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UK Staycations

Summer is well and truly here and while we aren’t out of the woods yet regarding Covid-19, people are starting to head out and enjoy a little bit of what summer has to offer. If you’re anything like me then you may be beginning to think about UK Staycations – be it somewhere new or somewhere familiar and close to home.

As a Kent girl born and bred, I would recommend my county as a great place for a staycation because it has a little bit of everything – countryside, coast, great pubs and attractions… plus it is under an hour away from the bright lights of London!

Given that the weather is warm and many indoor attractions are still closed due to government guidelines, I can recommend many wonderful outdoor places to go. I recently wrote about a few beautiful countryside gardens which are open for business and have introduced one-way systems to ensure safety for staff and visitors. Some elements may be closed (such as castles and country houses) but there are still lots of walks to enjoy, flowers to admire and ice cream to eat! Kent has an abundance of lovely gardens, which isn’t surprising given its nickname as ‘The Garden of England’.

Hole Park Gardens in Rolvenden

If you’re more of a beach babe than a plant lover, then you can head down to the coast. Of course the likes of Folkestone, Margate and Broadstairs are ever popular but one of my favourite coastal walks is from Seasalter into Whitstable. Seasalter is the quieter, more tranquil cousin of Whitstable so is the ideal place to park up and then take a stroll along the pebble beach and reward yourself with a yummy fish and chip lunch once you reach bustling Whitstable.

Enjoy a stroll from Seasalter to Whitstable

Kent also has an excellent selection of zoos and animal parks for a great family day out. One of my personal favourites (because I used to volunteer there) is Howletts Wild Animal Park where they put in tremendous efforts towards the conservation of endangered species. It is also on the doorstep to Canterbury which is a tourist haven in itself with the cathedral, theatre, shops, cafes and river punting.

Capybaras in the sun at Howletts

I could go on forever about what Kent has to offer for UK Staycations but we don’t have all day so I would say go check it out for yourself. Just be sure to follow government social distancing guidelines and check each attraction’s website for up to date information.

Disclaimer: In collaboration with Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

Where to go in Kent during lockdown

Where to go in Kent during lockdown

Hands up who’s got cabin fever! Me!

If you’re like me and still on furlough but not quite sure where you can visit now some places are open and some aren’t, fear not! I have compiled a little list here of where to go in Kent during lockdown to give you some sunny summer inspiration.

Scotney Castle

Scotney Castle

Scotney Castle is a 14th century castle surrounded by beautiful gardens situated in Lamberhurst near Tunbridge Wells. The National Trust have organised the site so it’s a one-way route around the moat so you can view the scenic castle from different angles – perfect for that insta snapshot! At present you must pre-book before you visit (tickets are released every Friday) and you cannot go inside the castle, you can only walk the grounds. There is a little kiosk on site selling drinks and ice cream, plus Bewl Water is a 6 minute drive away if you want to make more of a day of it.

Hush Heath Estate

Hush Heath Estate

Hush Heath Estate is a winery in Staplehurst. Under normal circumstances they would be offering vineyard tours, wine tasting and lovely food, which we wish we could have enjoyed. However, at time of writing, they have opened their doors for FREE self-guided tours of their estate. This basically means you can pop along and wander the grounds (following the designated social distancing route), pre-booking is not essential and you can buy a bottle of wine after your walk if you wish to. Our walk lasted around 45 minutes, we didn’t buy anything but we’d love to come back for some wine tasting once things return to normal.

Mount Ephraim Gardens

Mount Ephraim Gardens

Mount Ephraim Gardens is a lovely estate near Faversham consisting of a country house and gardens. Due to Covid-19 the house is closed at present but the gardens are open to visitors Wednesdays to Sundays. Pre-booking is not required but do check their website (as with all of these places) for the most up-to-date information. We enjoyed a couple of hours here and took a picnic with us too.

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

Named after some of the plants from the Himalayas, Riverhill Himalayan Gardens is a pretty, historic estate in Sevenoaks. Dogs are welcome and entry is via pre-booked timed tickets available via their website. The social distancing one-way system is a little haphazard in my opinion as we did end up crossing paths with people but as the gardens are fairly large, we weren’t too concerned. There are plants and garden ornaments available to purchase at the entrance, so we bought a peach blossom (which looks like candyfloss!). There’s also a cafe selling a few takeaway items but I wouldn’t bother as they charged me £5 for a Calippo and a Fab. £5 for a bit of what is essentially flavoured ice seems quite steep to me, so pack a picnic instead.

Penshurst Place and Gardens

Penshurst Place

Just a 15 minute drive away from Riverhill Himalayan Gardens is Penshurst Place. Under normal circumstances there’s a few different things to see such as the house and toy museum but thanks to Coronavirus it’s just the gardens you can visit at present. Bookings are separated into morning and afternoon slots and must be booked online. We booked an afternoon slot and visited the same day as we went to Riverhill. Despite furloughing most of the gardening team, the gardens were still well kept. We packed a picnic and enjoyed it in the shade overlooking the lovely gardens.

Where to go in Kent during lockdown

Note: due to current circumstances I would advise checking each garden’s website before visiting for the most up-to-date information. Also note that I was NOT given any freebies or anything, so all opinions are fair and my own.

Stay safe x


If you liked this you may enjoy some of my other posts about South East England.

Gin Festival Maidstone

Gins a bit trendy isn’t it? I must admit I’m quite new to the pleasure of a nice cold G&T but with all these creative craft gins popping up all over the place, it’s sure to become my tipple of choice.

So when the lovely peeps at Gin Festival invited me along to one of their events, I thought that would be my perfect opportunity to discover some new favourites. Along with my gin loving hubby, we went to the Saturday afternoon event at the Kent Showground, Detling, Maidstone. Although the Gin Festival has been going since 2013, this year was the first year it came to Maidstone – and it completely sold out!

Gin Festival Maidstone

When you arrive you are given a guide to the festival as well as your very own copa gin glass which you can keep and take home. I thought this was particularly good and wins some eco-friendly points from me on that! There is a cashless system in place so you are also given a wrist band which you can load up with money before or during the event to ensure a smoother process at the bars rather than faffing about with money.

What to expect

There were four brands giving out free tasters, they were: PJ Gin from Belgium – available exclusively from ginfestival.com, Tinker Gin – based in Yorkshire and launched in 2017, Anno – a Kent based distillers whose delish cranberry gin tasted like Christmas and Brockmans – an English gin ‘like no other’.

Well, I quite liked them all with a bit of tonic (which was from the Schweppes 1783 premium range).

Anno Gins at Gin Festival Maidstone

Beyond these tasters there were five bars to get your drinks at, as well as a cocktail bar, snacks, food and live music. There were also masterclasses on. We attended the one held by Dan from Tinker Gins which was really quite funny (and full of swearing hehe!). It definitely adds something when you meet the people behind the drinks and learn about their passions.

Tinker Gin masterclass at Gin Festival Maidstone

Mr QLP loves a G&T and enjoyed a Brockmans Premium Gin followed by a Tinker Gin. I chose a Boe Violet Gin which was very light and sweet, followed by a Marula Gin which was garnished with peach. We also tried the Elephant Gin because 15% of proceeds go to support African elephant charities, which is enough to make me want it, but its also garnished with the winning combo of apple and ginger – yum!

The UK's biggest gin festival

The guide book given out tells you about all the gins on offer and what they taste like as well as what kind of garnish and mixer you should pair them with. There were so many gins to try it actually made it difficult to decide what to go for! I was certainly intrigued by the Hidden Curiosities gin with peppercorns and the Sweet Potato Plum gin liqueur but I’ll have to try those out next time. My only niggle was that I had really wanted to try the Zymurgorium Sweet Violet gin as its supposed to taste like parma violet sweets but it had sold out just an hour into the event. Disappointing.

Gin Life

We ended the day feeling rather tipsy but bought ourselves a bottle of Brockmans to take home! I would definitely recommend Gin Festival and I’ll be sure to keep my eyes peeled in future for some of the gins I didn’t get chance to try!

Disclaimer: I was given free tickets by Gin Festival but all thoughts are my own.

Update: Unfortunately Gin Festival have since gone into administration however if you’re looking for Gin Festivals then check out www.eatdrinkseek.co.uk/gin-festivals

Afternoon Tea at the Secret Garden

For my dear Nan’s 80th ahem 30th birthday (as the waiter so politely suggested), my Mum and I took her out for afternoon tea at the Secret Garden in Mersham-Le-Hatch, Ashford in Kent. Tell you what, it is a bit secret as we had a little difficulty in finding it!

View across the wildflower garden at the Secret Garden restaurant near Ashford in Kent

Once we arrived, we walked through the gardens and requested to be seated outside as it was a nice sunny day and we don’t get too many of those in England. Only downside was a few uninvited guests, but to be fair we did have prior warning about the wasps at this time of year but it’s alright, my Mum and Nan are cockneys so hard as nails, scared ’em all off with a cockney glare hahaha!

We were served our afternoon tea on chintzy mismatched china and alongside our large pot of English breakfast tea, we had finger sandwiches which were the typical afternoon tea sandwiches (cucumber & cream cheese, salmon, egg, ham), scones with cream and jam, and then a selection of sweet treats. The wasps enjoyed the jam in particular.

The desserts on offer that day (because they vary depending on season) were sticky toffee choux bun, chocolate cake, carrot cake, banoffee pie in a little pot and then a small fudge and fruit pastille type thing which were very sweet!

Afternoon tea at the Secret Garden

I didn’t manage to eat all mine but the nice waiter gave us some boxes so we could take our leftovers home. Who manages to eat all their afternoon tea anyway, right? There’s always at least one scone left isn’t there!

After tea, we had planned on taking a little walk around the garden (which FYI doubles up as a wedding venue, however no wedding was on that day) but sadly somewhere between dessert and our last cups of tea it started raining <insert grumble about typical British weather here> so we just took a couple of snaps and left.

It was an enjoyable afternoon and pretty standard pricing at £21.95pp for the traditional tea.

You can get married at The Secret Garden

And a sunny day soon turns in to rain!

If you liked this then you might like afternoon tea at Chilston Park Hotel.

Ripley’s Believe it or not London

Ripley's Believe it or not London
Vampire woman and Lizard man

If you’re in London and looking for something weird and wonderful to do then look no further than Ripley’s Believe it or not at Piccadilly Circus.

Ripley’s is home to over 700 artefacts, many of which were collected by Robert Ripley himself who was an explorer, collector, presenter and cartoonist! Ripley travelled to 201 countries collecting exotic treasures – everything from tribal masks to shrunken heads – all on display right here!

Portrait of Robert Ripley made from candy at Ripley's Believe it or not London
Portrait of Robert Ripley made from candy

There are also many modern exhibits such as a portrait of Kate Middleton created from lipstick kisses on canvas, Michelle Obama from bottlecaps and a portrait of Amy Winehouse produced from broken CDs which actually looks alot like my A level art project (just the concept, that is, Amy wasn’t famous back then).

Amy Winehouse - A Shattered Life by Victor Ramos. Portrait of Amy Winehouse created from CDs on display at Ripleys London.

You can also find a recreation of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper painted onto a grain of rice, images created on burnt pieces of toast and there’s even a painting done by a horse – it doesn’t get much more random!

As well as quirky art, there are also animal oddities such as a two-headed calf. Plus there’s a chunk of the Berlin wall and the world’s oldest beer, brewed from 5000 year old hops found in an ancient Egyptian tomb!

The World's Oldest Beer - brewed from 5000 year old hops found in an Ancient Egyptian tomb!

There are wax figures of astonishing people like Johnny Eck – a talented man whose torso ended just below the waist, Earl Hughes – the heaviest recorded man in history and Robert Wadlow – the tallest human being ever.

Figure of Ribert Wadlow - tallest man ever. Ripley's Believe it or not London.

You can also find a container filled with ice cold water which you can dip your hand into to experience the temperature of the water when the Titanic sank, which I mentioned in my Wonderworks Orlando post. Another thing similar to Wonderworks is The Black Hole, which is basically a tunnel you walk through but while the bridge is still, the surroundings spin making you feel all kinds of dizzy and sick.

Ripley's Believe it or not London

There’s something for everyone at Ripley’s, one of the coolest things in the culture collection is the Eagle Coffin. In Ghana, funerals are colourful celebrations of the deceased person’s life and coffins are custom designed to represent a person’s hobbies, job or even status. Eagle coffins are reserved for the most honoured chiefs.

Eagle coffin from Ghana - on display at Ripley's in London.

There are many many other weird and wonderful things to see here which I haven’t mentioned but I will say, make sure you visit the Mirror Maze and the Impossible LaseRace at the end!

Mirror Maze at Ripley's London
Mirror Maze selfie!

Also, before you go, check out some different ticket websites online as there are discounts to be had!

If you liked this post then I guarantee you will want to know about Wonderworks Orlando and Puzzling World Wanaka.