Once a luxury spa famous for the healing waters of its chalybeate spring, Royal Tunbridge Well was a favorite of the Royal Family and the well-to-do of London, for more than four centuries. The opulent homes built around the area during its heyday are so meticulously maintained, with such stunning gardens and grounds, they are often used as locations for films and television series. Just a short train ride from London, all these houses belong on a list of the best things to do in Royal Tunbridge Wells.
1. Scotney Castle
Built on an island in the middle of a lake, this is one of the oldest houses on this list, with its origins dating back to 1137! Following the death of its last resident in 2006, Scotney Castle was opened to the public. The furnishings, paintings, and tapestries collected over the centuries are all on display, and the rooms have a charmingly eccentric lived-in feeling. The gardens of this house are absolutely stunning, especially in the springtime, and have been used as a performance venue for Shakespeare’s “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.” Check the National Trust’s website for upcoming special events or simply pack a picnic and enjoy the gardens after you tour the house.
Address: Lamberhurst, TN3 8JN Tunbridge Wells, UK
Website: Scotney Castle
2. Tonbridge Castle
The feel of this estate is a little different from the others on this list and it is one of the best examples of a motte and bailey castle in England. More like a museum, interactive tours of the castle are available and you will find yourself immersed in medieval castle life. The tour lasts about an hour, but be warned. It has quite a few very steep stairs and some exhibit rooms are lit by candle, so keep that in mind if you are visiting with very young children.
After your tour, the grounds make an ideal picnic spot, with beautifully well-kept gardens and ponds. Tonbridge Castle hosts many special events throughout the year, including the Tonbridge Summer Carnival, open air cinema nights, and live music evenings. Check the website before you visit. You never know what might be on!
Address: Castle Street, TN9 1BG Tonbridge, England
Website: Tonbridge Castle
3. Groombridge Place
Sir Christopher Wren had a hand in the design of this house which has changed little over the last 350 years and if you are a film fan you may recognize it as the set of the 2005 film ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ With formal gardens, a secret garden, the charmingly named 'Drunken Garden,’ oriental gardens, and a fairy woodland walk, the grounds of this stately home will definitely be the highlight of your visit. The estate also has a raptor center, and during the summer season, there is a falconry display twice a day. If you are visiting with children, Groombridge Place has a long list of special events designed especially for them, so be sure to check the website before you go! Animal lovers will enjoy seeing the deer and peacocks that roam around the grounds, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you may even see the zedonk (zebra-donkey hybrid)!
Address: Groombridge Hill, Groombridge, TN3 9QG Tunbridge Wells, UK
Website: Groombridge Place
4. Marle Place Gardens and Gallery
With 4 hectares (10 acres) of award-winning gardens studded with contemporary sculptures, this estate is an easy place to spend a sunny morning or afternoon. The gardens are lovingly and meticulously maintained with a delightful tea room that serves just the kind of tea and homemade cakes you would want in such pretty surroundings. Once you have finished exploring the gardens, make your way into the gallery to admire the contemporary art exhibition.
Marle Place Gardens and Gallery
Address: Marle Place, Marle Pl Rd, TN12 7HS Tonbridge, UK
Website: Marle Place Gardens and Gallery
5. Salomon’s Estate
A stunning Victorian mansion set in 14.5 hectares (36 acres) of beautifully landscaped grounds and gardens, this is a must-visit. Admission is free and the first two floors of the house are given over to a museum that celebrates the history of the house and the Salomon family. After you have seen all the museum has to offer, make your way outside to explore the magnificent grounds via the large network of woodland walk paths or, if you prefer, book a guided walk for a small fee. If walking is not your thing, never fear, you can still enjoy the beautiful grounds. Arrange an afternoon tea complete with champagne to have on the terrace overlooking the grounds and gardens.
Address: Broomhill Rd, TN3 0TG Tunbridge Wells, UK
Website: Salomon’s Estate
6. Penshurst Place and Gardens
As the most intact and perfectly preserved version of a 14th-century fortified manor house in England, this is a truly special place to visit. But don’t think that old means boring! Penshurst Place is a whole day of things to do for all ages. With impressive grade 1 listed formal gardens, a summer maze, adventure parks, interactive tours, a toy museum, not to mention a cafe that makes the top ten places to eat in Kent, your visit to this incredible Elizabethan mansion will not disappoint.
Penshurst Place and Gardens
Address: Penshurst Place, TN11 8DG Penshurst, UK
Website: Penshurst Place and Gardens
7. The Pashley Manor Gardens
These award winning gardens are open from April until September, and if you visit in the spring, a riot of color awaits you in the form of more than 30,000 tulips. Later into the season, the rose garden becomes the star attraction, with 300 rose trees in bloom. It is a delight for both the eyes and the nose! Sculptures from leading British artists are dotted around the grounds, providing interest and contrast to the immaculately maintained garden. When you have finished your ramble around the gardens, make your visit a quintessentially English experience and enjoy tea and scones in the Garden Room Cafe.
Pashley Manor Gardens
Address: Pashley Road, Ticehurst, TN5 7HE Wadhurst, United Kingdom
Website: Pashley Manor Gardens
Roam around Royal Tunbridge Wells
The history of this area is so lovingly and proudly preserved in the many stately homes, it would be a mistake to visit Royal Tunbridge Wells without taking in one of these beautiful houses and their stunningly maintained grounds.
Get Trip101 in your inbox