Lane, Sandling, Maidstone 01622 763936; £6.50 daily 10-5:30) offer oast house, granary, barn, hoppers’ hut, farmhouse, village hall, cottages and a chapel depicting the changes in rural life in Kent.
7th - 8th October Apple Festival: A weekend celebrating all things apple. Taste and buy many unusual varieties that you can not find in the supermarkets. See an antique apple crusher and press in operation and sample freshly squeezed apple juice. There will also be some Kent produced real ciders to sample and buy
Leeds Castle, Park & formal gardens (Maidstone; private trust, £13.50 daily 10-5) lovely castle with superb furnishings, paintings, tapestries and antiques in a glorious setting with 500 acre park (landscaped garden by Capability Brown); events.
West Malling, (5 miles W of Maidstone on A20): wide High St lined with Georgian houses, old-fashioned architecture; The Joiner Arms (64 High St, West Malling, 01732 840723) is a 300-year old bow-window facaded pub with steep tiled roof, offers two old-style bars, eating area and beer garden. The Angel Inn, (Addington Green, West Malling, 01732 842117) interior is designed to look like a traditional Kentish Inn with low beams an open fireplace and a riot of hops. Traditional values also extend to the entertainment: the only music you are likely to find will be live. Performers are booked at the pub most Wednesdays and Fridays.
King and Queen (New Rd East Malling, West Malling 01732 842752)