Located on the border of Kent and East Sussex in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Barnfield House an excellent base for exploring Southeast England. A short walk away is Hawkhurst, a pretty Kent village with a Victorian colonnade with speciality shops, the Kino digital cinema, Waitrose and Tesco supermarket sand a number of pubs. Within easy reach are world-famous gardens, centuries-old castles, historic houses and heritage sites, fabulous beaches, and lots of fun-filled family attractions and activities — plenty to keep all the family amused throughout your stay. You’ll find lots of information on what’s on and where to go at www.explorekent.org and www.visitkent.co.uk.
Here, we share with you some of our favourite things to see and do in our beautiful corner of England (in no particular order).
The 14th Century Bodiam Castle is just what you’d imagine a medieval castle should be: four castellated towers complete with arrow slits reflected in the encircling moat, further protected by a portcullis, and in a fairy-tale countryside setting. One of the most photographed castles in Britain today, this National Trust site is only five miles from Barnfield House. There’s a busy calendar of activities at Bodiam during the school holidays, from archery to falconry to medieval battle enactments. And getting there can be as adventurous as you want. Arrive by car, or by steam train from Tenterden or Northian (Kent & Est Sussex Railway), or by boat along the River Rother (Bodiam Boating Station).
“A place of pilgrimage for horticulturalists. from across the world”, Great Dixter is a riot of colour in the summer months, but is fascinating any time of the year. You can also visit the Tudor house, extensively restored by Edwin Lutyens. Allow time for a tea break in their enchanting garden cafe. And do check out their events calendar of talks, tours and workshops.
Camber Sands is a lovely place to experience a typical day at the seaside. Just half an hour from Barnfield House, this miles-long beach of golden sand is gorgeous in all seasons. Enjoy bracing winter walks along the promenade, or on the beach at low tide. In Summer, kids love building sandcastles, paddling in the shallow water, and exploring the sand dunes. And there’s excellent kite surfing for the water sports enthusiast. Kent and East Sussex offer many more beaches, and this is among our favourite.
On the way to the beach, do visit Rye, and explore the maze of cobbled lanes lined with medieval, Tudor and Georgian buildings (many now pubs and tearooms). We also recommend that you take a short detour to Winchelsea, one of the Cinque Ports built in the 13th Century, once a medieval hub for the wine trade — you can book a tour of the medieval cellars in the summer —and now the smallest town in England to have its own mayor.
Barnfield House is an excellent base for exploring the beautiful villages of the High Weald. Within walking distance is Hawkhurst, with its Grade II listed Victorian shopping colonnade. Four miles away is Cranbrook, with its 15th century cottages, and the tallest working windmill in England. Glorious countryside drives reveal more picturesque villages with quaint tearooms, cosy pubs, pastoral settings and poetic names that roll off the tongue – Biddenden, Beneden, Rovenden, Tenterden. Plus lots more ‘hursts’ (meaning wooded area) such as Goudhurst, Lamberhurst, and Sandhurst.
Why not book a private tour and wine tasting experience at a local vineyard? Many are award-winning, producing sparkling and still wines that punch way above their weight in both national and international markets. Some of the best are no more than 13 miles away…and you could even book a taxi in anticipation of the tasting! Or book a private tour with Vine & Country Tours and enjoy a day exploring off-the-trail vineyards with experts.
Pint-sized and picture-perfect.
country house, moated castle and wooded estate.
Built by Henry VIII to guard the port of Rye.
900 years of history and 500 acres.
Childhood home to Henry VIII’s Ann Boleyn.
England’s 1st line of defence for a thousand years.
Jacobean house, home of Rudyard Kipling.
Victorian actress Ellen Terry’s 16th century house and cottage garden.
Lamb House Rye
Georgian house with literary associations.
medieval yeoman’s house and garden.
14th century moated manor house.
Old Soar Manor
remans of a 13th Century knight’s dwelling.
historic house and 1,000-acre wild deer park.
Alfriston Clergy House
medieval thatched Wealden hall-house.
family home of Sir Winston Churchill,
Childhood home of General James Wolfe, victor of the Battle of Quebec
the ruins include much of the 13th to 15th-century church, the chapter house, and a picturesque 14th-century gatehouse.
site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, and one of England’s most significant historic sites.
One of the oldest and most beautiful villages in Kent.
Coldrum Long Barrow
created 1,000 years before Stonehenge
Gardens & Parks
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
renowned gardens created by Bloomsbury poet Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson.
Pashley Manor Gardens
Renowned for their displays of tulips, roses and dahlias.
Great Dixter House & Gardens
“A place of pilgrimage for horticulturalists” from across the world.
a 19th Century garden high in the Kent Weald with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside
Sheffield Park & Gardens
historic parkland, woodland and landscaped gardens.
A 16 acre garden with formal, walled, meadow and woodland areas, noted for topiary and Spring bluebell woods
Botanical garden with the world’s largest seed conservation project