5 of the best romantic walks to experience in Kent
- Credit: ©National Trust Images/Jo Hatche
Enjoy these five romantic walking spots in Kent, together they span our glorious county at its finest
Romance has long been in the air at this ruined 14th-century moated castle which sits on an island upon a lake. Edward Hussey III built the ‘new castle’ (a country house) and the surrounding landscape in the 19th century.
The last member of the Hussey family to live here was Christopher Hussey, who proposed to his wife-to-be, Betty (Wallis Simpson’s niece), in the castle gardens. After they wed in 1936, they inherited Scotney, where they lived until their deaths. This National Trust castle is surrounded by a vast estate, which encompasses 770 acres of ancient parkland and woods containing veteran trees. Explore the fairytale gardens, and enjoy the two-mile trail around the parkland.
Dogs: Welcome on a lead
One of the biggest shingle landscapes in the world, the Dungeness National Nature Reserve has an enchantingly rugged beauty.
This rare habitat of shingle ridges, built up over 5,000 years, attracts a wealth of wildlife and 600 species of plants; and has such low rainfall that some refer to it as the UK’s only desert. The flatness and size of the landscape creates a seductive sense of seclusion and freedom, and the echoing quality that amplifies sounds has an eerie magic.
Scan the skies for birds of prey, such as Peregrines, Merlins and Marsh harriers; and enjoy the sight of Bewick’s and Whooper swans. You can walk for miles, from the car park opposite the old lighthouse.
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Dogs: Allowed on the wider NNR, but not the RSPB area.
Stride around the 1,000-acre medieval deer park, before enjoying the showrooms of the house and discovering the romantic history of Knole. The writer and gardener Vita Sackville-West was born here in 1892 and married Harold Nicholson in the private chapel in 1913, before going on to have a series of affairs with women.
Vita dearly loved Knole, but was unable to inherit because it was entailed to the male line. The novel Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s literary dedication to her friend (and former lover) Vita, is in part inspired by Knole; Vita’s son Nigel Nicholson described it as ‘the longest and most charming love-letter in literature’. The original manuscript – inscribed ‘Vita, from Virginia’ – is kept in the house.
Dogs: Welcome on a lead, if they do not bark at the deer.
4. Blean Woods
Enjoy peaceful trails of between 2-13km (1.25-8 miles) amid this RSPB-managed ancient woodland. During winter, keep eyes and ears alert for Goldcrests, Sparrowhawks, Treecreepers, and Long-tailed Tits.
As spring arrives, with it come the Nightingales – these small birds fly annually from Africa to breed in the UK; the male birds arrive first to build a nest, and then set about the business of luring a mate. They famously do this by singing at night (but they also sing during the day); the song is an enchanting series of high and low peels, warbles and rasps.
Nightjars also arrive in spring; these winged romantics are known for their long, mesmeric churring call, which the male birds sound at night to attract the females.
Dogs: Welcome on the White Trail.
Winston Churchill lived here with his wife Clementine and their young family from 1922. Perhaps because of his struggles with depression, the couple were said to have had a very close, devoted relationship and he dearly loved this country home, which provided him with a family sanctum away from public life.
However, Churchill also liked to entertain and relished taking guests on tours of the gardens, most of which he and Clementine created. Explore the house and the studio (where a collection of Churchill’s own paintings are on display) then set off on walks around the estate.
There are several short circuits, but if you fancy a long stroll, there are 8 km (five-mile) and 9.6 km (six-mile) routes that link to Toys Hills.
Dogs: Welcome on leads.