10 reasons to love Tonbridge

A view of Big Bridge showing some of the many new builds that have sprung up alongside the Medway (p

A view of Big Bridge showing some of the many new builds that have sprung up alongside the Medway (photo: Emma Stokes) - Credit: Archant

Head to this revitalised town for its fascinating history, exciting events and blossoming foodie scene

Haysden Country Park is loved for its walks and series of beautiful lakes (photo: Emma Stokes)

Haysden Country Park is loved for its walks and series of beautiful lakes (photo: Emma Stokes) - Credit: Archant

1. Fit for foodies

Tonbridge has become a foodie paradise, with restaurants, bars, coffee shops and cafés springing up all over town. Look out for pop-up food events at the Old Fire Station and check out Fuggles Beer Café, Havet, The Gate House, Gurkha Planet, Finch House, The Bakehouse at 124, Basil and Saltwaters fish and chips. Taking over the former Graze site by Big Bridge, ‘green kitchen’ and wine bar Verdigris was on the verge of opening as we went to press. And don’t miss the award-winning Tonbridge Farmers’ Market on the second Sunday of every month.

The Bakehouse at 124 is Grade II listed and housed in Tonbridge's second-oldest building (photo: Emm

The Bakehouse at 124 is Grade II listed and housed in Tonbridge's second-oldest building (photo: Emma Stokes) - Credit: Archant

2. Life on the river

If you’re driving through Tonbridge its natural riverside setting can be overlooked, as the High Street passes right over the narrow River Medway. So park the car and explore the unseen side of town by boat. Tonbridge River Trips is based beneath Big Bridge and offers rowing boats for hire and an electric launch, Enid May, which takes up to 12 passengers on short river cruises and longer wildlife trips.

www.tonbridgerivertrips.co.uk

Big Bridge, with glimpses of the Castle in the background and the Medway beneath (photo: Emma Stokes

Big Bridge, with glimpses of the Castle in the background and the Medway beneath (photo: Emma Stokes) - Credit: Archant

3. King of the castle

The heart of Tonbridge is its ancient castle. One of the UK’s best examples of a motte and bailey, with its 13th-century gatehouse it sits in a commanding position overlooking the river. Visit the castle today to learn about what life would have been like and take an audio tour of the buildings. Don’t miss Castle Lawns; concerts, film screenings and events are held on this natural stage throughout the year.

www.tonbridgecastle.org

Tonbridge Castle is one of the best examples of a motte and bailey castle in the country (photo: Emm

Tonbridge Castle is one of the best examples of a motte and bailey castle in the country (photo: Emma Stokes) - Credit: Archant

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4. Summer swims

Tonbridge boasts one of only a few outdoor swimming pools in Kent, with the bonus of being able to swim both indoors and out, thanks to interconnecting pools. A particularly popular spot for families, on a hot summer day you could be fooled into thinking you’re on holiday. The first outdoor pool here opened in 1910 and in 1996 was joined by the rest of the indoor leisure complex, offering three indoor pools: lane swimming, teaching pool and a toddler pool.

You’ll spot many colourful barges tucked in on the River Medway (photo: Emma Stokes)

You’ll spot many colourful barges tucked in on the River Medway (photo: Emma Stokes) - Credit: Archant

5. Step back in time

As well as exploring the castle, look out for Tonbridge School, which dates back to 1553, and churches including the Victorian Gothic St Stephens and the ancient parish church of St Peter and St Paul. There are many links between the town and Jane Austen, whose father George was born in Tonbridge in 1731. Take a 2.4 mile circular Jane Austen Walk around the town to uncover more of the story. Download a map at www.explorekent.org or pick up an audio guide from newly refurbished Tonbridge Library.

6. Green scene

Plentiful green spaces range from the quiet reflection of Tonbridge Memorial Garden to the wide open space of the Racecourse Sportsground. To the south of town lies Haysden Country Park; 165 acres of woodland, marshland and lakes offering sailing and angling.

7. Independent

Tonbridge is rightly proud of its independent retailers and the active Town Team runs a popular reward card scheme, with many local businesses signed up. Shops to look out for include Mr Books, gifts, wine and spirits at Gorgeous George, Ian Chatfield butchers, Sankeys fishmonger, ArtSpring gallery and Bea children’s store.

8. Fun for the family

Leisure facilities for active families include trampoline park Jump In, with 120 trampolines, dodgeball and battle beams. Nearby is Clip ‘n’ Climb, where climbing walls and activities are laid on for kids aged four and above. Or enjoy crazy golf at Mr Mulligans Dino Golf.

9. Play’s the thing

If you’re into your arts and culture, Tonbridge boasts two theatres to choose from. The EM Forster Theatre is based at Tonbridge School (Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales, 24-25 July) while the home of popular amateur dramatics group, The Oast (The Ladykillers, 21-28 July) is on the way to Hildenborough.

www.boxoffice.tonbridge-school.co.uk, www.oasttheatre.com

10. Fun events

Many fun events are held throughout the year and this month sees Tonbridge Castle Music Weekend (6-7 July) and Luna Cinema’s outdoor screenings of Gladiator, Pretty Woman and The Greatest Showman (20-22 July), both held in the grounds of the castle. Look out for jazz concerts, live theatre, food festivals, the Medieval Fair and Heritage Weekend (8-9 Sept), when the popular annual Dragon Boat Race on the Medway is a highlight on the Sunday.