A picture-postcard Wealden town, Cranbrook is also Kent’s smallest town famed for its early Victorian smock windmill. Ideal as a base for exploring Kent’s Wealden gardens including nearby Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Cranbrook’s main street is lined with a selection of fine food stores, cafes and old inns. Many buildings are timber-framed enhancing further the beauty of this Wealden gem.
Cranbrook’s local town museum is just a short stroll from the High Street, housed in a delightful 15th century timber-framed building. Inside sit a range of exhibits on the local Kent Weald exploring topics as wide ranging as hopping, boot making and rare birds. A selection of artwork by the Cranbrook Colony of Artists are also on display inside. This artist colony settled in the area from 1854 – their paintings depict everyday life and surrounding Wealden landscapes.
Cranbrook’s famous smock windmill – Union Mill is Grade I Listed and the tallest remaining smock windmill in the UK. An iconic building, the windmill sits on the highest point in the Weald, serving a charming backdrop to the town. The Mill was constructed in hard times after the Napoleonic Wars and was operated by a union of creditors, hence its name Union Mill.
Entry is free (donations welcome) and tours take in the incredibly well preserved interior featuring Spur wheel and stone nut driving the stones, meal floor with various bins and magnificent views up into the cap!
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Midway between Cranbrook and Tenterden sits beautiful Sissinghurst Castle Gardens (National Trust). Featuring an Elizabethan tower as centrepiece, Sissinghurst was famously created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson and features a delightful mix of garden styles including rose gardens, cottage gardens, orchards and white gardens.
Don’t miss a climb to the top of the famous Elizabethan Tower for spectacular panoramic views over the gardens and Wealden countryside beyond. Head to the onsite Oast Houses where you’ll find regular changing exhibitions on the history of the gardens, and the fascinating lives of the garden’s creators. The estate covers a huge 450 acres and contains a choice of pretty family and dog friendly trails. A cafe, restaurant, garden and gift shop are all onsite.
Cranbrook and Sissinghurst are easily accessed off the M25 motorway, take the Sevenoaks exit onto the A21, and at Hurst Green exit onto the A229. Alternatively take the M26/ M20 exit off the M25 and off onto the A229 south towards Staplehurst, Sissinghurst and Cranbrook.
Mainline railway stations are at Staplehurst and nearby Tonbridge and Sevenoaks. Your nearest airport is Gatwick and ferry services at Dover, Eurotunnel at Folkestone and Eurostar at Ashford are all within an easy drive.
Where to stay
Here in the heart of the Kent Weald sit some enchanting holiday cottages including a good selection of character Oast House conversions. The Cranbrook and Sissinghurst area also boasts some wonderful old inns with rooms serving fine food and ales.
Stay in a Grade II Listed 15th century cottage with original features or choose a quirky Hop Barn holiday home with beams and views of the Weald. Cranbrook and Sissinghurst are famed for their super restaurants and inns, including AA Rosette restaurants, all ideally close to your holiday cottage. Browse accommodation now in the heart of the Weald – book Cranbrook accommodation online with iknow.