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Southeast England: Stately Homes, Canterbury & Dover

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I'm in desperate need of expertise!

For several years, I've been trying to visit various stately homes in Kent but either it's been January (when they're closed) or I've been trying to do a day trip from London using public transportation and it's one of those "can't get there from here" situations. So, I'm trying a different approach but can't figure out the logistics....

I'm taking a cruise that leaves from Dover on Sat., June 8 and plan to arrive in Dover on June 7th, visit the castle, stay overnight and then board the ship on the 8th. I'm thinking about arriving at LHR or LGW on Sunday, June 1st, sightseeing for the next five days before taking the train to Dover. The spots I want to visit are: Chartwell, Knole, Ightham Mote, Canterbury (probably for 2 days) and maybe Whitstable. The problem is that I want to do all this using trains and buses (I'm able bodied, so don't mind walking a mile from the station). I'm not a driving wimp but am really reluctant to drive on the "other side of the road", navigate by myself and negotiate roundabouts. I have memories of driving in Australia and making turns into the wrong lane, so driving in a more crowded area, in early summer and by myself doesn't appeal at all. I was thinking that since Canterbury is a city it may have the most transportation links so would be a good place to base myself for five nights (Sun - Thurs).

So, what do you think - am I nuts? Is touring in this area virtually impossible without a car (or spending hour upon hour on trains & buses)? Thank you for any suggestions you can provide!

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