Best wintry walks in Kent revealed by the National Trust
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a Boxing Day or New Year’s Day walk to blow away the cobwebs. So why not make the most of the ‘twix Christmas week and get out into the countryside on a guided walk at one of our special places in Kent and East Sussex, followed by a cup of something hot in a cosy cafe.
Throughout January, we have new exhibitions, historic houses and frosty estates to get you through those chilly winter days.
By following in our footsteps you help us pave the way for our special places into the future.
Ightham Mote, Kent
Enjoy the peaceful setting of this romantic moated manor house, with its garden, orchard, water features and ancient woodland walks through the Kent countryside. Join a Boxing Day ramble with a tasty breakfast to fuel an informal guided walk through the estate, or visit over January when holly is in abundance and the silver birch trees look particularly photogenic. Pick up an estate walks leaflet from visitor reception for inspiration.
The ground floor of the house is open 11am-3.00pm, with the garden, cafe and shop open 10am-3.30pm daily between Boxing Day and 31 December. Estate open dawn to dusk every day. Only partial access to the garden in winter. House closed from 6 January 2016.
Boxing Day ramble with full English breakfast, Monday 26 December, 10am-1pm. All tickets £21.50 per person, booking essential on 01732 811314
Whilst Knole’s showrooms close for conservation during the winter months, the 1,000 acre parkland is as alive as ever. Glimpse the 350-strong resident wild deer herd that are descendants of those hunted by Henry VIII, take a relaxed stroll or venture on a longer walk to nearby Ightham Mote.
Between Christmas and New Year, join one of the guided walks across Knole Park.
On Boxing Day, walk off the Christmas Day dinner and discover more about the ancient parkland, its history and flora and fauna. On New Year’s Day, choose from two hikes; a one-hour short and social stroll perfect for families, or a two-hour brisk and bracing trail great for those after a little more.
Brewhouse café and shop open 10am-4pm. Car park open 10am-6pm between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and throughout January.
Boxing Day and New Year’s Day guided walks depart 11am, meet outside the Visitor Centre. The walks are free but we suggest a donation of £2. Downloadable walks available online
Scotney Castle, Kent
During winter Scotney Castle is transformed with frost and ice settling on the moat, grass and plants surrounding the ruins of the medieval castle.
Escape the house and join one of two guided festive walks with our volunteers. Take part in the Boxing Day Wander, exploring the estate and key features in its history. Or start 2017 in the fresh air on our New Years Day Hike.
Further afield, the estate is home to walks through beautiful parkland and woodland – pick up an estate map from visitor reception for three waymarked trails.
Inside the house, don’t miss ‘Scotney, an evolving story’, a fascinating exhibition charting the Hussey family’s history here.
Boxing Day and New Years Day walks meet at visitor reception and run from 11.30am to 1pm, normal admission applies.
Estate open daily dawn to dusk. Old castle, garden, tea room and shop open 10am-5pm* (*or dusk if earlier), house open 11am-3pm between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and throughout January, entry by timed ticket.
Admire the orchard’s winter border, home to beautifully scented golden yellow flowers, clusters of red-pink blooms clinging to branches and evergreen shrubs covered in highly scented candy-pink flowers.
Several walks are available across the estate, with a natural play area for children, a Second World War bomb crater and a Canadian camp to be discovered along the way.
Alternatively visit one of two exhibitions on show this winter. Child of the Commons focuses on the political career of Sir Winston Churchill, whilst the Fiftieth Anniversary exhibition tells the story of Chartwell through the eyes of the local communities.
The shop, cafe, gardens and exhibition are open from 10am-5pm* (*or dusk if earlier) studio open 12pm-3.30pm between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. House closed.
Child of the Commons runs Sat 12 Nov – Sun 19 Feb, 11am-3pm. Normal admission applies.
Fiftieth Anniversary exhibition open Sat 31 Dec – Fri 24 Feb, 11am-4pm. Normal admission applies.
Throughout January the shop, café and gardens are open 10am-5pm* (*or dusk if earlier).
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent
Winter transforms the woodland, farmland and lakes surrounding Sissinghurst Castle into frosted landscapes with far reaching views of the Kentish Weald. Pick up a leaflet in visitor reception for walking inspiration.
Inside, delve into the world of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West in the newly-opened South Cottage. As the garden closes for rest and conservation over the colder months, now is the chance to explore this other, hidden side to life here. Accessible by timed-ticket for the first time, wander through the cottage rooms where Harold and Vita slept and Harold wrote, taking in the atmosphere of this intimate inside retreat.
The oast house meanwhile hosts the International Garden Photographer of the Year Exhibition. Brighten up your winter with the very best amateur and professional garden photography from across the world, brought to life by the Sissinghurst gardeners using plants from the garden. Unseen images from our archive will be on display in the tower at the same time.
Restaurant and shop open 10am-5.30pm from Boxing Day closed.
Tours of the South Cottage run daily, 11am–3.30pm. Access by timed ticket only.
International Garden Photographer of the Year, daily from 16 January to 5 March, 11am-4pm.
White Cliffs of Dover, Kent
During winter, a cliff top walk becomes more atmospheric. In the mornings, a dusting of frost covers the cliff top with a silvery blanket and throughout the day winter visiting birds can often be spotted – including the Guillemot out at sea, short eared owl feeding over the grassland or the unmistakeable Waxwing in the hedgerows.
On New Year’s Day, book onto a free walk from the White Cliffs visitor centre to South Foreland Lighthouse at 11am. Your guide will cover the history and interesting features of the cliffs along the way. At the end of the walk, one of the Trust’s most photographed tea rooms, Mrs Knotts, will be open specially to serve warming treats.
New Year’s Day walk departs 11am, bookable on 01304 207326. On New Year’s Day South Foreland Lighthouse and Mrs Knotts tea room open 11am-3.30pm, last admission 3.00pm.
Coastline and car park open 9am-6pm daily throughout winter (closed 24 and 25 December). Visitor centre open 11am-4pm between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, and daily during January.