Love is in the AONB this Valentines
31st January 2017
Take your better half to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty this Valentines and treat them to some of these great days out.
The Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is famed for its quintessential Kentish views and just an hour from London it feels like a world away. With steep sided valleys, traditional farmsteads and dramatic coastline defining this protected landscape, whether it’s a romantic stroll across the hills, a picnic in the woods or a bike ride along country lanes with a delicious pub lunch, it’s the perfect place to get away from it all and relax with someone special.
Gardens & Good Eating
Explore the beautiful heritage coast of the Kent Downs and start at the Pines Gardens in St Margaret’s near Dover. The stunning views from here could trick you into thinking you were in foreign climes, but this organic garden contains a mix of plant life mixing the exotic and familiar to create a truly unique place. There’s a beautiful walk from here down the cliff path to the beach side where you can while away lunchtime at the Coastguard on the Bay. This newly refurbished pub specialises in delicious seafood and with panoramic views to boot, Britain’s nearest pub to France has romance written all over it!
Alternatively if you want to do a bit more exploration this Valentines follow the Guarding the Gateway walk from the Pines Gardens up to the South Foreland Lighthouse. Part of the newly opened Ramsgate to Camber section of the England Coastal Path, work up an appetite and check out the beautifully restored 1950’s Mrs Knott’s tearoom (only open on weekends during February).
Thinking of making a weekend of it? There are some lovely places to stay in St Margaret’s including the boutique White Cliffs Hotel welcoming of slightly muddy walkers and within walking distance of plenty of great evening dining options.
A day out and a night in
Don’t fancy paying Valentines prices? Head out for a walk or a bike ride and explore one of the many farmers’ markets in the Kent Downs or check out Produced in Kent to find fantastic local producers and get some top quality local ingredients. From Westerham to Capel and everywhere in between you’ll be able to find your nearest and get some delicious local produce to make a Kentish feast!
Check out this seasonal recipe from the team behind Rocksalt restaurant in Folkestone and get cooking – it’s delicious (tried and tested by us!). Better still if you’re making a weekend of it check out Visit Kent’s top picks for self-catering accommodation in the area and bag yourself an out of season bargain!
Valentines – Wye not?
Wye is in the heart of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and boasts some of the best views. This Kentish village is far from sleepy with lots of lovely places to eat, stay and explore you could easily spend a day or a weekend in wonderful Wye. The Wye Downs walk is one of the most stunning in Kent as it takes in the fantastic North Downs Way National Trail and the Wye National Nature reserve. There’s a climb on this walk but the rewarding view is incredible, with panoramas right out to sea on a clear day, framed by the famous Devil’s Kneading Trough, the largest and steepest of the dry valleys which characterise the landscape of the Kent Downs, you might even be lucky enough to spot a buzzard.
Explore the independent stores and eateries including the Spanish inspired cuisine from the newly refurbished Wife of Bath restaurant in the centre of Wye. Not to mention the Kings Head pub in Wye who were voted one of Kent’s best Sunday roasts by Inside Kent magazine! Both of these hidden gems boast beautiful rooms too if you were thinking of staying for longer, it’s Valentine’s after all (be rude not to).
A weekend on two wheels
One of the best ways to see the Kent Downs AONB is on two wheels, so make this Valentine’s a romantic adventure as you explore the country lanes and travel through the landscape at the perfect pace. The Pilgrim’s cycle trail is a great weekend ride taken at a leisurely pace with lots of great places to stop for lunches, brunches, dinners and pints not to mentions some great places to stay. Starting outside the AONB you’ll descend into the dramatic landscape and explore a route originally taken on foot by pilgrims and following areas of the North Downs Way National Trail. There are some steep climbs on this route, but it can always be split up into smaller sections for the less experienced cyclist.
A cultured Picnic in the woods
Old as time and cheap as chips, this idea for a jaunt outdoors has always been a favourite for friends, families and couples. Our top romantic spot this Valentines is King’s Wood near Challock, right in the heart of the Kent Downs AONB this ancient woodland is home to some not so ancient features. Throughout the woodland there are modern artworks, sculptures from artists who have taken residencies in the forest and created sculpture from natural materials, sympathetic to the landscape, which are slowly being reclaimed by the natural world around them. Spend a day walking around this beautiful woodland getting lost and you’ll soon find a lovely spot for your flask and sandwiches to soak up the natural beauty of this enchanted forest. For more information on the artworks and activities in Kings Wood check out the Stour Valley Creative Partnership.
Have a heart
Give some selfless time Valentine’s Day and pay it forward by volunteering. There are lots of opportunities throughout the Kent Downs AONB to volunteer from helping Countryside Partnerships to the Kent Wildlife Trust. It’s also a great way to connect to the community and give back – the countryside in Kent looks lovely for a reason. No matter what your level of skill or experience, what they’ll value most is your time and enthusiasm! So although a bit unorthodox give a little time to nature in nature this Valentines, they’ll always be grateful of the gift.