My Favourite Places - South of Tunbridge Wells
11 July 2023
She founded Fiona Penny Bespoke Home Finders 16 years ago and knows both the housing industry and this area of the country inside out. So we asked property guru Fiona Penny to spill the beans on her favourite places south of Tunbridge Wells. Notepads at the ready!
Best small shop
So much more than a gallery. Alongside artwork, jewellery and ceramics, they showcase an eclectic mix of local goodies such as sustainably made women’s clothing from Claire at The Makeshed and beautifully crafted lampshades and bases from Bloomsbury Revisited.
The Bell, Ticehurst
This quintessential Kentish village pub, originally a 16th Century coaching inn, sits in the centre of this picturesque village – complete with smoky beams, roaring winter fires, tasty seasonal food and a welcoming atmosphere for both locals and those from further afield.
Best Interiors Shop
Ensor Interiors, Frant
They have been sourcing the best of UK and European home furnishings, furniture, lighting and fabrics for nearly 30 years. They combine this with professional and creative designers and what you have is a recipe for drool-worthy interior inspo. Visit their packed showroom in Frant, brimming with goodies to inspire you, and we guarantee you won’t be able to leave empty handed.
Best Farm Shop
Eggs To Apples, Hurst Green
A family run business since the 1960’s, this is a truly fabulous – and friendly – farm shop selling the freshest local fruit and vegetables, alongside a butchery, a delicatessen, craft beers, English wines and gifts. It’s accessible too being just off the A21 but top that off with a lovely café that overlooks the countryside at the back! You’ll want to return again and again.
Wild Iris Spa, Flimwell
A tranquil, spa space overlooking 46 acres of ancient woodland at Flimwell Park but just off the A21 – yes, a real hidden gem. The focus here is very much on holistic therapies – natural and pure, but luxe at the same time. The relaxation room on the top floor, overlooking the trees, means there really is no rush to leave after your personalised and pampered treatments.
While you’re at Flimwell Park why not make a day of it? Birchwood is an elegant sustainable dining restaurant, sitting in magical 46-acres of birch, the second restaurant by one of Kent’s top chefs, Will Devlin. Sitting in the midst of the magical 46-acres of birch and chestnut trees, Birchwood is the second restaurant from iconic Chef Will Devlin and his brother Matt. Having started with The Small Holding in Kildown in Kent, which was awarded a coveted Michelin Green Star in 2022, this new venture maintains their farm to table ethos – with the produce being sourced locally or even foraged from the woods.
Sacred Heart, Wadhurst
Ruled out an independent school education for your child because of the wallet-busting fees? This hidden gem of a school offers many of the bonus points of a prep without the usual price tag. SHS is a small mixed prep just south of Tunbridge Wells in Wadhurst, offering one-form entry throughout from 2 – 11 years old. Ranked in the top 50 of the Sunday Times Top 100 Prep Schools in 2022.
The Middle House, Mayfield
There’s a lot to love about this Grade I listed Elizabethan architecture – think wattle & daub, gorgeous old fireplaces and romantic four poster beds. They offer both excellent gastro pub type food or more casual bar dining – all cooked to order using locally produced food.
The Artful Grocer, Wadhurst
This is a fabulous greengrocers and delicatessen with a quirky indoor or outdoor café in the day time. It’s open for pre-booked weekend dinners in the evening and events such as their monthly Pop up Wine Bar. Another off-the-grid find.
Bodium Castle, Robertsbridge
A striking, 14th century moated castle, built in 1385 by a knight of Edward III as a show of prestige and power and to defend the area against the French during the Hundred Year’s War. Now a ruin but still a very splendid ruin with a whole heap of history and fun days out for the kids – medieval armour, archery, jousting and medieval fairs…
Best Day Out
Bewl Water, Lamberhurst
The largest reservoir in the South East, surrounded by 800 acres of parkland, means a massive amount of family fun on or off the water: sailing, fishing, paddle boarding, canoeing, windsurfing, walking, cycling and home to a huge inflatable Aqua Park in the warmer months.
Pashley Manor, Ticehurst
Think 11 acres of stunning, award-winning gardens, established over generations of the same family, who have shared a love of the traditional English Country Garden.
Add to it a café with views from the terrace, a plant shop and a sculpture garden and you have all you need for a relaxing day out. A particularly hit with grandparents too.