Guide to an English country break in Dartford: Dartford offers all of the trappings of a traditional countryside break, despite being just 17 miles away from central London. Roman ruins, rolling hills, and huge estate houses offer the perfect backdrop for a relaxing family trip. There are lots to see and do in Dartford, but these recommendations are truly unmissable.
What to do
Award-winning Lullingstone Castle is a must-visit. While the building is interesting in itself (it was one of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s many holiday homes) the real draw is the castle’s World Garden. It’s the first of its kind in the UK, with plants sourced from across the globe grouped together by country. Children can take part in the Plant Hunter Quiz, or entertain themselves by spotting sculptures like Colin the Cobra.
Dartford is built on the ancient Roman road connecting London to Dover, and you can learn about the area’s Roman origins at the Lullingstone Roman Villa. The excavation is one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Britain. There are plenty of interesting artifacts to look at, and plenty of Roman-themed activities to keep children entertained.
Eagle Heights Wildlife Park is one of the biggest bird of prey centers in the UK, and makes for a great day out. The park has birds of prey flight displays twice daily on weekends and school holidays, at 12:00 pm and 3:30 pm. The park also has a small zoo with cheetahs, snakes, and meerkats: and is running a huskie “meet and greet” session during the autumn. Entry is £9.00 for adults and £5.50 for children.
Blow away the cobwebs with a walk in the Darent Valley. The Darent Valley Path runs for 19 miles, so little legs might find it tough to do it all in one go. Instead, choose a small section of the walk; remember to pack a picnic.
Where to stay
The Thistle hotel in Dartford makes a perfect base for exploring the Kent countryside. As well as being in a great location on the outskirts of Dartford town, the hotel boasts plenty of amenities so you can enjoy your time relaxing as much as your time exploring. There’s a swimming pool for kids to splash about in, and a contemporary restaurant offering delicious meals for those evenings where you’re too tired to head into town.
All the usual kiddy-friendly places can be found in nearby Bexleyheath, which boasts a Frankie & Bennys, a Pizza Hut, and a Pizza Express. For a great Sunday lunch, you can’t look past The Chequers pub and restaurant in Darenth. It’s a traditional British pub, with no trendy trappings, but it has a great atmosphere and great food and is considered by locals to be one of Kent’s hidden gems.
When to go
Like the rest of Britain, Dartford is at its best during the summer months (May to September) when you’re more likely to get a bit of that famous English sunshine. During the summer there are plenty of festivals on, and in recent years local groups have been performing Shakespeare plays in the park.
Although the surrounding countryside looks beautiful during autumn and winter, many of the National Trust buildings close for the season. You can still have a very enjoyable holiday, of course, but if you want to visit sights like Lullingstone Castle it’s better to visit during the warmer months.
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