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Scotney Castle reflected on the water in Tunbridge Wells, surrounded by trees
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 8 best things to do in Royal Tunbridge Wells right now

From cosy pubs to country walks, here are all the best things to do in Royal Tunbridge Wells

Joe Minihane
Written by
Sarah Gibbons
&
Joe Minihane
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Tunbridge Wells is a very, very nice place – so nice that it was even given ‘Royal’ status in 1909 by King Edward VII, because Queen Victoria liked it there so much. Oh, and there was the thing about King James drinking from the chalybeate spring in the seventeenth century, where he said it cured him of illness. 

Now, of course, the Kent town is a booming spa resort, nestled away in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, surrounded by miles and miles of beautiful countryside. Just an hour out of London, it’s become a hot spot for day trips and for chilled-out, slow-paced weekends. So, from fabulous cafés to countryside hikes, here are the very best things to do in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

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At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Best things to do in Royal Tunbridge Wells

1. Walk along The Pantiles

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 these colonnaded walkways, lined with boutique shops and cute bars and cafés.

2. Soak up the vibes at Dunorlan Park

Go for 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.

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3. Stop for lunch on the High Street

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? Check out Coco Retro, an unashamedly old-school French spot with a focus on Parisian and northern French classics, or Thackeray's, a European fine dining spot in a 300-year-old building. 

4. Play Pooh Sticks at Ashdown Forest

Ashdown Forest, aka Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood, was home to Pooh and the gang for a very, very long time. Grab some sticks, head to the little bridge and get cracking. If you know, you know. 

 

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5. Explore Kent's countryside

When you're ready for more, check out the adventurer’s playground of Bewl Water. Tunbridge Wells is surrounded by some of Kent’s most picturesque countryside. Head out and explore part of the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk. The nearby High Weald AONB is criss-crossed with cycle routes, including The Cuckoo Trail and Forest Way, both following regenerated, disused railway lines.

6. Grab a pint at The Guinea

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to cosy pubs where you can kick back with a pint of local ale. Our top pick is The Guinea for a truly old-school experience. If craft beer is more your bag, try Fuggles Beer Café. It offers more than 120 European beers – as well as a gin and whisky selection that’s hard to beat.

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7. See Scotney Castle

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.

8. Sleepover at The Spa Hotel

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, 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. 

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