What to see, do and eat when visiting Sevenoaks
- Credit: Archant
With a reputation as one of the best places to live in the UK, Sevenoaks boasts a medieval deer park, great schools and a half-hour commute into the capital
With Saxon origins, the small and leafy town of Sevenoaks is one of Kent's most affluent and is regularly voted one of the best places to live in the UK.
Originally part of the Great Manor of Otford, its name comes from a small chapel built in the area around 800AD, surrounded by seven oak trees. Unsurprisingly, the town has been linked with these trees ever since.
Sevenoaks grew into an important market town during the Middle Ages when two ancient roads, one from London the other from Dartford, were merged to form a single route towards the coast.
Two of the area's most historic buildings, Sevenoaks School and Knole House, followed soon after - with the school, founded in 1432, now considered the oldest secular school in England.
One of the most popular pastimes in Sevenoaks is a walk through the vast Knole Park, with its herds of free-roaming deer. In its time the huge house at its centre has been owned by archbishops and royalty, and was a favourite haunt of Henry VIII.
Given by Elizabeth I to the Sackville family, it is still owned by their descendants today, although much of it is now managed by the National Trust. Parts of the building have recently gone through a multi-million pound restoration and the new café is very popular.
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Linked with cricket for centuries, Sevenoaks is also home to The Vine - a cricket ground said to be one of the oldest in England. Seven oak trees were planted on the northern edge of the ground in 1902 to mark the coronation of Edward VII.
Six were blown down in the Great Storm of 1987 but several replacements have been planted since.
Sevenoaks has long been popular with commuters taking advantage of its proximity to the capital coupled with its peaceful country feel. It's a 25-minute train ride into London and offers easy access to the M25, but similarly it's a stone's throw from some of Kent's prettiest countryside.
There are plenty of attractions in the neighbouring villages too. Lullingstone boasts not only the impressive Lullingstone Roman Villa but also Lullingstone Country Park and Lullingstone Castle, with its World Garden. Nearby in Shoreham is The Hop Shop at Castle Farm - famed for its purple lavender fields in the summer.
The National Trust properties of Ightham Mote, Emmetts Garden and Quebec House are all close by too.
And not only is there a wealth of exploring to do at places like Knole and the nearby Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, it also boasts one of Kent Wildlife Trust's biggest and best reserves.
Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve is already a pioneering nature reserve with five lakes, reedbeds and woodlands, but a project to improve it even further, and to build a new nature and wellbeing centre, is under development.
Reuthe's nursery, garden and café, known as the 'Lost Gardens of Sevenoaks', can be found in nearby Seal Chart and is well worth a visit for the green-fingered.
Annual events include The Sevenoaks Summer Festival, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. Held every June/July, it is two weeks of non-stop music, arts and entertainment, held in various venues across the town and kicked off each year with a Festival Fair.
And now in its 18th year, Sevenoaks Literary Festival (21 September-3 October) has attracted another great line-up. Novelists, poets, historians, chefs and singers are all represented and the exciting Young Readers' Festival Day returns for a second year.
Running in association with The Sevenoaks Bookshop, this year's offerings include a talk by historian and TV presenter Kate Williams on her book Rival Queens, poet Lemn Sissay on his memoir and workshops by children's author Harriet Goodwin. Visit the website www.sevlitfest.com for ticket information.
And at this time of year The Stag Theatre is preparing for its wildly popular annual pantomime, staged by the Sevenoaks Panto theatre company each year. This year it's the turn of Aladdin, starring Danny Beard, Ant Payne and Jasette Amos.
Shopping and eating
Sevenoaks has a number of independent businesses, with the likes of The Chocolate Shop, Hoad's shoe store, The Chinaman, The Hardware Centre, Danish Collection, The Clever Dresser, Devine On Dorset Street and the excellent Sevenoaks Bookshop.
Bligh's Meadow shopping centre and the High Street also boast a number of chain stores, including Oliver Bonas, Fat Face, Mint Velvet and Laura Ashley.
A new multi-decked car park was opened this year opposite the leisure centre, adding 480 much-needed parking spaces to the town centre. Venture out of town and the Holly Bush Lane area also boasts a number of small independents.
Sevenoaks has several chain restaurants such as Giggling Squid, Pizza Express, Cote Brasserie, Wagamama and Bill's, plus a huge selection of independent eateries.
Places to try include The Little Garden, Hattusa, Nonna Cappucini's, Eat 'n' Mess, Otto's Coffee Shop, Brisket + Barrel, Dulce's Patisserie, Branded, Ephesus, Marco, Beaux Bagels, Raj Bari and Joseph's Kitchen.
The recently refurbished Wildernesse House in Sevenoaks, which has been converted into luxury apartments, has also opened its impressive new Pavilion Restaurant to the public at certain times.
Sevenoaks Town Partnership is just one of the latest members of the national Refill scheme. With more than 15 local businesses having already signed up as locations providing free drinking water, the town is making positive progress in the fight against single-use plastics.
The Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve and the café at the newly refurbished Bat and Ball Railway Station are just some of the places you can refill your reusable water bottles. A full list of locations across the country can be accessed by downloading the free Refill app (visit www.refill.org.uk).
We are Alain and Dulce Chua. We own and run Dulce's Patisserie in Sevenoaks. We make award-winning French patisserie products such as macarons, quiches, tarts, continental gâteaux and also traditional English favourites like Victoria sponge and carrot cake.
We opened in May 2018 in Bligh's Meadow but prior to this, we spent four years doing Farmers' Markets, foodie festivals and exhibitions across London and the south east. A number of our very regular customers live around the Sevenoaks area and therefore we decided that we needed a permanent home where our customers could reach us and establish a professional kitchen for Dulce to showcase her skills better.
Dulce graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in London with a Diploma in Pâtisserie. Everything is done in the kitchen on site so everything is freshly prepared and made from scratch.
We serve the best of seasonal produce - whether it's strawberry tart or our famous apple cake - and source locally as much as possible. The café seats 28 and we serve very good quality triple-certified coffee and loose leaf tea.
We love the selection of independent shops and the vibrant café culture in Sevenoaks. Knole Park is such a major draw for the town, with its medieval deer park and estate, and Sevenoaks Bookshop is a great place to visit and pick up a book or two.