When it comes to romance, Kent has it all. Sparkling ocean views, windswept beaches, cosy countryside boltholes perfect for two and a whole depth of enthralling history and culture to discover alongside fabulous foodie finds.
An array of enchanting landscapes and picturesque scenery forms quintessential Kent in its entirety, a county so diverse in geographical beauty and so rich in character that romance is never far away or difficult to discover. From the chocolate box villages dotted amongst gentle hills and rolling green countryside, to the rugged cliffs and idyllic beaches that make up 350 miles of Kent’s meandering coastline, no matter what sort of scenic seclusion you are seeking this Valentine’s Day, you are certain to find it here in the Garden of England.
One of Kent’s most acclaimed beauty spots is the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A nationally protected area of the county, this natural jewel in Kent’s crown stretches from the White Cliffs of Dover all the way to the Surrey and London border. With ancient bluebell woodlands, a craggy chalk coastline, internationally rare grasslands, and ragstone villages there is always beauty to explore; and this area will always provide a stunning, secluded escape from busy life. The famous White Cliffs of Dover are a magnificent place to start your adventure – especially as 2023 celebrates ‘the year of the coast.’ Also known as Kent’s Heritage Coast, this area was awarded an incredible accolade by Lonely Planet when it reached number four on the guide’s list of places for ‘Best in Travel 2022’.
The Bird Hide (www.bloomstays.com) is a charming base from which to explore the Heritage Coast and White Cliffs. Based in between historic Dover and creative Folkestone in cliff-top village Capel-Le-Ferne, this is not only the perfect Heritage Coast location but also the perfect romantic getaway for two, coming complete with a fabulous hot tub for toasty nights sipping Champagne together. This quirky lodge has been sympathetically renovated to provide a bespoke luxury hideaway for couples. The lodge has a captivating design and interesting features, with handmade bespoke timberwork and bold decorations throughout, with a theme dedicated to the birds of the surrounding countryside. The lodge oozes style and luxury, while being a true escape from busy life set in a wonderfully rural location.
The famous chalk cliffs of Dover provide a vital and no less than magnificent part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and one of the few places to truly appreciate their dramatic appeal is Samphire Hoe. A piece of land created by Eurotunnel during the construction of the Channel Tunnel, great care has been taken to make the landscape of Samphire Hoe fit this striking setting. Today, Samphire Hoe is one of South East Kent’s best areas to see a multitude of wildlife, biodiversity and scenic views. For those wanting to witness as much of the White Cliffs as they can, a walking route can be embarked upon, leading from nearby Dover Castle, through St Margarets-at-Cliffe and into Kingsdown which eventually turns into the pretty seaside town of Deal.
As well as chalk-grassland wildlife and phenomenal panoramic ocean views, this walk will take adventurers past sights of historical significance that pay homage to Kent’s heroic part in World War II. These sights include the Dover Patrol Memorial and the recently converted Coastguard Station, as well as the South Foreland Lighthouse, a Victorian lighthouse built to warn mariners of shifting sands and guide them through the Strait of Dover. After working up an appetite walking this route, stop by another seaside landmark for a well-deserved drink or bite to eat at Deal Pier Kitchen. Not only is this a great spot for observing Deal’s pretty houses that line up elegantly along the seafront looking out to sea, it is also a cosy spot with clear ocean views from which to enjoy their famous steak and lobster on Friday and Saturday evenings, or their brilliant bottomless brunches at weekends.
For those wanting to stay in Deal itself, self-catered seclusion is always an option with locally run, independent holiday cottages agency Keepers Cottages. Keepers Cottages have an array of delightful properties on their portfolio, with plenty being located in Deal. The Blue Lodge, a light, bright, spacious, and beautifully decorated lodge, is the perfect retreat for couples wanting to enjoy Deal and explore this dreamy little portion of the Kent coastline, knowing they can retreat back to comforting privacy at a home-away-from home.
When envisioning a landscape that embodies quintessential Kent, most would imagine something as picture-perfect as The High Weald. Another designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this Kentish treasure represents the county’s countryside at its most idyllic. This medieval landscape of wooded, rolling hills studded with sandstone outcrops; small, irregular-shaped fields; scattered farmsteads; and ancient routeways makes for so much to take in, admire and explore with all its patchwork charm and endearing character full of enthralling originality and extraordinary beauty. An area with such vast countryside and winding roads that lead adventurers into peacefully pastoral surroundings, secluded splendour can very much be achieved here. Wilderness Bed and Breakfast is a true example of this. Nestled right in the heart of the Weald of Kent itself, this bed and breakfast on rambling grounds adorned with beautiful old buildings and orchards, offers self distancing and privacy during your stay. Operating via a self check-in with breakfast being served in your own self-contained area, this is ‘wilderness’ at its best: a secluded bliss.
There is plenty to explore and discover while staying at Wilderness Bed and Breakfast as it is only a short, scenic drive away from the village of Headcorn, the ancient town of Tenterden, picturesque Cranbrook and one of the most famous gardens in England: Sissinghurst Castle. Described as a poetic refuge dedicated to beauty, Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson fell in love with Sissinghurst Castle and created a world-renowned garden in its grounds, a romantic legacy which can now be enjoyed by all, no matter what time of the year they visit. After a morning spent admiring this paradisiacal spot, venture into Tenterden, known as ‘Jewel of the Weald’ to discover its pretty, broad high street lined with shops and houses, nearly all with their original facades dating from 16th to the 18th centuries and giving the town something of an enchanting Georgian feel. Stop by for lunch at The White Lion a characterful English pub with broad oak beams and warm fireplaces, serving up wholesome favourites and hand-stretched pizzas, a great place to provide those cosy nooks and crannies perfect for snuggling up in after a hearty meal.
Sitting neatly west of Tenterden is Cranbrook, the prettiest place to explore upon an afternoon. Winding streets are again lined with quaint weatherboarded shops and houses making an utterly quaint backdrop while adding a real depth of history to any visit. Stop by at The Wendy House for a delicious afternoon tea, or to sample a cake from their delectable patisserie. Although The Weald is best known for its green fields and gentle hills, it is also home to other diverse landscapes and tranquil beauty spots. One of these is Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest the site of a world-leading collection of conifers that provide a beautiful setting for peaceful walks and picnics. Bedgebury Forest also has miles of cycling and mountain biking routes, walking and running trails, making it a great place for those that fancy getting active this February.
Known for its variety of diverse landscapes, Kent is also home to grassy, wet marshlands as well as sprawling green countryside, jagged cliffs and windswept beaches. Perhaps the best place to enjoy the county’s marshes and all the rare wildlife and serenity that come with them is the Isle of Sheppey. Soul searching open skies and orange sunsets await visitors to this English island which is home to swathes of green nature reserves as far as the eye can see. These include Elmley Marshes and The Swale, whereupon a rich tapestry of heritage, from seafaring to Saxons, is waiting to be discovered. More than just a place to lay your head down at night, Elmley Nature Reserve is a place that appreciates the culture, history and natural beauty of the island and is the only nature reserve in the country in which guests can stay overnight.
A secluded chance to let your soul feel really at one with nature, guests can choose to stay in either a calming cottage, a luxurious room in the ancient farmhouse, a cosy shepherd’s hut or cabin, or choose to be in seriously close proximity with wildlife by selecting one of the luxury bell tents. In the evenings, guests are invited to open a bottle of red wine together and tuck into a hearty seasonal dish cooked in Elmley’s kitchen using their own produce while they watch the wildlife settle in for the night from the glowing warmth of an outdoor firepit or comfortable living room. Elmley is also the ideal base from which to go on stunning rambles and experience breathtaking views of the Swale Estuary, a chance to spot rare species and witness all the other surreal sights of this captivating reserve. With a long term vision to restore nature and a commitment to the sustainability of the landscape, guests at Elmley can delight in the knowledge that they too are helping preserve a space for nature. This family run enterprise can be enjoyed by those just wanting to visit for the day too, with safari-style open-top tours and day trips available to book, and the Cowshed Café open to visitors from 9am to 4pm.
During the day, visitors to Sheppey can experience the busy market town and port of Sheerness, or the golden beaches of popular holiday destination, Leysdown. Here island explorers can enjoy windswept walks along the beautiful sandy beach before stopping by for warming refreshments from Neptune’s Beach Café (@neptuneskent) who serve delicious homemade cakes baked fresh every day. This area is so picturesque that famous lover of Kent, JMW Turner, painted scenes of Sheerness and nearby Blue Town, which has many intriguing historical links waiting to be discovered at Blue Town Heritage Centre. Other heritage attractions on Sheppey include Rose Street Cottage of Curiosities, Minster Gatehouse Museum and the Guildhall Museum Queenborough. As well as history buffs, The Elmley Conservation Trust and Raptor Viewing Platform at Capel Fleet give nature enthusiasts the opportunity to watch the array of rare birds who visit the island.