10 good reasons to visit Maidstone

With a river running through it, a wealth of historic streets and buildings and some of the best shopping in the south east, our county town is always worth a visit

10 good reasons to visit Maidstone

With a river running through it, a wealth of historic streets and buildings and some of the best shopping in the south east, our county town is always worth a visit

Relax by the river

Maidstone Millennium Park, which runs along banks of the Medway from Allington to Teston Bridge Country Park, has a rose garden, a roofed amphitheatre and was awarded a Green Flag. There’s a natural landscape of woodland meadow, a nature reserve and children’s play areas. Whatman Park is at its heart, with adventure play areas, treetop walks, a skatepark and a river stage open-air performance area.

Dine and dance

Lockmeadow centre is an entertainment venue on the banks of the Medway and has an eight-screen cinema, several restaurants, nightclubs with regular celebrity guest appearances, and a David Lloyd premier leisure centre, which has own cr�che, swimming pool, wet spa area, steam room, sauna and whirlpool. The centre is also home to Maidstone Lockmeadow Market, with general markets, vintage toy fairs, boot fairs and dog shows. 

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Ride Kent’s fastest flume

Maidstone Leisure Centre (0845 1552277) has five swimming pools, with interactive water features, spa pool, the fastest flume rides in Kent, a caf� bar and poolside caf�. There’s also a fitness suite, sports hall, children’s soft play area, and an event hall. The centre is in Mote Park, which has parklands, a lake with swans, children’s play area, a skatepark, football and rugby pitches, plus pitch-and-putt and horse riding facilities.

Explore historic streets

Bank Street still has its medieval street layout, lots of the shops dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries, and on the wall above the post office are four life-sized white statues of important historical figures, set into niches. Gabriel’s Hill is the site of the Civil War’s Battle of Maidstone, and here you’ll find the Golden Boot shoe shop, with a huge sculpture of a shapely boot in gold on the wall above the entrance.

Shop ‘til you drop

Maidstone claims to have the largest shopping centre in the county, half the shops being independent retailers. Bank Street, Gabriel’s Hill and the High Street have plenty of smaller traders, and in the latter there’s Royal Star Arcade (fashion outlets) and the Market Buildings and Corn Exchange (caf�s and specialist shops) plus two huge malls: Fremlin Walk, mainly fashion, with 45 stores led by House of Fraser, and The Mall, with around 60 outlets.

Meet Mummies and dinosaurs

Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery (01622 602838) is housed in what was once the Elizabethan mansion, Chillington Manor. It has more than 660,000 artefacts and displays of fine and applied arts, including Old Masters’ paintings. There’s an Earth Heritage gallery, natural history exhibits, dinosaurs, an Egyptian mummy, and an amazing collection of Japanese art. There are also children’s activities, talks, interactive events and a gift and coffee shop.

Learn about misericords

Described as one of the grandest examples of a perpendicular church in England, All Saints church is a medieval place of worship with a 17th-century memorial to Lawrence Washington, great uncle of America’s first president. It has a Jacobean font, the famous brass memorial to the Beale family, and interesting misericords (timber carvings), as well as the John Wooton memorial, the finest medieval tomb wall painting in England.

Visit the villages

Aylesford is a lovely river settlement with old buildings, notably the Chequers Inn and George House and almshouses, beautiful bridges and Neolithic burial chambers. Nearby is The Friars (01622 717272), a peaceful place with wonderful medieval buildings surrounded by riverside gardens: there’s a book and gift shop, tea rooms and a pottery. Ditton has an ancient church, a nature reserve, and it hosts the World Custard Pie Throwing Championships.

Take in a show

Hazlitt Theatre (01622 758611) was originally the Corn Exchange building and is a traditional proscenium arch theatre that also incorporates the Graham Clarke (art) Gallery. It’s a cosy welcoming theatre with masses going on, including drama, comedy, children’s shows, music and variety, and there’s a bar and refreshment facilities. February evening shows include Comedy Night (1 Feb), Bon Jovi Experience (tribute band) (3 Feb), Rock n Roll paradise (11 Feb), Red Riding Hood (12 Feb) and Dr Phil’s Rude Health Show (18 Feb). 

Glory in a glorious castle

Leeds Castle (01622 765400), rightly considered to be among the most beautiful in the world, was home to medieval queens, and the favourite palace of Henry VIII. There are state rooms, and those reflecting medieval and Tudor periods as well as 500 acres of gardens, an aviary with 100 species of birds, a maze, underground grotto and turf maze, restaurant, huge adventure playground, and toddlers’ play area, and hot-air balloon flights, plus a souvenir shop.

How to get there

Maidstone is accessible from the M20 (junctions 6 or 7), joined by junctions 5 or 3 of the M25. There are three stations: Maidstone East has one-hour links to London, while Maidstone Barracks and Maidstone West also join the town to other Kent places.

Satnav postcode: MW14 1TF