The east of southern England – the county of Kent in particular – is referred to as the “garden of England”. As soon as you approach London from above you will be able to confirm this immediately on a beautiful day from above. Once you are on the road, in many areas you actually feel like you are in a huge garden. Then there are the real “gardens” – these magnificent places where you can spend hours and be impressed by ever-changing views. Non-garden lovers can also be inspired especially by the typical landscape gardens, quasi-designed landscapes. Even without gardens, the east of southern England, with its counties of Kent, East Sussex and West Sussex, is incredibly beautiful and worth visiting.
The starting point is London’s Gatwick Airport, which is served by Easyjet from many countries. This means you’re immediately in the area where you want to be – without any motorway stress on the M25 around London.
We suggest to go first to Petworth, located in the South Downs National Park. This is a wonderful starting point with Petworth House and Park, but especially the huge Petworth Park (admission free, but observe opening hours). This gives you a great start to your visit.
We continue to Arundel via Chichester with its beautiful old town . The village of Arundel is situated on the hillside and is dominated by its castle, which includes a very beautiful garden. A walk along the river Arun completes the visit.
It changes to a more urban lifestyle in the seaside resort of Brighton, which is still more or less fondly remembered by countless students from language trips. The somewhat sloping Royal Pavilion is worth seeing, as is the seafront promenade with its magnificent old hotels and pier.
Let’s take a short detour inland and visit Wakehurst Place (a mansion an wonderful garden) at Heyward’s Heath and Borde Hill Garden near Lindfield with its incredible bluebell fields in the spring. Not far away is Sheffield Park, a landscape garden that is particularly worth seeing – especially in spring, when the rhododendrons protrude into the park’s lakes as huge trees!
Back towards the coast we will definitely make a stop at Lewes. The ruins of the castle are worth seeing, but also without question “Harvey’s Brewery“, a beautiful old brewery in the middle of the village with its own restaurant for tasting all the good beers. In addition the 15th century bookstore with its open displays should be visited. Through the foothills of the South Downs we continue to the Cuckmere Valley. First you pass the white horse – a huge chalk drawing in the hills – and then make a detour into the picturesque Alfriston.
Look out on your way to the coast as you drive through Litlington, where there is a magnificent Litlington Tea Garden very hidden. Be sure to go there for afternoon tea and refreshments!
Now we come to a highlight of our journey: the Seven Sisters, fantastic white chalk cliffs, which represent an incredible contrast to the blue sea. It is worth going a hike both below and up on the rocks from the car park, but take care as there are no safety barriers!
A little further in the direction of Eastbourne we find Birling Gap, which offers a great view and a comfortable descent from the cliffs down to the beach and the view from Beachy Head is a small highlight. From there, the fashionable seaside resort of Eastbourne is already visible. Passing Hastings we move to nearby Battle, where the battle so important to English history in 1066 took place and then further on to Rye. This beautiful medieval town with its cobbled streets is absolutely quiet and worth visiting, especially in the evening after the crowds of tourists have left! The Town is worthwile as a base for a few days stay.
Rye itself is right on the edge of the Weald which is a landscape of special beauty. In the middle of the Weald is Tenterden to be found. A nice small town where the steam trains of the “Kent & East Sussex Railway” start to their journey to the remarkable ruins of Bodiam Castle. In any case, the whole of the Weald is very worth exploring and has many nice little villages, such as Goudhurst for example.
Here you can find Sissinghurst, the famous garden of the author Vita Sackville-West. Be careful: at certain times the garden is very crowded with tourists!
By the way: Would anyone have ever thought that white wine is grown in England? On top of that it is vinified into a very low-acid wine. If you don’t believe it, the Biddenden Vineyards are recommended for your own tasting.
We drive back to the coast – well almost, because in the middle of the marshland is New Romney, the hub of the “Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway“. This is a 1:3 scale steam train that connects the towns in the marshland to the beach as a form of public transport.
From here it is not far to Folkstone and Dover, where the ferries depart to France. We’ve seen the white chalk cliffs at the Seven Sisters – and believe us: they’re much more impressive and beautiful than these in Dover!
A highlight of the trip is certainly the ancient archbishop’s town of Canterbury with its truly impressive cathedral and more than inviting interior. Now we move west again and only about 10 km away from Canterbury is the village of Chilham. Tiny, but with small cottages, half-timbered houses and a small village square so typical of the area!
A little further on we reach the north of the Weald and visit Royal Tunbridge Wells, a small town with a spa promenade lined with arcades and trees and the beautiful old grain exchange (today, among other things, a café). Groombridge Park is also a very popular garden. Via the nice town East Grinstead we come back to Crawley and to Gatwick Airport.
For this trip you should calculate at least 12 days.
Here are some places on this the tour:
Arundel, West Sussex, England
Alfriston, East Sussex, England
London Gatwick Airport
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