With glorious coastlines and beautiful rural retreats, Kent has something to offer every traveller. Perfect your stay with our pick of the best hotels the county has to offer.
Considered ‘England’s Garden’, Kent plays host to families and day-trippers flocking to the chalk-white cliffs, rolling hillsides and stretches of sandy beaches. Thanks to an outpouring of sea-starved Londoners, there’s been an influx of pretty vintage stores and sleek eateries in the seaside towns that skirt the coastline. But the county has kept much of its traditional charm in the form of grand cathedrals, quaint country pubs and grand manor houses to suit every sensibility. Discover it all, staying at a seafront-facing hotel, grand county pile or even a 12th-century castle.
Each of the quirkily decorated rooms at the Wife of Bath is named a character in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Sir Thopas is a plush super king room, featuring a wrought iron bed and stocked with complimentary sherry and nibbles. The low-slung Cook room, which is part of the cottage annexe, is skirted with foliage and farmhouse features. In contrast to the country aesthetic, dining is centred around vibrant tapas dishes from restaurateur Mark Sargeant. Modern-day pilgrims, in the form of foodie Londoners, take the train from the capital to enjoy bream, dressed fennel, kohlrabi and ponzu dashi.
Go back in time at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge, a minimalist abode in the grounds of the famous cathedral. The 35 rooms in the main lodge have en-suite bathrooms, generous toiletries and tea and coffee facilities, while a muted palette of duck egg blue and pale green keeps the focus on the unspoilt cathedral views. The cooked Kentish breakfast at the Refectory Restaurant, which offers al fresco dining when the weather warms, will satisfy even the most ravenous guests while those with lighter palates can opt for pastries, yoghurts and cereal. Load up on whichever suits your tastes before heading to the Canterbury Cathedral, where entrance fees are waived for guests.
A home-from-home for art lovers, Margate has shed its reputation as a sleepy seaside town, attracting fans of everything from Turner’s traditional landscapes to Banksy’s street art. Sands Hotel caters to this creative crowd with a minimal colour palette, coral lampshades and quirky seashell illustrations. It’s also smack in the middle of the seafront, minutes from prime attractions like the Margate Museum and Turner Contemporary gallery as well as the beach. Margate station is a few paces away, where trains from London pull in every 20 minutes.
Love wildlife? 900 animals (including the almost-extinct northern lynx, leopards, tigers, Barbary lions and Kent’s only spectacled bears) share the leafy 600 acre (240ha) park of Port Lympne Reserve. Profits from Port Lympne Hotel go back to the Aspinall Foundation, so your stay in this country pile helps the futures of endangered animals. You’ll awaken to the resident big cats who snooze just a few minutes away at this stately grade II listed property. Expect vivid murals, cascading fountains, a hippo pool, and sweeping views of Romney Marsh and the Channel. A Moroccan courtyard with glowing antique lanterns provides a sanctuary to enjoy an evening cocktail.
If you’re after a pampering, check in to the Spa Hotel, an 18th-century country house hotel on the fringe of Royal Tunbridge Wells. After a day of stomping the stately grounds, swimming laps in the pool or a back and forth on the tennis court, reward yourself at the spa. It offers a range of classic face and body treatments using ESPA products, and includes a lengthy beauty menu so you can be in ship shape for dinner in the airy Orangery Restaurant. Here, you can feast on time-tested dishes such as smoked salmon niçoise salad and rib-eye steak from the Surrey Hills farm.
Instagram at the ready: the Utopia Spa’s decadent Roman-inspired interior, with its towering columns, sculptures, hanging ivy and warm lighting, makes for excellent photos. Treatments stick to the theme with Ayurvedic and Mediterranean infusions, as well as popular skin-tech sessions including microdermabrasion and light therapy. Elsewhere at the Rowhill Grange Hotel, the popular afternoon tea tea and Bombay Sapphire gin experience comes brimming with candy-coloured confections for you followers.
Craving a trip to the seaside? Bright, airy and charmingly nautical, the rooms at Hotel Continental Whitstable exude British seaside style with a healthy dash of cool minimalism. The family-run beachfront bolthole is a bit of a Whitstable institution , as is the sprawling bar and brasserie overlooking the Thames estuary, where you can sample the area’s world-famous export: oysters. Seascapes stretch out across shutter windows in the rooms with a view which are worth the extra outlay.
Despite being just an hour from London, Hotel du Vin & Bistro Tunbridge Wells is surrounded by well-groomed gardens and Kentish countryside, while charming Calverley Park lies at the foot of the 18th-century mansion. In keeping with an area that colloquially prefaces its name with ‘Royal’, the foliage-clad country manse once played host to Queen Victoria, and today riffs off this heritage with regal flourishes, a sweeping staircase, high tea and heaps of Georgian period features. Lavishly large beds, plumped with Egyptian cotton linen, add to the air of elegance, as do deep roll top baths, REN Skincare toiletries and spectacular views of the grounds.
Planted at the foot of the cathedral, ABode Canterbury deals in a kind of low-key elegance that’s at odds with the more medieval touches, such as the wood-beamed Champagne bar and ancient labyrinthine layout. Its 72 rooms are charmingly decorated with toffee-toned leather, wooden floors and the odd Chesterfield sofa. Supersize beds come as standard, and are teamed with soft lighting, fluffy robes and deep baths. It’s modern and comfortable, but decidedly echoes Canterbury’s ancient charm.
Live like a pig in mud — or impress a date — at the buzzy hotel group’s Kent outpost. The Pig at Bridge Place might be the latest to join the litter, but it’s certainly not the runt. This characterful country pile has all the hallmarks of the trendy chain, so expect the usual rustic touches: rich, romantic interiors, bursting kitchen gardens and heaving menus of hearty dishes so you can eat like a hungry hog. The red-brick Jacobean manor is trimmed with ornate furnishings that belie its history as rock ‘n’ roll haunt that once hosted Led Zeppelin parties.