Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Southeast England: Stately Homes, Canterbury & Dover

Southeast England: Stately Homes, Canterbury & Dover

Mar 12th, 2013, 12:36 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 319
Southeast England: Stately Homes, Canterbury & Dover

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!
vickiebypass is offline  
Mar 12th, 2013, 02:21 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
Hi Vicki,

this sounds like a great idea but the logistics may be a little difficult to organise. and i amy not be the best person to advise you as though I used to live near Chartwell, I always drove there [or walked - it was about 2 miles from our house at the time].

most of these places have instructions on how to get there without a car on their websites [eg Chartwell says that there's a bus from Westerham to East Grinstead that goes within 1/2 a mile] but you need to take account of bus routes, timetables, etc.

for example - if you want to see Chartwell, Knole and Igtham Moat it would make sense to stay somewhere in the area of Sevenoaks [where there are several nice places for supper too] but can you get from Sevenoaks to Chartwell and Igtham?

OTOH if you stay in Canterbury, it's along way back to Chartwell etc.

I'm not saying that you can't do it by public transport, but I suspect that it's going to be much more time-consuming than in a car. I understand your reluctance to drive, [as someone who has to drive around by myself a lot i sympathise] but the advent of GPS has made life a lot easier. also, you won't find heaps of traffic in east Kent, unless you venture onto the M25. [i wouldn't!]

The countryside in that area is really lovely, and you could have a lovely 2-3 days pootling around the lanes exploring if you wanted. Westerham or Sevenoaks would both be nice places to stay.
annhig is offline  
Mar 12th, 2013, 02:28 PM
  #3  
ron
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,675
You may be nuts - but can you afford a few taxis?

Anyway, here is an idea. The three houses you mention are within a 7 mile radius of Sevenoaks, as are two other interesting houses, Penshurst Place and Hever Castle. And Sevenoaks is on a direct train route from Canterbury, about 1 hr 15 mins.

So, assume you base yourself in Sevenoaks, use the Traveline South East journey planner to figure out how close you can get to these by public transport, and plan on using taxis as needed.
http://www.travelinesoutheast.org.uk

For planning purposes you should use £3 per mile for taxi fare.

Afyer you have done these houses, hop the train to Canterbury for a couple of nights there.
ron is offline  
Mar 12th, 2013, 02:35 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
ron - I hadn't even thought seriously about Hever and Penshurst as they are so difficult to get to without a car. Lovely though! well worth the odd taxi fare.

The village of Hever is on a train line, but like so many lines in the area, it runs from London outwards [roughly north west to south east] not sideways. There is a line that runs east to west, but I don't think it would help here.
annhig is offline  
Mar 12th, 2013, 02:38 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 1,313
I'm not an expert but Canterbury is a good base to explore that corner of England.

For London to Canterbury by train use this site www.nationalrail.co.uk/

Canterbury to Whitstable you can get train, and there'll be local buses as well. You can plan journeys with the traveline website tinyurl.com/pz97g

Getting to your stately homes is possible with a bit of planning. You can get a train from Canterbury to Sevenoaks and then a bus to ightam-mote
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ight...w-to-get-here/

Chartwell is less easy - maybe a taxi from Sevenoaks?
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/char...w-to-get-here/
sofarsogood is offline  
Mar 12th, 2013, 03:12 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 28
I'm looking at just that group of houses for a trip in a couple of weeks: they form a nice circle from Sevenoaks, as Ron says. My itinerary has me going from London to Sevenoaks, then Knole (1 1/2 miles from the train station), then Ightham Mote (5 miles away), then Penshurst (8.5 miles away; I've been there, and it's really cool--and in June, especially, the gardens should be fabulous, peonies! and roses. But I'm a Sidney scholar, so it's a required stop), then Hever (6 miles. The gardens are amazing; the house is cool enough but not required, but the combination is great), then Chartwell (5 miles), and then Emmetts Garden (3 miles). Obviously, the miles are kind of silly, because you couldn't do it all in one day, but it shows how tight the circle is. Sevenoaks would be a great center of operations, I think; I have never tried buses, but taxis, though expensive, would work, and would waste less time.
marysidney is offline  
Mar 12th, 2013, 04:17 PM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 319
Thank you for your thoughts! I maeny reconsider renting a car - at least from the airport to Canterbury portion. Ideally I can go from the airport to the Sevenoaks "circle", assuming they're open, etc. I'll ponder and research this tomorrow morning. BTW, perchance any recommendations for a place to stay near Sevenoaks? (Under $200 per night, unless it's super unique).
vickiebypass is offline  
Mar 12th, 2013, 04:31 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 63,238
You can drive - honest. Most the main country homes/castles/gardens are in rural areas w/ not much in the way of congestion/traffic. And I would collect the car at LGW if possible. I'd drop it at Dover and take a cab to the port. Not only would driving be much more efficient, you wouldn't have to deal w/ luggage on the trains. (that's assuming you are taking typical 'cruise sized' luggage)

But if you decide against driving, I'd very seriously consider hiring a driver for those 3 or 4 days. Instead of hassling w/ inconvenient transport and maybe getting to one house a day, you could easily knock off 3 per day and drive between them.
janisj is online now  
Mar 13th, 2013, 05:42 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
as I used to live near there, I've never spent the night in/near Sevenoaks. not helpful i know!

but if you come up with some places, I might be able to advise on position etc.
annhig is offline  
Mar 13th, 2013, 11:10 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 8,581
I've found over the years that sometimes there seems to be no practical alternative, a car is the answer to being able to see several houses in a short time, even if I'm staying nearby. And, as annhig has mentioned, staying on the country lanes as much as possible means you have a good chance of a peaceful driving experience. I also have imposed a no driving after dark rule on myself. So, from time to time when a friend isn't available to drive me, I do hire a car and have always been glad. I'd encourage you to give it a try. You can always return it and revert to the buses if it's too much.

If you do have a car and decide to expand your wanderings I recommend going to see Rudyard Kipling's house, Bateman's, also in Kent farther south. It's a very personal house, as opposed to an ancestral pile, intimate and beautiful. One of my very favorites. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/batemans/
MmePerdu is offline  
Mar 13th, 2013, 01:22 PM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 319
I've come around to the idea of renting a car since I do enjoy driving and, after all, am competent enough to travel all over the world on my own and drive throughout the US (plus, millions of American tourists do it every year). So, after looking at maps, I understood JanisJ's suggestion to collect a rental car at Gatwick. However, it turns out that very few flights from NY land at Gatwick; I did find an Aer Lingus connection that lands at Southend-on-Sea airport but in studying the map, that doesn't look very convenient (or am I missing something?) If LHR ends up as the best option due to the variety of flights available, I'll have to steel myself to drive from the airport to Sevenoaks. I'll arrive on a Sunday morning (will aim for a 7:00 am arrival), so traffic should be light...

I'll investigate pricing for an automatic with GPS. MmePerdu - Kipling's house looks wonderful since I enjoy the smaller scale, actual homes the most. Thanks for the suggestion.

While I'm not ready to give up yet, OTOH, a thought of Birmingham and Leeds popped into my mind and I think those could easily be done by train, with either a flight or train to Dover-area.
vickiebypass is offline  
Mar 13th, 2013, 02:00 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
if you are going as far out as Bateman's there are some other lovely places nearby - Bodiam Castle, Rolverden Tenterden, Rye, Winchelsea, Sissinghurst - you will be spoilt for choice.

Shame you've only got a week!
annhig is offline  
Mar 13th, 2013, 02:34 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 63,238
That's great - it will be a lot easier to get around.

The drive over from LHR isn't terrible - motorway all the way - and on Sunday AM the traffic will be lighter. But driving on jetlag isn't really recommended.

An option you might want to consider. Take the express coach from LHR to LGW you can relax and doze on the journey over and pick up your car at LGW. Then if you feel refreshed and able to drive it is only about 25 miles/35-ish mins. Otherwise you can get a day room at the Hilton and nap/eat a light meal and drive over to Sevenoaks later in the day.

W/ two people traveling and only a 25 mile journey the odds are someone would be OK to drive. But traveling solo I'd just have this Plan B already thought out.
janisj is online now  
Mar 13th, 2013, 02:40 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,814
and I'd spring for an automatic, to make things a bit easier probably.
texasbookworm is offline  
Mar 13th, 2013, 02:53 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
I like jj's plan - you can nap on the coach as there's very little to see on the M25 except traffic.
annhig is offline  
Mar 13th, 2013, 03:10 PM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 319
Annhig and JanisJ - the National Express coach to LGW makes good sense; leaving any large airport is difficult even when you know it so adding unfamiliarity to the left-hand driving might be a recipe for disaster. Now I'll start to investigate places to stay in/around Sevenoaks. Thanks for the reassurance about driving solo (and Texasbookworm, I'll definitely get an automatic!)
vickiebypass is offline  
Mar 15th, 2013, 06:36 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 319
Woo hoo - this is all starting to come together now! (thanks to all of you for encouragement re: driving and suggestions for more houses/gardens to visit) Quick question ...I've reserved a room at the Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse Inn for five nights (arrival day, Sunday through Friday). I've been studying a road atlas & it looks like Sissinghurst (via the A262 and A21) would be a fairly direct route to the Sevenoaks area (for a couple of days exploring Chartwell, Knole, Igtham Mote, Penshurst) and also near-ish Bateman's and Bodiam). It's hard to gauge the actual driving time - do you think an estimate of about 30 minutes from Siss to Seven is right? And, since the A21 appears to be a more major road than A262, is it a 4-lane highway? (just trying to figure out the fear factor!)

I tend to be a dawdler in stately homes, so I think I'll be lucky to get to two places per day - and maybe not even that. (BTW, guests at the Siss Farmhouse Inn can visit the gardens before they're open to the public (AM & PM), so that's a great perk.) So, am not sure I'll have time for Canterbury, and it's slightly out of the way from Siss and my final destination of Dover.

Still working on my itinerary but wanted to get some feedback about whether staying at Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse makes sense. THANK YOU!!
vickiebypass is offline  
Mar 15th, 2013, 07:12 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 1,313
<>

One half of the A21 will be dual carriageway (two lanes each direction), the other half past Tonbridge is single carriageway (one lane each direction)

have a look on google street view http://tinyurl.com/bsytx5t

Probably take you 45 minutes
sofarsogood is offline  
Mar 15th, 2013, 08:50 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 63,238
>>I've reserved a room at the Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse Inn for five nights <<

That is fabulous! Lucky you.

Some days you might only make two properties but some are so near each other, three is easy peasy. For instance Sissinghurst/Scotney Castle/Bodiam is and easy three-for.

Hever/Penshurst/Chartwell is also a very doable/easy day. Mostly depends on how long you spend in Hever's Gardens/grounds, which are enormous.
janisj is online now  
Mar 15th, 2013, 09:37 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,325
another lovely place nearby is Great Dixter, the home and garden of the plantsman Christopher Lloyd. there is also a garden at Standen, i think, which is even closer to your accommodation - yes, it's National Trust:

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/standen/

and here's the link for Great Dixter:

http://www.greatdixter.co.uk/
annhig is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:20 PM.