48 Hours in… Maidstone
As Kent’s county town, Maidstone, lies at the very heart of the Garden of England. Pretty orchards and hop gardens sprawl over lush countryside, surrounding romantic English villages, must-see heritage sights, and a vibrant town full of independent restaurants, bistros and boutique shops. With a rich history, meandering rivers and a location which lends itself to being a bustling destination for many travelling between the coast and London, Maidstone has become a thriving hub with plenty for visitors to discover and enjoy.
Hidden from the hustle and bustle of the town centre in the historic Royal Star Arcade, Eden Sandwich Bar and Café (www.edensandwichbar.co.uk) welcomes guests to their friendly two floor eatery which serves delicious fresh food, including scrummy breakfast favourites. On sunny days, soak up the sunshine on their rooftop terrace or snuggle inside and enjoy a famous ‘Morning Glory’ English breakfast alongside a mug of freshly ground fairtrade coffee to perfectly prepare you for a full day of exploring.
A tranquil country park spanning 180 hectares, Mote Park has existed as an entity since the 13th century and has previously been owned by the Royal Family. Today it is an oasis of natural features which include luscious grassland, woodland brimming with wildlife as well as rivers and a glittering lake. Mote Park is ideal for nature lovers and families alike, whether you are in need of a peaceful stroll on which to appreciate scenic views and nature’s glory or wanting to experience wholesome outdoor fun by taking part in various activities, which include a sky trail, tree walk, segways, climbing wall, crazy golf and a watersports centre, Mote Park has something to suit everyone. In the grounds of the park, visitors will also find Mote House, which houses a Health and Wellbeing Centre, offering spa facilities and treatments as well as a pretty walled garden and a small waterfall for those wanting a morning of tranquillity.
Situated in the thriving heart of Maidstone, La Villetta (www.lavilletta.co.uk) is an independent Italian restaurant serving only the finest quality, locally-sourced ingredients combined with the ultimate selection of Italian products to add divine flavour to each dish. Head chef Angelo crafted the menu after being inspired by his Pugliese Nonna’s (Grandma) wonderful home-cooking. Wanting to bring an authentic taste of Puglia to Kent, Angelo sources fresh seafood from the county’s coast just as his Nonna did in Italy to create authentic, mouth-watering Italian dishes. ‘Everything is cooked from scratch without pretension and with all the passion and flavours that you would find in an Italian kitchen’ says Angelo, so get ready to taste the best of Italy and Kent combined, from the comfort of this charming Maidstone gem.
Leeds Castle (www.leeds-castle.com) rises majestically from the still waters of its moat as if a castle straight from a fairy-tale. Surrounded by 500 acres of stunning parkland and gardens, Leeds Castle is without a doubt one of the most beautiful venues in Kent. Coined ‘The Loveliest Castle in the World’, it is the perfect place for a great day out with the family, a romantic getaway with a loved one or an intriguing trip for history buffs and lovers of architecture and beautiful landscaping.
Leeds Castle has always been a palace to entertain and impress, with every charismatic owner leaving their unique mark. Today’s interiors are the result of massive refurbishments by top European designers throughout the 1920s and 30s for its last private owner, Lady Baillie. Witness her love of exotic birds as you spot elegant black swans gliding across the serene waters or get lost in the maze perfect for adventurous children, providing endless fun. Whether you’re passionate about porcelain, eager to discover the parkland wildlife or are just looking for old-fashioned fun, Leeds Castle provides a memorable day out for all ages and interests.
At Christmas, visitors can also delight in festive decorations in and around the magnificent castle and grounds, and from 27th November to 2nd January, you can step inside the popular Christmas song, as you walk through 12 different artworks representing the Twelve Days of Christmas – all included in the regular ticket price.
Priding themselves on their eclectic and extensive drinks menu, The Canopy Bar and Kitchen (www.thecanopybar.co.uk) is a trendy location to enjoy a sophisticated Saturday night. Lounge beneath the Canopy Bar’s lights in a slick and elegant atmosphere as you take a refreshing sip of Maidstone Distillery (www.themaidstonedistillery.com) Ranscombe Wild Gin and Tonic (their distillery tours are another must-do when in town!) as you wait to be served one of Canopy’s famously good gourmet burgers. Finish off your evening with indulgence in the form of a warm, homemade chocolate brownie and ice-cream.
Budget – Village Hotel Club from £94 per night
The Village Hotel Club (www.village-hotels.co.uk/hotels/maidstone) is centrally located on the M20 and thus perfectly positioned to explore Maidstone and beyond. With 122 ensuite bedrooms, a mixture of double, twin, family rooms and Upper Deck bedrooms, this friendly hotel has every needed amenity in the convenience of one location. This also includes extensive leisure facilities, a 25-metre swimming pool, 5,000sq ft gym, sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi. With the á-la-carte Verve Restaurant, Victory Pub and Starbucks Coffee Shop on site, there are plenty of food choices to suit all tastes. Free wifi and free parking included.
Spend – Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel from £109 per night
Conveniently situated and easily accessible, Mercure Maidstone Great Danes (www.mercuremaidstone.co.uk) has great transport links from Junction 8 of the M20 to all the local Maidstone attractions including the historical Leeds Castle right next door and within easy commute of Maidstone’s premier shopping destination, Fremlin Walk, which is brimming with high street brands and boutique local shops. Once you have had a busy day out, guests can either hit the exercise machines, work out on the running track situated in the 26-acre estate, or simply relax in the heated indoor pool, sauna, solarium, steam room or spa bath. In the evening, soak up the atmosphere overlooking glorious gardens in the stylish restaurant with a glass of local wine. Guests are sure to enjoy a great night’s sleep in one of the luxurious, spacious and comfortable bedrooms.
Splurge – Tudor Park Marriott from £129 per night
Surrounded by 200 acres of ancient deer parkland, Tudor Park (www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/tdmgs-tudor-park-marriott-hotel-and-country-club) incorporates a wealth of beautiful natural features. As one of Kent’s premier golfing venues, Tudor Park offers a unique experience with 120 deluxe bedrooms and an 18-hole championship golf course. Superb dining options include Cast Iron Grill or Zest Restaurant & Bar, with stunning panoramic views of the golf course, wildlife pond and landscaped gardens. Tudor Park also boasts excellent leisure facilities; an indoor swimming pool, spa, two on-site gyms, tennis courts and beauty salon for indulgent beauty treatments and massages.
Boasting a simply scrumptious French menu, Frederic (www.fredericbistro.com) of course serves the Parisian breakfast of dreams. With everything from golden, buttery, almond croissants fruit and maple syrup pancakes to crab benedict and the hearty ‘Big Wake Up’ French breakfast, guests are sure to have the perfect start to their day at this light, bright, airy and stylish French bistro which can be found on Earl Street. Why not treat yourself to a delightful breakfast cocktail such as a champagne mimosa and start your day in pure elegance and style.
Get your boots muddy with a taste of rural Kent at Kent Life (www.kentlife.org.uk) the perfect experience for families wanting to embrace and honour a traditional Kentish way of life and times gone by. At Kent Life, a real working farm, where heritage and family fun sit side by side in a beautiful and historical 28-acre estate, visitors can meet a variety of free-range farm animals as well as explore a vintage village with houses preserved as they would have been over different eras. Get hands-on experience with lots of animals including sheep, pigs, horses and alpacas, and pop over to the ‘cuddle corner’ to meet some smaller farmyard friends. Feeding and grooming experiences allow animal-loving little ones to get even closer to the cute creatures and experience true joy in their presence. With indoor and outdoor play areas, pedal tractors, bouncy castles and even tractor and donkey rides, hours of fun can be had. Head over to Dotty’s Tea Room where you can sample the delights of fresh, local produce, including homemade cakes and light lunches. When the weather brightens, make your way out to the Tea Room terrace and enjoy a cream tea in the sunshine.
A stylish pub in the idyllic village of Bearsted, The White Horse (www.thewhitehorsebearsted.co.uk) serves real ales, fine wines and of course scrumptious Sunday roasts using high-quality Kent produce and ingredients. Bringing together contemporary and traditional décor, diners can enjoy a relaxing Sunday in optimum comfort. Now also offering a ‘purely-vegan’ plant-based menu, The White Horse is on trend and has a dish to suit every desire; from tasty starters, light bites, and mains, through to sharing platters, classic pub food dishes as well as devilishly delicious desserts.
Step aboard the Kentish Lady Riverboat (www.kentishlady.co.uk) in the centre of Maidstone close to the 14th-century Archbishop’s Palace for a cruise along the historic and important River Medway. Relax in comfort as you take in the sights and sounds of the county town with an informative commentary on points of interest along the way. You’ll pass the medieval Corpus Christi Hall, Maidstone’s oldest pub and Allington Castle where Henry VIII would meet Anne Boleyn, all on the way to the final destination at Allington Lock. Choose from a one-hour trip or a three-hour lunch cruise. Lovers of history, landscape and those who are intrigued by folklore and stories passed down through generations are guaranteed to enjoy this unique and interesting experience.
Based in the ethereal and historic Corpus Christi Hall on Earl Street, La Taberna (www.lataberna.co.uk) was born out of a ‘family dream’ and is now a family-run Spanish restaurant and bar serving delectable tapas and skilfully created cocktails. In Spain, a ‘Taberna’ is place in which to meet friends and enjoy good food and good times, so, using this as the basis for their restaurant, La Taberna has embraced this Mediterranean way of life and is thus the perfect place to enjoy a signature sangria and a selection of tasty tapas in a friendly, lively atmosphere.
Sneaky Staycation Extra
With Kent staking its claim as the ‘Wine Garden of England’ and Maidstone expertly offering the best of town living with countryside ambles, a stay here would not be complete without a visit to one of Kent’s glorious vineyards. Yotes Court (www.yotescourt.co.uk) which is situated on a beautiful sloping site in West Peckham, has sweeping views out towards Bidborough Ridge and provides a serene environment in which visitors can bask in the county’s paradisiacal vine-filled countryside. Sip a refreshing glass of award-winning still rosé as you gaze in awe across luscious rows of vines that cover the hillside in front of you, a truly exceptional experience of one of Kent’s most cherished characteristics.
Experience a cosy Kentish country pub at The Windmill in Hollingbourne (www.thewindmillhollingbourne.co.uk) nestled in a picturesque village complete with sturdy oak beams, roaring fires and passionate about serving delicious pub classics with a twist.
For those wanting to treat themselves to an exquisitely luxurious stay, Chilston Park Hotel (www.handpickedhotels.co.uk/chilstonpark) is set behind tree-lined lanes in 22 acres of magnificent parkland. A Grade I Listed Manor and previously home to a variety of eminent landed gentry, politicians and writers, Chilston still reflects the rich history of its past with many rooms awash with antiques and featuring four-poster beds, whilst also offering the very latest hotel amenities and beautiful views across manicured gardens.