Experience Kent’s seasonal sparkle this Christmas

From farmyard friends to festive fun, superb shopping to sightings of Santa, and wintery walks to wonderful wineries, find it all in Kent this winter

Visitors to the Garden of England will be spoilt for choice when it comes to fun-filled days out this Christmas. And residents will be amazed at just how much there is to see and do on their doorstep this year.

You can reach Kent and some of its most beautiful attractions in less than an hour from London with Southeastern trains, and with discounts and 2FOR1 offers available, Kent is the perfect place for festive day trip or short break from the city.

Take a look at some of the top yuletide events coming up this season. For further inspiration, please go to www.visitkent.co.uk

FESTIVE FAMILY FUN

Experience medieval magic this Christmas at The Canterbury Tales. Step back in time to 14th century England and travel through the medieval streets of London in this much-loved attraction that recreates the sights, sounds and (yes) smells of Chaucer’s Canterbury. The ‘streets’ will be full of twinkling lights and festive cheer this year. On your journey meet Santa’s excitable elf, spot the Christmas Stocking Trail, meet jolly pilgrims singing carols, learn to make medieval mince pies, and meet Santa in his cosy grotto! https://www.canterburytales.org.uk/

Families visiting Groombridge Place this month can enjoy a day full of festive entertainment including; joining the elves on a treasure hunt to find Jack Frost, running through falling snow, writing letters to Santa and making reindeer food ready for Santa’s visit on Christmas Eve. Make sure to stop off at the Elves Craft Workshop and decorate some gingerbread to take home with you! http://www.groombridgeplace.com/

Children and adults alike can share in the Christmas spirit aboard the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway throughout December. After a magical journey on board the miniature railway, guests will see Santa arrive on his sleigh at New Romney and make his way to his cosy grotto. Booking for the seasonal activities is essential at www.rhdr.org.uk

GET YOUR SKATES ON

From 18th November, Calverley Grounds transforms into a beautiful winter ice rink signalling the start of the festive season. Ice skating in Tunbridge Wells returns for 2016 with stylish skating, festive food and drink, music and Christmas cheer. By day or night, visitors can skate in the beautiful splendour of Calverley Grounds’ amphitheatre, bathed in twinkling festive lights. Perfect for a family day out, romantic first date, festive office party or just a great night with friends! https://www.tunbridgewellsatchristmas.com/

Visitors to Port Lympne Reserve will be able to show off their skating skills as the popular visitor attraction hosts its first ever open air skating rink. The rink will be open from 15th December 2016 – 9th January 2017 with skating sessions available every day, except Christmas Day. Skaters can enjoy festive music and warm up with tasty treats available in the Pinewood café – a wonderful way to glide into Christmas. http://www.aspinallfoundation.org/port-lympne

MERRY MARKETS

Escape to a world of Victorian splendour as Rochester transforms for the hugely popular Dickensian Christmas festival from 3rd – 4th December. This enchanting weekend will be packed with traditional Victorian festivities, market stalls, parades and carolling throughout. There will also be plenty of opportunities to head to the Rochester Christmas Market in Rochester Castle’s gardens for a hot chocolate, a mulled wine, and a wide range of stalls for last minute gifts and stocking fillers. The market is open 26th – 27th November, and 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 9th, 10th and 11th December. For more information, visit www.christmasinmedway.co.uk

Head to Penshurst from 2nd – 3rd December, where the village hall will once again play host to the village’s quaint and uniquely charming Christmas Market. Pop along and browse what’s on offer with a glass of mulled wine in hand, to the cheery sounds of Christmas Carols. https://www.penshurstplace.com/

Over at Chiddingstone Castle, their annual Christmas Fair arrives on 26th November. Choose ideal gifts from over 50, unique and hand-picked stalls located within some of the Castle’s historic rooms. To add to the seasonal cheer, mulled wine and mince pies will be available, along with tea, coffee, soup, sausage rolls and cakes in the Tea Room. http://www.chiddingstonecastle.org.uk/

Over in West Kent, the Tonbridge Christmas Festival offers an array of magical events to keep you and the family happy all day and all night on 27th November. The festivities begin with live entertainment on Tonbridge High Street from 2.25pm, followed by the Christmas light switch on. Then snuggle up with a warm drink and enjoy the glorious firework display over Tonbridge Castle with your loved ones.

The Frosted Fairground returns this Christmas at the UK’s original pleasure park, Dreamland Margate. For weekends and school holidays from Saturday 3rd December – 2nd January 2017, The Frosted Fairground will transform Dreamland into a magical winter experience to get you into the festive spirit. Enjoy performances from local school choirs and community groups as well as music on the bandstand, (during the weekends), pop-up panto, carol singing, Teddy and Betty’s Christmas Show and much more. https://www.dreamland.co.uk/

Quex Park’s brand new ‘Spirit of Christmas’ event arrives from 26th November – 2nd January, bringing together three, exciting elements – a real ice rink, Christmas market and the opportunity to visit Santa in his grotto. At Quex, Santa’s grotto is at the top of Elf Tower – reached via the Elf Express and through the chocolate factory and elf workshop. For a really special treat, book online and enjoy breakfast or dinner with Santa before he disappears off for Christmas Eve! http://www.quexpark.co.uk/

HE’S BEHIND YOU

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a family trip to the panto. Head to The Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells between 9th December and 2nd January to join Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs on the panto-adventure of a lifetime. Don’t miss this spectacular production filled with music, dance, fun and laughter for all! https://www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk/

SEASONAL SHOPPING

Has the colder weather and (dare we say it) the start of frantic Christmas shopping got you feeling more frizzled than festive? If so, head straight to Ashford Designer Outlet to get gift buying completely under wraps! With up to 60% off of all your favourite designer brands, you won’t have to look far for presents to rival Santa’s elves! This December, the centre also invites you and your family to visit Santa in his traditional log cabin where he’ll greet you with a warm welcome and a very special Christmas gift. http://www.mcarthurglen.com/uk/ashford-designer-outlet/en/

For a day out that covers all festive bases, head straight for Bluewater Shopping & Retail Destination which offers a fun-filled day out for the whole family. When you need a break from present shopping, visit the centre’s very own outdoor ice skating rink, pay a trip to Santa in his grotto, or head to Hert FM’s The Giving Tree to help spread some joy to families in need. The perfect way to celebrate whilst ticking off those Christmas list tasks. http://www.bluewater.co.uk/

CHRISTMAS AT THE CASTLE

The ‘loveliest castle in the world’ again becomes one of the loveliest places to spend the festive season. Leeds Castle’s Christmas Market arrives 3rd December, bringing with it a splendid array of seasonal gifts, festive decorations, specialist food, nostalgic fairground attractions, and a daily programme of live entertainment. And, if that’s still not enough for you, throw on your hats and scarves, pull on your wellies and take the whole family on a special Beatrix Potter™ themed trail across the castle’s estate! https://www.leeds-castle.com/home

Children and adults alike enjoy a great panto…oh yes they do! This Christmas Hever Castle celebrates the history of pantomime in Once Upon a Castle. Walk through the rooms of the Castle, adorned with beautiful decorations and welcoming log fires and learn about the evolution of pantomime, from its origins through to the well-loved stories and characters that we know today. Follow the snowy Christmas trail and discover the story of Jack and the Beanstalk as you wander through the illuminated gardens as dusk falls. Available Wed – Sun between 26th November and 11th December, and daily between 12th and 24th December. http://www.hevercastle.co.uk/

Take a tour of wonderful Walmer Castle after hours, admiring its rooms decorated beautifully for Christmas. Join your expert guide to discover how Christmas may have been celebrated at the castle when Lord Warden was in residence. Enjoy the festive spirit as rooms are decorated for the season, and the tree glistens under the glowing lights. Pre-book your tour from 13th – 15th December.
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/walmer-castle-and-gardens/

CRISTMAS CARROLLING

There’s no better time to visit the famous Canterbury Cathedral, as the stunning World Heritage site prepares for the Christmas season. Enjoy family carols and charity celebrations in the run up to the big day, and don’t miss the Christmas Carol Service on 23rd December and Christmas Eve. The Archbishop will deliver the Christmas Day Eucharist, and there will be a choral evensong with carols later in the day. www.canterbury-cathedral.org/events

WINTERTIME WARMERS

Take a seasonal look behind the scenes of Kent’s famous Shepherd Neame Brewery on an award-winning Yuletide Brewery & Tutored Tasting at Britain’s Oldest Brewer. Discover a little of the Company’s fascinating history, gain an insight into the brewers’ art and enjoy a tutored tasting and homemade mince pie. The perfect present for your partner, or a pre-Christmas treat with friends. https://www.shepherdneame.co.uk/

Enjoy a day full of festive fizz with a trip to Hush Heath Winery in Staplehurst. The award winning estate warmly invites you to join them on one of two weekends (26th – 27th November and 3rd – 4th December) for a free winery tour to learn how they make their award-winning wines & ciders, followed by a tutored tasting of the Hush Heath range. No need to book, just turn up. Hush Heath will also be offering a fantastic 25% discount on all cases of wine bought from the winery shop on these weekends. http://www.hushheath.com/

For more present inspiration, head over to Biddenden Vineyard’s Christmas Shop to pick up hand-made hampers packed with local produce and, of course, award-winning wines, ciders and juices. Ready stocked or personalised hampers are available, and visitors will also be able to warm up with a mug of Monk’s Delight mulled cider. The Christmas shop will be open until Christmas Eve. www.biddendenvineyards.com

CHRISTMAS AT THE NATIONAL TRUST

Venture to one of Kent’s stunning National Trust properties for some quality time with friends and family, and experience one of their many events throughout the county this Christmas. Head to splendid Scotney for seasonal carolling, follow Knole Park’s brand new deer trail, experience Churchill’s family Christmas at Chartwell, or sit down for a festive feast at Sissinghurst. For more information on National Trust events in Kent this month, head to https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/.

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