Best Wintry Walks in Kent Revealed by The National Trust
The National Trust has revealed some of the best places for wintry walks in Kent from Boxing Day onwards.
Following the excitement of Christmas Day, it’s the perfect time to burn off some festive calories, catch up with friends and family, or plan New Year’s resolutions whilst enjoying an exhilarating walk.
Many of the beautiful gardens and countryside spaces the National Trust cares for in Kent are open from Boxing Day onwards, offering the perfect opportunity for winter walks in picture-postcard landscapes. Wrap up warm and experience some outdoor delights from avenues of frost-covered topiary and borders packed with sensational colour, to ice-rimmed lakes, windswept beaches, blustery coastal paths and breath-taking vistas.
With special guided walks on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, walking trails throughout winter and a whole host of special places open in January, some of our favourite walking hot spots in Kent are:
Spend time in the landscape that inspired Sir Winston Churchill. The orchard’s winter border is 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. In the garden see the wall built by Churchill himself, the Marycot play house made for the Churchill children and the painting studio in the grounds, home to a collection of Churchill’s paintings that tells the story of why he began to paint.
The woodland glades and views across the Weald of Kent on the wider estate originally moved Churchill to buy Chartwell. Several walks are available, with children’s swings, a Second World War bomb crater and a Canadian camp to be discovered along the way.
Alternatively visit the winter exhibition, Into the Trenches, which charts Churchill’s early military career from soldier to tactician through keepsakes he cherished over a lifetime. Families can also try a prisoner of war themed trail around the garden which leads to the exhibition.
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. Into the Trenches runs until 21 February, 11am-3pm daily
Throughout January the shop, café and gardens are open 10am-5pm* (*or dusk if earlier).The studio is closed in January for essential conservation work.
Take a peaceful stroll around a garden described as a plantsman’s paradise with its views over Ide Hill. More adventurous ramblers can discover the ram pump or walk to neighbouring Toys Hill past a grand Edwardian house and a former water tower in the woods that’s now a hibernation home for bats.
Garden, shop and visitor centre (shop and light refreshments available) open between Boxing Day and 3 January 2016, 10am-4pm. Emmetts Garden closes for winter from 4 January 2016.
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 this 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, Saturday 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.
A New Year’s Day guided walk takes in the beautiful landscape of the vast medieval park as well as its fascinating history. The outdoor café will be open afterwards for warming drinks and cake.
Outdoor café open 11am-4pm, indoor bookshop café open 10am-5pm and car park open 10.15am-6pm between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and throughout January.
Free New Year’s Day guided walk, 10.45am-1pm, meet at the sign by the outdoor café. Downloadable walks available online.
During winter Scotney Castle is transformed with frost and ice settling on the moat, grass and plants surrounding the ruins of the medieval castle. Further afield, the estate is home to walks through beautiful parkland, woodland and alongside the historic Hop Farm – pick up an estate map from visitor reception for three way marked trails.
Inside the house, don’t miss Arthur’s War a fascinating exhibition showcasing First World War medals, war maps, diaries and other memorabilia belonging to Arthur Hussey. In the garden, a family trail follows Arthur’s dogs, Badger and Pepper, with activities based on what the Hussey family enjoyed doing in their free time at Scotney Castle.
In January, a winter warmer hike takes walkers around the estate to spot flocks of over-wintering birds, mammal tracks, historic landscape features and how to distinguish oak, beech and lime trees from their buds. At the half way point warm up with a bonfire in the woods overlooking the best views the estate has to offer.
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.
Winter warmer hike runs daily from Saturday 2 January to Sunday 10 January, 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm. Normal admission charges apply, booking not necessary.
Arthur’s War and the Badger and Pepper garden trail run until 31 January.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
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.
Created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, the garden at Sissinghurst Castle takes a much needed rest in winter. Climb to the top of the tower for views of the garden’s pink brickwork and linear hedges that form the backdrop to the vibrant garden seen in the summer months.
Filled with dried alliums, flowering bulbs, luscious foliage and bold prints the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition adds a burst of colour to winter’s muted tones. On display in the oast house and tower, the exhibition is decorated by the gardeners with plants from the world famous garden itself.
Restaurant and shop open 10am-dusk between Boxing Day and 3 January. Between 4-15 January the estate is open from dawn to dusk, with the tea room open between 10am-4.30pm. Garden closed.
International Garden Photographer of the Year, daily from 16 January to 28 February, 11am-5pm.
White Cliffs of Dover
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, join a free turn up and go 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.
Coastline and car park open 8am-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.
On New Year’s Day South Foreland Lighthouse and Mrs Knotts tea room are open 11am-3.30pm, last admission 3.00pm.
Don’t forget you can share photos of your own favourite atmospheric winter landscapes and walking adventures with the National Trust:
- On Twitter by tweeting @southeastnt
- On Facebook facebook.com/NationalTrustLondonandSouthEast
- On Instagram by sending photos to southeastnt
For the latest news and updates from the National Trust near you, please visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/southeast