Blessed with some of the UK’s sunniest days, our corner of Kent is rich in history, things to do, places to see and plenty of delicious dining diversions. Whether you’re day-tripping or having an extended British summer staycation, start planning your itinerary with our insider guide – and do stop for a visit at Gusbourne to toast your newfound local knowledge.
On two wheels
Ever popular all year round, charming Camber and Rye both buzz with summertime visitors. Scoot past the midday crowds by heading to Winchelsea along the Rye Harbour Route – a breezy journey on an electric bike hired from Martin at Rye Bay E-Bikes. All that pedalling will work up an appetite, and we recommend lunch The Gallivant at Camber, where menus feature the best of locally sourced seasonal produce and the biggest English wine list in the UK. There are rooms too, if lunch tempts you to stay and dine your way through dinner and breakfast as well.
Catch of the day
Take a nostalgia trip to the seaside and go crabbing at Rye Harbour when the tide is slack. If you don’t have your own kit, there’s a shop nearby that sells buckets, nets and line. Reward your hard work with a homemade cake from Bosun’s Bite or, if your timing’s right, a stop at the ice cream van. If rock-pooling’s your thing, check the tide times and head to Pett Level. Muddy but fun (and educational too).
Desert island fish
Camber Sands is the UK’s only designated desert. Once that fact’s sunk in, quench your thirst and satisfy your craving for ultra-fresh fish at the Dungeness Snack Shack. The Shack has its own day boats and their sustainable methods mean the menu changes seasonally and often daily. Fingers crossed for lobster and crab rolls! At low tide, when the sand stretches out for miles at Camber, cinematically magical sunsets punctuate the end of a day well spent.
History buffs and garden fanatics are spoiled for choice here in Kent. Two notable National Trust properties – Sissinghurst Castle Garden and Scotney Castle – make for a peaceful day trip in spectacular settings. Lovers of horticulture will feel right at home at Great Dixter House & Gardens – the former family home of gardener and writer Christopher Lloyd. All three properties have excellent estate walks and are alive with colour in spring and summer.
Full steam ahead
A short drive from Sissinghurst takes you to lovely tree-lined Tenterden, where treasure-hunters can search out something unique in the town’s antiques shops and independent boutiques. Take a scenic journey on the Kent and East Sussex steam train from Tenterden to Bodiam Castle, a moated ruin in the Rother Valley. At Bodiam, stop at The Curlew, where chef Will Devlin serves imaginative dishes created from the very best hyper-local seasonal produce. Expect an impressive selection of local English wines, beers and ciders too.
Rye’s hidden history
“Chocolate box” and “picture-postcard” could have been invented for the charming town of Rye in East Sussex. Narrow cobbled lanes and vine-covered ancient houses transport you to Rye’s medieval past. Start the day with breakfast at Hayden’s, a family-run eco-friendly B&B with a reputation for an excellent Full English. Book a history tour with the Rye Heritage Centre and get lost in fascinating stories. The 15th-century Standard Inn is an inviting historic pub with rooms and was twice named Best Pub in South East England by Camra (Campaign for Real Ale).
With so much wonderful produce here in the Garden of England, there’s some serious fine dining on our doorstep. At Hide and Fox in Saltwood, Hythe, celebrated chef Allister Barsby and award-winning sommelier and manager Alice Busso serve exquisite tasting menus and were recently awarded their first Michelin star. The Small Holding Farm & Kitchen, from the same team as The Curlew at Bodiam, is exactly as described, with daily changing small plate menus and drinks pairings.
Eat, stay, repeat
Just five minutes from Gusbourne, The Woolpack at Warehorne is a characterful 16th-century pub with rooms owned by Michelin-starred chef/restaurateur Mark Sargeant. Here, quirky contemporary country décor meets inventive classic pub fare and sharing boards. Also overseen by Chef Sargeant is Rocksalt Folkestone, where it’s all about the seafood and the views. The Pig at Bridge Place, just outside Canterbury, is famous for its kitchen gardens, 25-Mile Menu and cosy, characterful rooms. Kids will love Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve, a unique opportunity to stay amongst the big cats, giraffes and other animals at home on the Reserve. The hotel’s restaurant offers afternoon teas alongside à la carte lunch and evening menus featuring produce from the onsite kitchen gardens.
All the places mentioned here come recommended by our team at The Nest, who live locally and know just about everything about this wonderful part of the country. Make Gusbourne part of your staycation itinerary and get even more insider tips when you visit us.
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