'Kent's county town, Maidstone, lies at the heart of the Garden of England. Here orchards and hop gardens surround romantic villages and must-see heritage sights.
This lush landscape is home to captivating Leeds Castle, whose romantic towers and crenulations are reflected in a glittering lake. There's been a castle here since Norman days; today a stroll round its opulent rooms reveals stories of six English Queens, an Anglo-American heiress and one-time resident Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife The glorious 500 acre parkland supplies a hedge maze, falconry demonstrations and the adrenaline-fuelled treetop walkways of Go Ape. You can even sleep soundly amid all this grandeur. The estate's cottages, stables and gamekeeper's house have been transformed into luxury holiday homes and B&B rooms; country-house Chilston Park Hotel is also nearby.
In Maidstone itself, the stables of the 14th century Archbishops’ Palace house one of the town's hidden gems; the elaborate sleighs, sedan chairs and horse-drawn vehicles of the Tyrwhitt-Drake Museum of Carriages. Outside, hop on the Kentish Lady for a scenic River Medway cruise through the Maidstone Millennium River Park to Kent Life where oast houses, historic homes, farm animals and tractor rides provide a lively insight into Kent's rural past. Alternatively enjoy the new traffic free cycle route along the River, covering some 10km, with beautiful wildlife and delightful café’s and rest stops on the way. Why not couple it with a 4-star overnight stay at the nearby Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel?
The Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery has a 2700 year old Egyptian mummy called Ta-Kush, who lies in state within the excellent Ancient Lives exhibition, which is accessible to all and explains the ancient lives of Egyptians and Greeks. There are also outstanding oil paintings, fine items from the Japanese Edo period, inspiring costume gallery, and the story behind the discovery of Maidstone's millennia-old iguanodon; the town's world-famous dinosaur find. Seasonally changing exhibitions ensure that there is always something new to explore.
Indulge in big-brand retail therapy at Fremlin Walk shopping centre, take in a show at the Hazlitt Arts Centre, then select where to sleep. At Tudor Park Marriott Hotel and Country Club, you can drop off in style after an 18-hole game of golf.
Maidstone is the springboard for superb countryside. Hike the chalky ridge of the Kent Downs AONB on the North Downs Way or enjoy the new Augustine Camino Pilgrimage Trail from Rochester to Canterbury, as it sweeps south to Dover. Get green-fingered inspiration at the National Trust property Stoneacre, or sip tea or sup a pint in the picture-postcard villages of Lenham, Marden, Headcorn and Yalding.
Maidstone is the events capital of Kent, so it’s well worth checking out the Maidstone website to find out what’s on. There is a huge range of music from outdoor festivals to quartets, food festivals, air shows and a huge range of family fun in amazing locations.
Discover more at www.visitmaidstone.com