Sevenoaks, so called due to its clusters of seven oak trees, is an affluent Kent commuter town dating back to 800 AD. It gained market town status in the 13th Century following its weekly cattle market. The High Street and London Road are lined with ‘old meets newʼ architecture from impressive Grade II Listed houses to contemporary apartments and Englandʼs oldest secular school.
The two main roads ‘Vʼ shape formation, tightly hug a tangle of cobbled streets with shops, bustling cafes, a diverse food scene and atmospheric 16th and 17th Century pubs.
The historic town of Sevenoaks is perhaps best known for its loss of trees during a freak storm in 1987. Six of the seven oak trees planted 85 years previous, commemorating King Edward VIIʼs coronation, were destroyed.
Cricket has been played at The Vine cricket ground since 1734. ‘Lumpyʼ Stevens, the gameʼs first great bowler, played his final match here. After an outburst when the ball he bowled twice went between the two stumps without moving the bail, the rules later changed and a third wicket added.
7 Things to do by day…
Nonna Cappuccini is a must. Tucked away in Black’s Yard, the well established, Italian family run cafe and delicatessen serves a range of tempting dishes. These include all day breakfasts, salads, sweet treats and ciabatta sandwiches loaded with fillings such as pancetta, avocado and mayonnaise or Tuscan sausage, mozzarella and onions.
By day there’s plenty to do in the local area. Knole House, once owned by royalty now belongs to the Sackville family. The stately home is one of the largest in England with over 400 rooms. Those open to the public offer splendid exhibits of Stuart furniture, textiles and Gainsborough paintings. Knole Park, the 1000 acre medieval deer park that wraps around the house can be visited separately.
The Beatles filmed their hit, Penny Lane, within these grounds. The large expanse of open space is an ideal picnic spot during the summer months amongst the free-roaming animals.
Meander around the peaceful lakeside areas of man-made Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, surrounded by wild flowers, marsh and woodland. Bird life is in abundance as well as being home to the worldʼs largest bee house.
Family-run Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, in a favourable, elevated position offers far reaching views across the undulating hills of Weald of Kent. Renowned for 12 acres of interesting historic gardens, walkers can explore the untamed jungle section, a rock garden, a rose walk and a puzzling hedged maze.
5. Ightham Mote
National Trust’s Ightham Mote, a medieval manor house, dates back to the 14th Century. Step back in time and learn about life in Tudor times. The summer months offer exciting activities including family bat walks and also live music events.
The High Street is scattered with well known stores such as White Stuff, Fat Face and Oliver Bonas. For over a quarter of a century, The Chocolate Shop has sourced exquisite chocolate from top suppliers worldwide. Sample individual chocolates or purchase personalised presentation boxes. Guitar enthusiasts may wish to seek out RotoSound musical instrument manufacturers. They have sold stainless steel guitar strings to famous names such as Jimi Hendrix and Brian May.
7. Sevenoaks Markets
Thrice weekly markets give visitors and locals the opportunity to buy a range of artisan crafts, homewares and food items such as jewellery, cheese, bread, sausages and vegetables. A Saturday market is held in Blighs Meadow and the High Street and on Wednesdays, in Buckhurst car park.
By night, the town is alive and kicking with several pubs and a local theatre, The Stag, hosting regular stand up comedy performances, tribute acts and dance shows. The delightful cinema within, screens current movies in an intimate, living room-style setting.
The town has chain restaurants aplenty with Pizza Express, Zizzi, Bill’s and Côte Brasserie. However, for a real treat try Sun Do, Chinese Restaurant. You could be forgiven for thinking the waiting staff are on skates, the speed at which they navigate the Lazy Susan topped tables armed with sizzling platters. Trails of steam struggle to keep up, leaving guests wondering what passing dish created the mouth watering aroma – salt and pepper soft shell crabs or beef in black bean sauce…
Shoreham, the most bombed UK village during World War II, is home to a huge chalk cross carved into the hillside. It commemorates those who lost their lives during the first world war.
Nearby, The Mount Vineyard offers afternoon and evening tasting sessions of locally produced wines. With a glass of bubbles in hand begin a tour, before sampling four additional top British wines. Afterwards, soak up the views over Darent Valley while sharing a delectable cheese and charcuterie platter. Alternatively pre-book a picnic and snuggle into a blanket watching a block buster movie under the moonlight.
Otford’s streets are lined with pubs, quaint cafes and shops selling antiques, artwork, jewellery and bespoke hats. Within the roundabout at the foot of the High Street is the UKʼs only Grade II Listed duck pond.
Where to stay
For a stopover, Premier Inn, a popular hotel group offers budget accommodation conveniently placed opposite the mainline railway station. Within walking distance is the town with its many attractions, bars and restaurants. Spacious, bright rooms are equipped with comfortable Hypnos beds and ensuite bathrooms with invigorating power showers. Unlimited buffet-style breakfasts are a highlight, serving full English and continental dishes.
Donnington Manor 15th Century Manor House, thought to have been owned by the Kray twins in the 1970s, offers a deluxe stay set amongst well manicured gardens, a few miles from Sevenoaks town. The fine dining, oak beamed restaurant is the perfect setting for a romantic evening meal. Additionally, the ambient lounge bar offers a place to cosy up with a favourite tipple before retiring for the night to a sumptuous bed, in one of the recently refurbished rooms.
Check the calendar of events before visiting. Annual traditions include well respected Christmas pantomimes with celebrity casts at The Stag Theatre. Shoreham village hosts an unusual, albeit raucous May Day Bank Holiday event. For a small fee, the duck race can be entered. Any type is acceptable but not a live one! Starting at the war memorial, ducks float up the river to the bridge before the old mill. Join hundreds of visitors, cheering them on from the river banks. For two weeks in June, Sevenoaks town comes alive with numerous, temporary stages introducing puppet shows, magicians, stilt-walkers, jugglers and orchestras.
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