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NEW YEAR, NEW KENT, NEW YOU: EXPLORING KENT IN 2019

When the festive lights grow dim and the chocolate tin sits empty on the side, our thoughts start to turn to the year ahead. Christmas might well be well and truly over but there is no need to hibernate at home – 2019 has arrived and with so much to see and do right here in Kent, its time to get planning…

Do you want to get fit? Spend more time outdoors? Have a digital detox?

We’ve put together an inspirational guide to help you plan your New Year’s resolutions and discover the county of Kent and all that it has to offer in 2019.

Whatever your goal for the year, get out and about in Kent this year and discover something new!

TRY SOMETHING NEW

© Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve

Often we fall into the trap of spending our weekends in the same places, and stuck in the same old routine. If this sounds like you, it might be time to try something new! Kent has a range of exciting new attractions opening in 2019 to shake things up a bit.

Brand new for 2019, Lion Lodge is the latest luxury overnight accommodation at Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve, providing visitors with the incredible opportunity to immerse themselves in the lives of the Reserve’s lion pride. The first of its kind worldwide, Lion Lodge is a stunning Manhattan loft-style building, set within the lion’s natural enclosure, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows so that guests will be just a whisker away from the magnificent lions.

Also new this year is the Mining Heritage Centre at Bettshanger Park, a state-of-the-art visitor centre built on the site of Kent’s last working coal mine. The museum will celebrate Kent’s energy story from coal mining to sustainable energy with heritage trails, a museum, an online mining archive, special talks and events.

And from March, Chapel Down will open the doors of their brand-new Curious Brewery in Ashford, a custom-built brewery open to the public for guided tours, talks on modern British brewing and home to a shop, restaurant and bar.

 

GET FIT, GET ACTIVE

No need to slog it out on the treadmill every night in January; Kent has an incredible range of action-packed outdoor activities to get your heart rate up and lose those pesky Christmas pounds.

For something a little different, take to the water to try kayaking, canoeing and paddleboard experiences on the River Stour with Canoe Wild, or take a plunge at the PADI five-star scuba diving lake at Buckland Lake Reserve where you can see the sunken double decker bus and Falcon jet aircraft.

If you’d rather get fit on dry land, then grab your bicycle (or hire one) and start exploring Kent’s chalk downs and ancient woodlands on one of the excellent cycle routes. Why not check out the Crab and Winkle Way, running 7.5 miles from Canterbury to Whitstable? Or for an adrenaline-fuelled adventure, test out the 13km single-track mountain bike trail at Bedgebury Forest or the exhilarating off-road tracks along the lake-side paths at Bewl Water.

Or for an action-packed adventure, head over to Carroty Wood in Tunbridge Wells, where you can test out your skills on the archery range or the high ropes obstacle course.

 

PLAN A STAYCATION WITH A TWIST

Fancy a fairytale castle weekend? A great British seaside escape? With a huge variety of unique hotels, B&Bs, campsites and self-catered accommodation, Kent has all bases and budgets covered so its time to start planning your staycations.

For a real taste of the great British seaside, head to the Fisherman’s Huts in Whitstable and enjoy a weekend of quirky coastal living. Browse Whitstable’s independent galleries and shops by day, indulge in a Fish and Chip supper on your door step and watch the sun go down over a cold bottle of Whitstable Bay lager.

Alternatively, let your very own fairytale play out as you live like royalty at the Hever Castle Luxury B&B. Nestled in the glorious Kent countryside, this indulgent and luxurious Tudor-style hotel boasts sumptuous fabrics, rich panelled walls, beautiful roll-top baths and crisp linens. Spend your days delving into 700 years of Hever history at the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, taking in the magnificent moats, challenging mazes and award-winning gardens, before heading back to the hotel for an evening of luxury and elegance.

 

EAT LOCAL

Ever-more important and increasingly popular, ‘eating local’ has never been easier with the incredible range of quality food and drink on offer in Kent. Why not swap some of your weekly supermarket groceries for produce from the local market or farm shop, and support your local community at the same time? Perfect for weekend browsing and a fabulous foodie fix, visit the Goods Shed in Canterbury for a daily farmers’ market, food hall and restaurant serving Kentish products with market stalls including a butcher, baker, cheesemaker, greengrocer and craft beer and wine stalls.

The food hall at Macknade Fine Foods in Faversham is also not to be missed. Visit the deli counter housing one of the largest ranges of cheese and charcuterie available anywhere in the UK, and then pop into the café to sample the delicious dishes made entirely with local ingredients. Whilst in Faversham head over to the Faversham Market which takes place three times a week and offers up an array of seasonal fruits and vegetables, quality British meat and freshly baked cakes.

 

MAKE TIME FOR FAMILY TIME

© William Bray

Family life is hectic so it’s increasingly important to set aside time to slow down the pace and focus on your nearest and dearest. Why not grab the whole family and escape to the country for a magical night under the stars at Leeds Castle? Live like a Knight for the weekend in a medieval-style glamping pavilion on the edge of the Leeds Castle Estate, complete with a luxurious four-poster beds, warming wood burning stoves, crisp cotton bedding and snug furry throws. Set in the spectacular castle grounds, you can also enjoy access to the facilities once the castle has closed to the general public – so your little Knights can conquer the play castles in style! Cook your evening feast on the BBQs provided and as the night draws in gather the family round the fire-pits for marshmallows and a special night of stargazing.

 

BECOME A CULTURE VULTURE

We all know Kent is famous for its incredible history and heritage pedigree, but it’s also home to a thriving art and culture scene. If you fancy expanding your horizons and learning something new this year, then head to one of Kent’s fantastic galleries or museums.

Definitely one for the culture list in 2019, the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate is this year’s host for the coveted Turner prize. The prize is one of the most prestigious accolades in contemporary art, and throughout the year visitors will be able to visit the works from the four shortlisted artists before the winner is announced in December.

 

SWITCH OFF AND GET BACK TO NATURE

© National Trust Images David Sellman

Switch off and try a digital detox this year as you get back to nature at one of Kent’s stunning parks or gardens. Turn off your phones, open your eyes to the wonder of the Kent countryside, and indulge in the restorative calm of the outdoors.

With its sweeping parkland and wild deer herd, Knole Park is the perfect location to enjoy a restful day out in the Kent countryside. With over 1,000 acres to explore, it’s easy to stroll for miles amidst the unspoilt landscape – the only interruption being the sight of Knole’s wild deer herd. Alternatively, head to Bough Beech Reserve, a haven for wildlife and one of the most celebrated birdwatching sites in the South East.

 

LET IN A LITTLE LOVE!

Making time for our loved ones can often fall to the bottom of the list, so it’s important to make time for a little romance this year! Keep the sparks flying and the love blossoming at one of Kent’s romantic spots, just perfect for couples.

At Goodnestone Gardens, explore the peaceful grounds, the romantic gardens and follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen who wrote her first novel, Pride and Prejudice, after staying at here. Discover the hidden secrets of the walled gardens and wind around the woodland gardens hand in hand, enjoying the stunning floral displays.

For a real treat and a touch of luxury, head to the stunning Eastwell Manor – a Champneys Spa Hotel situated within beautiful landscaped gardens close to Ashford. Here you can enjoy glorious views of the North Downs and a luxurious Champneys spa offering an extensive range of indulgent treatments. Relax, enjoy, unwind and spend some quality time together.

 

HEAD BACK INTO HISTORY

With some landmark anniversaries and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to make the most of this year, it’ll never be a better a time to delve into the past and celebrate Kent’s remarkable history.

Set within 500 acres of Kentish parkland, a series of special events and activities will run in 2019 to celebrate the 900th anniversary of Leeds Castle. This milestone year will celebrate nine centuries of history and heritage and the castle will be holding a series of exclusive events throughout the year including re-enactments, vibrant carnivals, outdoor arts and a huge range of live performances.

Visitors can also head to Canterbury Cathedral’s Nave Safety Deck this year for the last opportunity to see the nave ceiling close-up. Visitors can also speak to the fascinating conservation team about the challenges of the ambitious project, ‘The Canterbury Journey’, which began in 2016 and includes the repair and re-leading of the Nave roof.

For more information and inspirational ideas for 2019, head to www.visitkent.co.uk

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