Tunbridge Wells exists thanks to the discovery of the Chalybeate Spring in the early 1600s, but its many aristocratic visitors – including Queen Victoria – firmly put the town on the map and secured it ‘Royal’ status in 1909. Nestled in the heart of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s still gaining fans today, thanks to its buzzy centre, postcard-perfect Pantiles and idyllic surrounds.
A perfect day in Royal Tunbridge Wells
Walk along The Pantiles, the historic heart of Tunbridge Wells. There’s no better way to soak up the grandeur of the town’s Georgian heyday than exploring the colonnaded walkways, lined with boutique shops, and cute bars and cafés.
Have a stroll around the elegant, 78-acre Dunorlan Park, landscaped in the 1860s by Robert Marnock, a prominent Victorian gardener. If the sun is shining, row or pedalo around the boating lake, before taking in the countryside vistas from its grassy slopes with a picnic.
If cake is calling, make a beeline for vintage-themed Juliet’s Café on the High Street – it has the most drool-worthy selection around, as well as plenty of vibrant salads and hearty sandwiches. Feeling fancy? You can’t miss Thackeray’s Restaurant, situated in a historic building once owned by author William Makepeace Thackeray.
Tunbridge Wells is surrounded by some of Kent’s most picturesque countryside. Head out and explore part of the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk. The adventurer’s playground of Bewl Water and Ashdown Forest, aka Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood, are both nearby too.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to cosy pubs where you can kick back with a pint of local ale, but if craft beer is more your bag, try Fuggles Beer Café. It offers more than 120 different European beers – as well as a gin and whisky selection that’s hard to beat.
Explore Scotney Castle, a short drive away. It’s as fairytale-esque as they come, with a turreted Elizabethan manor house and crumbling fourteenth-century moated castle, enveloped in wisteria and roses. It’s also full of secrets and stories: you can spot the ‘priest hole’ where a Catholic priest hid from persecution for seven years during the late 1500s.
Holidaymakers may not head to Tunbridge Wells to ‘take the waters’ these days, but if it’s peace and relaxation you’re after you’ll find it at The Spa Hotel. At this eighteenth-century country mansion, located a short walk from The Pantiles, you can find bright rooms, high ceilings and plush interiors, plus 14 acres of verdant grounds and a secluded lake where you can really get away from it all. Grab a deckchair and get stuck into a book or head to the spa for a steam or sauna, before enjoying a sundowner and a pizza from the outdoor oven on the terrace. From £80 a night.
Hanging around in Kent?
Dubbed the "garden of England" and home to numerous farms, breweries and fishing towns (not to mention all that exceptional greenery across the South Downs and beyond) it's not hard to figure out why the best things to do in Kent are considered some of the most exciting across the country.