Kent, the ‘Garden of England’ is where to discover some of the most beautiful garden award-winners in Britain. The region features a wonderful mix of large sweeping parkland, garden and wooded estates like Leeds Castle Gardens, as well as some of the UK’s oldest walled gardens at Knole and romantic garden gems like Scotney and Sissinghurst. You don’t have to be an expert to fall in love with Kent gardens – all are welcoming and friendly and continue to delight keen gardeners looking for inspiration, new garden visitors and families. Many like Groombridge with its Enchanted Forest offer the ultimate fun family day out. Most gardens open for the season in April.
1. Groombridge Place Gardens & Enchanted Forest
Groombridge Place Gardens and Enchanted Forest near Royal Tunbridge Wells is one of Kent’s most famous gardens, and an award-winner with a spectacular mix of romantic heritage gardens and contemporary gardens. This famous Kent garden and its central Apostle Walk pathway featured in Peter Greenaway’s 1983 film ‘The Draughtsman’s Contract’. Forest fun and outdoor adventure are also here in the Enchanted Forest with its huge swings, zip wires, mythical gardens and Crusoe’s World with tree top houses connected by rope bridges.
2. Hever Castle & Gardens
Beautiful Hever Castle and Gardens in West Kent village Hever sits just 3 miles to the South East of Edenbridge. A former childhood home of Henry VIII’s wife Anne Boleyn. the gardens at Hever Castle are award-winning and include Italian Gardens and the famous Guthrie Pavilion with restaurant overlooking the lake. A great Kent garden attraction for families with children, Hever Castle and Gardens is famous for its year round events which include fantastic Summer Jousting Tournaments with a costumed Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn often making an appearance! Onsite attractions include an Adventure Playground, Yew and Water Maze, a Lake Walk and rowing boat/ canoe hire. Hever’s outdoor summer festival has also firmly established a reputation over the last few years as one of the South East’s premier outdoor events!
3. Leeds Castle Gardens
Leeds Castle Gardens near Maidstone with its iconic castle, one of the finest moated castles in England, is a spectacular parkland and garden estate covering 500 acres. Magnificent features from lakes and ponds to mazes and grottos, great bursts of coloured Azaleas and Rhododendrons, charming kitchen gardens and big garden draws like The Lady Baillie Garden with its Mediterranean theme are all here. Leeds Castle is a real family favourite day out with a a network of walking and cycling trails, playgrounds, museums, a maze, a Go Ape outdoor adventure centre and punting on the moat. Events and activities are extensive, ranging from car shows and concerts to fireworks, theatre, a food festival and themed walks and tours.
4. Lord Sackville’s Private Walled Garden at Knole
Lose yourself in the 26 acres of Lord Sackville’s Private Garden at Knole (National Trust) in Sevenoaks, West Kent. The legendary ancestral home of the Sackville family and famously Vita Sackville West, Knole’s walled garden is a trip back in horticultural time, and amongst the finest in Kent. Keen fans of Virginia Woolf might spot the influences in the gardens at Knole on Woolf’s classic novel ‘Orlando’. The 200 year old wisteria wall here is the longest in Britain and this is a Kent garden brimming with rare medieval features.
5. Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden at Chartwell
Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden at Chartwell (National Trust) in Westerham, West Kent is not to be missed on any Kent Gardens tour. Chartwell was gifted to the Churchill’s by their children on the event of their Golden Wedding Anniversary. Sir Winston and Lady Churchill’s famous historic home boasts many beautiful gardens, spectacular parkland and lakes, but a favourite with many is Lady Churchill’s stunning Rose Garden, a captivating jewel of a garden with 32 types of yellow and gold roses along The Golden Rose Walk. Churchill himself designed much of the estate’s layout which affords spectacular views across the Wealden countryside.
6. Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens (National Trust) near Cranbrook is probably the most famous garden in Kent. The gardens were created by Vita Sackville West and her husband Harold Nicolson and are a magical mix of Vita’s romantic garden style and Harold’s more ordered classical garden style. The iconic Elizabethan Tower at Sissinghurst is one of Kent’s most photographed landmarks, surrounded by rose gardens, cottage gardens, the white garden and orchards.
7. Scotney Castle Gardens
A fairytale of a garden with naturalistic planting within a wooded and parkland estate covering 770 acres, Scotney Castle Gardens (National Trust) at Lamberhurst are one of Kent’s ‘Seven Wonders of the Weald’. Easily one of the most romantic gardens in the region, Scotney is packed with spectacular garden features from Henry Moore sculptures to 14th century moated castle and lakes. Don’t miss the annual colourful display of rhododendrons and azaleas here!
8. The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle
Award-winning Lullingstone World Garden ranks as Kent’s most unique garden designed by Tom Hart Dyke and laid out in the shape of a world map. This exotic garden is packed with colourful blooms from around the world and makes regular appearances on TV and in the national press. Lullingstone is family friendly with a host of quirky sculptures and activities, themed Plant and Medieval Weekenders and children can find out all out honey bees. Lullingstone’s bee hives are each home to around 60,000 bees in winter and up to 120,000 in Summer.
9. Godinton House & Gardens
Godinton House & Gardens just north west of Ashford is one of Kent’s oldest estates. Gardens here cover 12 acres and include an ornate Italian Garden, a wild garden, Lily Pond, Rose Garden and Walled Garden. Stroll through centuries of garden design here at Godinton, easily accessed just 3 miles off the M20, Junction 9. A great programme of events also feature here from garden workshops and themed days to open air theatre performance. The wider estate covers 900 acres, with public footpaths offering a choice of walks.
10. Marle Place Gardens
Another of the Kent High Weald’s Seven Wonders, Marle Place Gardens and Gallery is a wonderfully tranquil Wealden Garden brimming with colourful Victorian and Edwardian garden features including a gazebo, a beautiful Italianate sweet smelling garden and a fully restored Victorian glasshouse containing exotic orchids. Dating from 1890 and conveniently close to Sissinghurst and Scotney, Marle Place has around 10 acres of formal planting plus many acres of orchard and woodland.