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

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.

Alphabet Dating - R is for Relaxation

Alphabet Dating – R is for Relaxation

Eastwell Manor Spa Break

We’ve been taking liberties with the alphabet again but I’m pleased to say we finally got around to our ‘R’ date. R is for Relaxation – something we both deserved after the not-so-great start to the year. We booked a lovely overnight stay spa break at Eastwell Manor near Ashford in Kent for our 5th wedding anniversary.

Eastwell Manor Spa Break

Eastwell Manor is a charming country house set in the Garden of England and was built between 1540 and 1550. In its impressive history of over 450 years it has had many owners, including Royalty! These days it is best known as a hotel offering spa breaks, afternoon teas and weddings.

We checked in to the Robert Curtoys room in the early afternoon – easily the largest hotel room I have ever stayed in! Complete with kingsize bed, chaise longue and Champneys flip flops, robes and toiletries. We headed straight down to the Champneys spa where we enjoyed the facilities and also had a facial each which we had pre-booked. The spa itself features a heated indoor pool surrounded by relaxation beds. There’s also a hydrotherapy pool, steam room, sauna and, my favourite, a jacuzzi.

Robert Curtoys room at Eastwell Manor

Eastwell Manor Spa Break

Our package also included dinner plus breakfast and lunch the following day, so after we were all fresh and clean after our spa session, we got dressed up and made our way to the Manor Restaurant where we enjoyed a three course meal. For starters I had the rainbow carrot terrine while Nick had the cheese souffle. For mains we both opted for the Eastwell brisket burger which was yummy, if not a little salty. Lastly, dessert. Nick enjoyed the white chocolate and passion fruit ganache bomb sorbet while I had the pistachio, orange and cranberry which included the most delicious ice cream (orange and cranberry mix? I’m not sure) as well as spiced oranges and olive oil cake. It was sooo good!

Pool at Eastwell Manor

After a super comfortable and relaxing nights sleep in our humongous bed, we enjoyed a buffet breakfast followed by a stroll through the perfectly manicured grounds. It was lovely to soak up the atmosphere while pretending you are on a television set.

Big comfy bed!

gardens at eastwell

We then returned to the spa for body radiance treatments which involved putting on an embarrassingly tiny pair of knickers (for me anyway, my husband got off lightly). Luckily it was all very professional and organised so my embarrassment was very shortlived. The spa therapist exfoliated my skin and then left me to shower. Once I was dry and my modesty protected with towels, she then massaged my skin using some gorgeous scented Champneys moisturiser.

Fancy starters in the spa restaurant

We also stopped in the Spa Restaurant for a light lunch prior to our treatments. We could have had several fancy looking courses there too but we didn’t want to be too full before our body treatments so Nick had chicken to start followed by some sensible pasta while I opted for a starter of salmon and then skipped straight to dessert – ice cream… and imagine my delight when I realised one of the flavours was the same as what I had for dessert the night before. Oh yes. You can put the girl in a classy setting but you can’t stop her from ordering ice cream for lunch! Ha!

All in all it was a perfect and romantic stay and one I would definitely like to repeat.

Eastwell Manor - a lovely spa break in Kent

We’re so cool

For more Alphabet Dating Adventures check out my series.

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

Alphabet Dating - T is for Tasting Tour

Alphabet Dating – T is for Tasting Tour

Copper Rivet Distillery Tour

There are many kinds of tasting tours you can do for alphabet dating letter T – tapas, street food, beer, chocolate… We chose to do the Copper Rivet Distillery Tour which is situated in the historic dockyard of Chatham in Kent.

The distillery is set in the Victorian Pump House No. 5 and brews vodka, whiskey and gin. Although the dockyard itself has a long history, Copper Rivet Distillery didn’t come into planning until 2005 and didn’t open for tours until 2016, so its relatively new.

Pump House No.5 - home to the Copper Rivet Distillery Tour

When you arrive at Pump House No. 5 you walk straight into the bar which proudly displays some of the awards that Copper Rivet have won. There’s a nice relaxed atmosphere there with a vibe of old-meets-new. The bar acts as a waiting area before your tour so if you’re early enough you can have a drink beforehand.

Dockyard gin - bar display

The tour was interesting. We learnt about the process of making the alcohol, the Russell family who set up the distillery and a guy named Abhi, the head distiller at the Copper Rivet Distillery and a bit of a genius in his field from the sounds of it!

The stills at the Copper Rivet Distillery Tour in Chatham Dockyard

The stills are all named after members of the Russell family who are no longer with us (but here in spirit. Pun intended). ‘Sandy’ the whiskey still, ‘Joyce’ the column and ‘Janet’ the gin still. Janet is a bit of a special one (I think our guide may have even said the only one like it!) and is a patented design. The other thing Copper Rivet are immensely proud of is that they are one of only a handful of distilleries in the UK who control the whole distillation process from grain to glass!

Janet the gin still

After being shown the stills and learning the history and processes, we were able to sample the vodka and the gin. The whiskey is busy maturing so won’t be ready until around 2020 so whiskey fans may wish to wait! I must admit I didn’t really enjoy the vodka, but vodka is not my tipple of choice. However the gin was pleasant and what we were really there for anyway. The Dockyard Gin is flavoured with 9 botanicals too – orange peel, orris root, lemon peel, elderflower, angelica root, green cardamom, coriander seeds, juniper and grains of paradise.

Copper Rivet Dockyard Gin

At the end of the tour we were given a full glass of gin and tonic to savour, complete with a slice of grapefruit – how Dockyard Gin is recommended! You can also buy bottles of the spirits to take home too.

After our tour we stopped off at one of the local restaurants in the dockside for some burgers and cocktails to round off a fun afternoon out!

The Copper Rivet Distillery Tour at Chatham Historic Dockyard - excellent idea for a date or fun afternoon out.

The Copper Rivet Distillery Tour lasts for around 1 hour and costs £12pp. If you enjoyed this you might like reading about the time I got tipsy at the XXXX brewery in Brisbane or some of my other Alphabet Dating adventures.