Ashford can be described as the heart Kent and is the perfect place to hop off the train and explore some of Kent’s inland hidden gems. With that in mind, we thought we’d let you in on some of Ashford’s best assets for you to explore next time you hop on the train to Ashford International.
Bargains, boutiques and more bargains - the Ashford Designer Outlet is the only place to go for all the designer brands you know and love under one roof, and at incredible prices. It’s right next to Ashford International, so take a leisurely stroll over there to indulge in some serious retail therapy at outlet stores that are hard to find anywhere else in the UK. From Polo Ralph Lauren and Doc Martens to Reiss and Abercrombie, it’s truly got something for everyone. Furthermore, the outlet has undergone a £90 million extension which opened in 2019, creating a stunning extension of shops and restaurants, covered in wall to wall greenery – shopping never looked so peaceful!
The magnificent stately home of Godinton House dates back to the 14th century, and includes 12 acres of tranquil gardens, studded with stately oak trees and, in the right months, blooms galore. Discover the medieval hall, admire the preserved Victorian features and walk through the stunning gardens. In the summer months, it’s home to a magnificent art gallery as sculptures are exhibited all throughout the gardens – it’s a true hidden gem for a cultured day out.
Getting to the lovely town of Tenterden is just a short bus journey away thanks to Stagecoach number 2 bus and when you get there there’s so much to explore! For a truly unique day out, head to the historic Kent and East Sussex railway to enjoy a journey through time on a preserved steam train. It’s recognised as the country’s first and finest example of a rural light railway. Ride the train across county lines en-route to Bodiam in East Sussex and arrive with a view of the spectacular National Trust castle.
Biddenden Vineyards hold the title of Kent’s Original Vineyard, so why not come down and find out where the Wine Garden of England began? The family have been running their business for three generations, making award-winning wines, ciders and juices with the passion they’ve acquired for over 50 years. They make approximately 80,000 bottles every year, but we’d recommend having a tipple or two of their signature Ortega wine, with accounts for roughly half of the vineyards output. Simply hop off the train at Ashford International and jump on the 123 (easy to remember!) Stagecoach bus to Biddenden to be dropped at the vineyard door. No need for a designated driver!
We’re pretty proud to be home to Chapel Down Winery, England’s leading wine producer, in our sprawling Kent countryside. Chapel Down produces sparking and still wines using traditional methods and only the finest South East grapes. Not to brag, but they’ve got some pretty great customers, from British culinary icons such as Gordon Ramsey and Jaime Oliver, to being the official server for The Royal Opera House and none other than 10 Downing Street! Pop down to their all-year round winery in Tenterden and make a day of it with a guided tour, tastings or masterclasses that any sommelier would be proud of. And it’s only a half hour taxi ride from Ashford!
But if you’re more of an ale aficionado, Chapel Down have branched out to beer in the form of their Curious Brewery, which produces some of England’s highest quality beers, and their newest brewery sits right next to Ashford International Station. Take a brewery tour or enjoy their classic Curious IPA beer-battered Fish and Chips – and they’re not short of vegan and veggie options either.
Just minute’s walk from Ashford International is the brand-new Picturehouse cinema, a six-screen deluxe cinema showing everything from the newest films, special re-runs of classics and live-streamed theatre from London. Furthermore, it’s accommodating for everyone, providing screenings especially for the elderly, parent and baby or autism friendly screenings. Did we mention they also have a swanky restaurant and bar on site?
The development will soon be a foodie’s heaven, thanks to Macknade Fine Foods opening soon underneath Picturehouse Ashford. The Faversham-based indoor food market and delicatessen is celebrating it’s 40th birthday by opening a second branch in the brand-new development just a few minutes from Ashford train station. Expect artisanal breads, speciality coffee and the highest quality local produce available.
The brand-new Coachworks is set to be a trendy new shared working space, featuring an ‘Event Yard’ with a fairy-light outdoor bar and wood-fired pizza stalls, and a little birdie tells us that more food units and coffee shops are planning to open soon. It’s barely a minute walk from the station, so it’s an ideal meeting point to get your friends together (and easy for staggering to the train station afterwards!)
Ashford International Hotel is perfectly placed in the middle of Kent which makes it the ideal spot to rest your head before hopping anywhere around the garden of England. The hotel boasts 179 stylish bedrooms, all well-equipped and complete with free-WiFi throughout the hotel. During your stay, take the opportunity to relax in the spa or make use of the state-of-the-art gym. If you’re looking for a perfect meeting place in Kent, Ashford International is home to a large ballroom for conferences, and suites for meetings in a professional and peaceful environment, all a five-minute drive from the station or a twenty-minute stroll through the town centre.
For a truly indulgent weekend, hop in a taxi from Ashford International and look no further than the charming Eastwell Manor House and Spa, an opulent 16th and 17th century manor house nestled in the gorgeous Kent countryside, complete with a plush Champneys spa. They offer all kinds of health and beauty treatments, and a jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, but if ‘relaxing’ is akin to ‘active’ for you, Eastwell Manor offers a 3000-square foot gym, all-weather tennis courts, croquet lawn and golf course. When you’re looking out over acres of countryside after a dip in the luxury indoor (or heated outdoor!) pool, you’ll find it hard to believe that it’s exactly one hour from the hustle and bustle of London. Bliss is just a short train ride away!
So come on… what are you waiting for?!