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COUNTY KENT, ENGLAND

Ancient castles, spectacular coastline, royal golf layouts and some of the nation’s finest ales await you in England’s oldest county.

The name ‘Kent’ is believed to be of British Celtic origin, meaning ‘coastal district’

WHEN the Royal & Ancient announced the cancellation of the 2020 Open Championship amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the collective hearts of golf traditionalists sank.

After all, it was the first time the game’s oldest and most prestigious major was set to return to historic Royal St George’s in Kent — the only course in southern England on the Open rota — in nearly a decade. When last held there, Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke famously lifted the Claret Jug, while fellow Irishman, Shane Lowry, remains the current champion.

Yet it turns out the people of Kent will not miss their opportunity to play host again, with the R&A confirming the 149th Open will in fact be held there in 2021.

So with that good news, let’s discover all there is to see and do — from the stunning White Cliffs of Dover to ancient ruins to the home of Sir Winston Churchill — with a visit to the ‘Garden of England’.

Welcome to Kent.

things to see & do

A trip to ancient Kent would not be complete without visiting at least some of its vast number of medieval castles and forts.

EVEN if you arrive in Kent with little knowledge of medieval England, you’ll definitely leave with an appreciation for it.

This historic county houses some of the most renowned castles in the land with incredible, dramatic (and occasionally harrowing) stories from a bygone era, awaiting to be relived.

Some of the more notable worth a visit include:

Leeds Castle, built in the 12th Century and once home to King Edward I (or Edward Longshanks), and to Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII in the 16th Century.

Dover Castle, a 12th Century medieval castle claiming to be the largest in England, built in the garrison town of Dover. The residence also played a critical role during WW2 as a military command centre and underground hospital.

Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn (second wife of King Henry VIII), which now hosts jousting tournaments and archery displays. Open to the public, it has stunning gardens to enjoy, a range of mazes and a children’s adventure playground on site.

Rochester Castle, a ruinous castle dating back to the early 11th Century that played a pivotal role in protecting England’s south-east coast from invasion in the late medieval period.

Add to that Kingsgate, Scotney, Sissinghurst and Upnor castles – to name but a handful — and you’re all set for a royal awakening.

OTHER than spending your time in castles, Kent offers plenty of other activities and sightseeing tours to highlight the culture and wares of the region.

The largest city in Kent, and arguably its most famous, is Canterbury, home to the Canterbury Cathedral – one of the oldest and most famous Christian buildings in the world. Built in 1070, this mammoth Gothic designed building has an incredible history to retell, and it’s one worth listening to with a guided tour.

Perhaps you’re more a literary buff, in which case a tour of the Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs is more appropriate. The site that inspired Charles Dickens to write David Copperfield is now an interactive Dickensian museum set in the Victorian era.

Then there’s always several sites instrumental during the ‘Battle of Britain’ in WW2, including the home of Sir Winston Churchill in Chartwell, a country estate where some of the most significant wartime meetings were held.

the golf

Be sure to pack the sticks for your trip to Kent. These are tracks you don’t want to miss out on.

As FAR as golf goes, Kent is certainly blessed with a wealth of stellar tracks, none more heralded than the inimitable Royal St George’s Golf Club.

Like many of England’s best golf courses, Royal St George’s — host of 14 Open Championships, no less — remains accessible to members of the public for play.

Located in Sandwich, Kent, this classic links layout with majestic views of Sandwich Bay and dramatic undulations across its fairways and greens — and the deepest bunker in championship golf, called ‘Himalayas’ — will leave you awe-struck and hungry for more. Much more.

Lucky for golfers to the region there’s an equally-worthy track up the road. Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club might not be on today’s Open rota, but it did twice host the oldest major, so you know it’s going to be worth teeing up at.

Designed by Henry Hunter and James Braid in 1919, it was restored by Henry Cotton and Guy Campbell in 1946 to the layout we see today.

As pure a links course as you’ll find, Royal Cinque Ports will find a special place in your heart and your memories.

Other courses you should look at playing include Princes Golf Club (absolutely pure), Hever Castle Golf Club (27-hole woodland style holes), Walmer and Kingsdown Golf Club (overlooking White Cliffs of Dover), and Leeds Castle Golf Club (cheap and cheerful).

food & drink

VISITORS to Kent can expect to experience a gastronomical journey with an array of local producers, old style English pubs with local fare, and local breweries and cideries.

Be sure to enjoy an old-fashioned pub meal at one of the historic pubs, like the King’s Head Hotel in Deal, or if you’re looking for more of a fine dining experience, head to Maidstone for some freshly caught local seafood at Fish on The Green.

During September, food festivals pop up across the whole country highlighting local street vendors, local artists and artisans. 

Some of these include the ‘Royal Tunbridge Wells Food Month’ festival, the ‘Deal Food and Drink Festival’ at Deal Castle, the ‘Taste of Kent Food Festival’ in East Malling, Dreamland’s ‘Eat Drink Margate’, the ‘Canterbury Food and Drink Festival’, the ‘Broadstairs Food Festival’ and the ‘Food Fest in Kent’.

Simply put, there is a healthy foodie community throughout the county.

With more than 50 active breweries — the vast number of them micro-breweries — Kent is renowned also for its array of ales, regarded as some of the finest in the country.

Some of the more notable include Cantebrew in Canterbury, a micro brewery with a range of six ales in its ‘The Canterbury Ales’ line (a delicious play on Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales); and Kent Brewery, found in the small village of Birling with a prolific collection of ales and stouts — 25 in all — including a hoppy dark ale, a ginger golden ale, and a glorious oatmeal stout. Ø