The National Trust’s Guide to Kent’s Best Wintry Walks
Whether you’re seeking a bracing walk or relaxing stroll around landscaped gardens, naturally rugged outdoor sites, or parkland, wrap up warm this season and follow the National Trust’s guide to the best places for wintry walks in Kent.
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 well into 2015. Experience some outdoor delights from avenues of frost-covered topiary and borders packed with sensational colour, to ice-rimmed lakes, windswept beaches and breathtaking vistas.
There’s nothing like a winter walk to build up a bit of an appetite, so after a stroll, retreat to the cosy interior of a National Trust tearoom for a delicious warming treat. Every penny from your visit will contribute towards maintaining the special places in the Trust’s care.
Spend more time in the garden and studio, or enjoy one of the many estate walks around Chartwell by picking up details outside the visitor centre. Alternatively, visit the winter exhibition, Death of a Hero, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill and his lasting legacy. Families can try out the Life and Legacy trail around the garden, which leads to the exhibition.
Between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, Chartwell’s shop, tearoom, gardens and exhibition are open from 11am-4pm, the studio is open from 12pm-3.30pm, and the house is closed. Death of a Hero runs until 22nd February.
Enjoy the peaceful setting of this romantic moated manor house, with its gardens, orchard, water features and woodland walks through the Kent countryside. Join a Boxing Day or New Year’s Day trek, complete with a tasty breakfast to fuel the informal guided walk through the estate or visit over January.
Between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, the ground floor of the house, garden, tearoom and shop are open 11am-3pm. On New Year’s Day, the garden, tearoom and shop are open from 10am, the house from 11am. The estate is open dawn to dusk daily.
Boxing Day trek and breakfast, 10am-12pm; New Year’s Day trek and breakfast, 11am-1pm. All tickets cost £21.50 per person and booking is essential on 01732 811314.
Whilst Knole’s showrooms close for conservation during the winter months, the parkland is as alive as ever. Choose from a range of downloadable walks that offer glimpses of the resident deer herd, flat routes for relaxed strolls, and a longer walk to nearby Ightham Mote.
Leave the excesses of the festive period behind with a New Year’s Day guided walk amongst the wildlife in its vast medieval park. The walk takes in the beautiful landscape and fascinating history of Knole, before finishing with the chance to warm up with refreshments from the Outdoor Café.
The Outdoor café is open 11am-4pm, and the car park from 10.15am-6pm between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. A free New Year’s Day guided walk runs from 10.45am-1pm (meet at the Outdoor Café), and downloadable walks are available online.
During winter, Scotney Castle is transformed into an almost magical landscape, with frost and ice settling on the moat, plus 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 the visitor reception and explore its marked trails.
Inside the house, don’t miss Arthur’s War, a fascinating exhibition showcasing recently discovered items from WWI, all of which belong to aristocratic, Arthur Hussey.
In January, Scotney Castle’s winter warmer hike takes walkers around the estate to spot flocks of over-wintering birds, mammal tracks, historic landscape features and more. A bonus at the halfway point features a warming bonfire in the woods, which overlooks the best views the estate has to offer.
The estate is open dawn to dusk daily, while the house, old castle and garden are open 10am-3pm (shop and tearoom, 10am-3.30pm) between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
The winter warmer hike runs daily between Saturday 10th January and Friday 16th January, 1pm-2pm. Normal admission charges apply.
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, the gardens at Sissinghurst Castle are renowned for their vibrant planting. During the winter months, the atmosphere is transformed; the pink brickwork and linear hedges reveal the structure that forms the backdrop to the abundant garden seen earlier in the year.
The garden takes a much-needed rest in winter, but behind the scenes winter tours are available daily between 26th December and 2nd January, and run from 11am-3pm.
The restaurant and shop is open 10am-5.30pm between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, while the garden is closed, except by guided tour. The estate is open dawn to dusk all year round. Winter tours cost £6.25 per person, which includes a Gift Aid donation.
White Cliffs of Dover
Enjoy an atmospheric walk along the cliff tops throughout winter and spot some of the visiting birds 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 the lighthouse at 11am. Your guide will cover the history and interesting features of the cliffs, and there’s an option to return by mini bus for those with tired legs. One of the Trust’s most photographed tearooms, Mrs Knotts, will also be serving delicious cakes and more on the day.
The Coastline and car park is open 8am-6pm daily throughout winter, while the visitor centre is open 11am-4pm between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
On New Year’s Day, the lighthouse and Mrs Knotts are open 11am-4pm; last admission 3.30pm. The mini bus service runs every 40 minutes each way, with the first bus from White Cliffs at 11am and the last bus from the lighthouse at 4pm. Additional charges apply for the mini bus (including for National Trust members).