Beautiful winter walks to try at Kent’s National Trust sites
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Counteract all that festive over-indulgence with a winter walk through National Trust-owned Kentish countryside
Chartwell in Westerham is set in glorious countryside that offers several choices for a wintery ramble. One popular route takes walkers up Mariners Hill to admire stunning views over the Chartwell estate and nearby Bough Beech reservoir. Benches dotted along the route allow convenient rest breaks.
Dive into the woods, follow the bridleway and emerge at Chartwell again, ready for tea and cake in the Landemare Café. Or you can book in for Christmas lunch in the Mulberry Room between 4th and 20th December (Tuesday to Friday, 12 noon and 2pm). Just call ahead of your visit. Or enjoy an all-day festive breakfast on 26 and 27 December or 1 January 2019 between 11am and 2.30pm.
Two guided walks take place on Boxing Day and New Year's Day at Ightham Mote in Ivy Hatch. Both start at 10.30am and include a full English breakfast. £21.50 per person (includes walk and refreshments), booking is essential on 01732 811314.
The wider estate at Ightham Mote is open for self-guided walks all year round and the café serves hot drinks, snacks and meals daily (except 24 and 25 December).
The 1,000-acre deer park at Knole is a picture of winter perfection, with glittering frost, dramatic trees and fascinating wildlife at every turn. If you're quiet enough, you may catch a glimpse of some of the 350-strong resident herd of deer. Those wishing to undertake a longer walk can venture further and hike to nearby Ightham Mote. The cosy café at Knole provides walkers with hot drinks and refreshing snacks.
Visit Brewhouse Café for a cream tea after your walk to recharge your batteries and relax.
In winter the home of Vita Sackville-West is surrounded by frost-covered woodland and farmland, frozen lakes and winter foliage. Climb to the top of the tower to enjoy views over Kent and see the garden design, with its exposed pink brickwork and box hedges, laid bare.
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From 2nd to 23rd December, Sissinghurst visitors can enjoy delicious and inventive two or three course festive lunches. Start with a port and chicken liver pâté with rosemary and garlic toast before moving onto a main of traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings and finish with a dessert such as Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. This festive lunch is perfect to finish off a morning walk around Sissinghurst.
This famous clifftop walk is transformed in winter. Frost covers the ground in the early morning and winter visiting birds add continual interest as they feed over the grassland.
To refuel after your blustery clifftop walk, there are a couple of tea room offerings, including Mrs Knotts tearoom at South Foreland Lighthouse which will open between Boxing Day and 1st January from 11am to 3pm. Enjoy the 50s style decor as you pause for a well-earned break.
At Emmetts Garden in Westerham a fun family trail is running every day between 30th November and 5th January (except 24th and 25th December). Discover tales of fairy folklore as they open their doors to visitors for this one chance, at just £1 per trail (suitable for ages two to 10). Emmetts Garden is a haven of tranquillity all year round but especially in winter, where the bare branches of the trees frame far-reaching views and the beautiful hilltop garden starts to reveal the first signs of the spring growth to come.
For a more ambitious walk, download the directions for the five-mile Weardale Circular route that takes you to Toys Hill and down the valley towards Chartwell. Or follow either of the east or west Octavia Hill centenary trails, named after the National Trust's founder.
For curious children looking for something a bit different to do, come to Scotney Castle, where a special Noah's Ark trail awaits.
Running until 5th January, the trail takes visitors around the garden to hunt for animals hidden in the undergrowth.
Then drop into the mansion to see the beautiful Victorian Noah's Ark on display that inspired the trail and entertained generations of children at Scotney Castle. Trail costs £2 per person.
More intrepid explorers can enjoy a longer hike around the surrounding estate at Scotney Castle, which takes in a variety of countryside habitats including hop fields, woodlands and parkland. You can download a route map from the National Trust website and don't forget to visit the tea room afterwards for a warm pick-me-up.
Make sure you take a map or GPS device on your wintery walk and dress to suit the weather conditions. Wear stout winter footwear to guard against slipping on frozen patches and do pack a drink and some small snacks.