What does England make you think of? Castles? Lush countryside? Adorably cute historical villages? If this is what you are looking for, then a road trip through the English county of Kent is for you.
Known as “The Garden of England,” Kent is arguably one of the prettiest areas in the country. Here you’ll find the UK’s oldest and most famous cathedrals, castles once owned by Henry VIII, Roman ruins, and tons of those adorable villages we mentioned.
Kent is also close to London, so it’s easy to get to. And, being in the south, the climate is more mild than other areas of the UK. What’s not to love!
This guide includes a 6 – 10 day road trip itinerary through the English county of Kent. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a savable Google Map with the route to use for your adventure.
None of the attractions in this guide sponsor us; we just thought you’d enjoy them too.
The historic town of Rochester was our first stop on our road trip through Kent. With one of the most well-preserved Norman castles in England, an historic old town center, and England’s second oldest cathedral, in our opinion Rochester is sadly underrated as a tourist destination. Plus, its proximity to London, less than an hour by train, makes it perfect for day trips too.
Learn more about what to see and do in our detailed post about visiting Rochester.
Known as “the loveliest castle in the world,” Leads Castle sits on 500 beautifully maintained acres. History buffs will also love that the castle’s 900-year-old history includes England’s most famous historical figure, King Henry VIII.
Today, you can visit so much more than just the castle’s living quarters, the gardens include a large maze, a falconry display, and even Europe’s largest display of antique dog collars. That last one is surprisingly interesting.
To learn more, see our detailed post on visiting Leeds Castle.
The City of Canterbury and the infamous Canterbury Cathedral is a must for any road trip through Kent.
The city itself has a very medieval feel, with crooked Tudor buildings that look like they may topple over with the slightest gust of wind. Though, Canterbury was around long before the medieval ages.
Did you know Canterbury was once a Roman town? Go underground to visit the Roman Museum which gives a unique look at what life was like in 1st Century Canterbury.
See our detailed post on visiting Canterbury Cathedral.
White Cliffs of Dover
Unless you find yourself ferrying over to France, not many tourists find themselves in Dover. However, it’s personally one of my favorite areas of Kent, so I couldn’t leave it off our road trip.
Walking along the towering White Cliffs of Dover, to me, the views feel remote and majestic. Adding to the ambience, wild horses would often greet us on our walks out to the South Foreland Lighthouse. All the while, Dover Castle overlooking us from the hill.
Hythe and Port Lympne Safari Park
The seaside town of Hythe is a popular summer destination for many Britons. Even though we found ourselves there in winter, the bitter whipping wind couldn’t stop us from enjoying the picture-perfect pebbled beaches of this southern shore town.
Next door to Hythe we spent a day cooing over the animals at Port Lympne Safari Park. With 600 acres, it’s nothing like a zoo, rather it’s more of a sanctuary for rare or endangered animals.
Rye and Winchelsea
We break the rules just slightly on this next road trip stop as we cross the border of Kent into East Sussex to visit the tiny town of Rye.
Stuck in time, aged Tudor buildings lean over the cobbled stone streets. Once home to pirates and smugglers, Rye is full of legends, ghost stories and secret passageways.
To learn more, see our detailed post on visiting Rye.
If you can spare an hour or two it’s worth popping next door into Winchelsea. The even tinier town centers around the 13th century Church of Saint Thomas. This is the same St. Thomas Becket you’ll learn so much about when you visit Canterbury Cathedral. Edward I founded the church in his honor.
Royal Tunbridge Wells
Every time we are back in the UK, we have to fit in at least one afternoon tea, and we couldn’t think of a place more suitable than the spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. We reserved a table for 4 PM at the One Warwick Park Hotel. It was everything we wanted, elegant and delicious.
As we arrived in town a little early, we also had a chance to check out the boutique shops in The Pantiles, a Georgian shopping complex.
Finally, we ended our road trip through Kent with a visit to Anne Boleyn’s (King Henry VIII’s second wife) childhood home, Hever Castle. The castle is so well-preserved, they even still have one of the original locks King Henry used for his personal security when staying at the castle.
Oh, and if you are a fan of the TV comedy drama Catherine, based on Catherine the Great, you’ll recognize Hever Castle’s Loggia Pavilion in several scenes.
For more on Anne and our visit, see our detailed post on Hever Castle.
Timings and Road Trip Route through Kent
Below we’ve mapped the cities mentioned in this post for easy access on your trip.
We had ten full days to enjoy our road trip through Kent, so we took things slow. We spent a little extra time in Hythe, spent the night at Hever Castle, and added a night in Hastings in East Sussex. However, the route is easy to do in seven days.
If you’re short on time, you could manage Rochester, Leeds Castle, and Hever Castle each in half-a-day. Though, we feel you’d be rushing.
- Day 1 – Rochester
- Day 2 – Leeds Castle
- Day 3 – Canterbury / Dover
- Day 4 – Port Lympne Wildlife Park / Hythe (if it’s summer, you may want extra time in Hythe)
- Day 6 – Rye / Winchelsea / Royal Tunbridge Wells
- Day 7 – Hever Castle
To use this map. Press the slider in the top left corner to open the list of cities.
To save this map to your phone’s Google Maps account, click the small grey star next to the title. To recall the map later in Google Maps, click Saved, then Maps. You’ll see this map in your list.
As we were coming from Essex, we started our road trip on the northern side of Kent, in Rochester, but it makes no difference to your enjoyment if you started on the southern end with Hever Castle.
Posts Mentioned in this Guide
For more details to help plan your trip, here are other posts you’ll find helpful.