Historic county town Maidstone in the heart of Kent sits alongside the River Medway and features some of region’s most acclaimed museums, galleries and attractions in and around the centre. This is one of Kent’s ancient centres and beautiful for it boasting numerous historic buildings including the magnificent Archbishop’s Palace dating from the late 14th century, once part of the vast manor owned by the Archbishops of Canterbury.
The town is a bustling cultural and business centre containing superb theatre and arts centres like the Hazlitt Theatre & Exchange named after the famous Essayist William Hazlitt who was born in Maidstone. Hop aboard a boat trip along the Medway for some of the best views and see one of Kent’s best collections of art and ancient treasures at the Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery housed within an Elizabethan manor house.
Visit the Maidstone Carriage Museum to see a superb collection of over 60 heritage horse-drawn carriages, a bequest from the quirky collector Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake who began collecting and preserving carriages when he saw they were being replaced by the motor car. This fascinating museum is appropriately housed within the old 14th century stables of the Archbishop’s Palace.
Kent Life Rural Museum
The family fun Kent Life rural museum experience near Maidstone sits just off the M20, junction 6, covering around 28 acres of the Cobtree Estate which like Maidstone’s carriage collection was bequethed by Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake, 12 times Mayor of the town.
A working heritage farm packed with great activities and interactive play for children, Kent Life has several white topped Oast Houses offering an opportunity to take a tour inside these former hops storage buildings. Trails, tours, craft shops, galleries, cafes and year round events are all on offer here. The museum is also accessible via a boat trip along the Medway from Maidstone town centre
Set within 500 acres of stunning parkland, Leeds Castle is famously one of Kent’s most beautiful country estates. Easily reached and clearly signposted off the M20, junction 8, Leeds Castle hosts events and big name concerts, and offers a wide range of attractions including hot air balloon trips, arts and crafts shops, a maze, an Aviary, a golf course, fine cafes and restaurants and acres of beautiful grounds and gardens.
Moated Leeds Castle has stories to tell stretching back centuries. The castle has been a Saxon Manor, a Norman Stronghold, a Royal Residence to several Medieval queens and in the 20th century a country retreat remodelled by the Anglo-American Heiress Lady Baillie who installed a cinema, swimming pool and tennis courts. The castle’s historic links with famous women have earned it the nickname ‘Lady’s Castle’.
Maidstone sits just off the M20 motorway, accessible from junctions 5, 6, 7 and 8. Dover ferry services are just 41 miles away and Eurotunnel at Folkestone just 36 miles from the county town. Maidstone also benefits from two railway stations both just a short walk from the High Street in the centre. Maidstone East connects the town to London and Ashford/Eurostar whilst Maidstone West has fast rail links to and from closest airport Gatwick.
Where to stay
Whether it’s a welcoming B&B in Maidstone town centre or a pretty holiday cottage on the town’s outskirts close to country walks and attractions, find it here with iknow. For a luxury break, why not choose an elegant country house hotel with leisure facilities, golf course and spa or opt for a family friendly and pet friendly holiday cottage with large garden ideally placed for exploring the Kent Life Museum and Leeds Castle.
Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.