With historic castles, beautiful gardens and the White Cliffs of Dover - an iconic, natural British landmark - within its boundaries, the county of Kent is very special indeed. The Chic Retreats collection of boutique hotels in Kent starts with The Marquis at Alkham, a 5 room retreat in the beautiful Alkham Valley. The food at this luxury Kent hotel is seriously good (choose from a tasting menu or a la carte), the service spot on, and the best rooms look out onto the village cricket pitch. This luxury hotel in Kent is ideally located to explore the area, particularly Dover where you can walk along the cliffs and visit the castle with its atmospheric secret wartime tunnels, projections of swooping spitfires and Great Tower. And if you like this, you should also consider spending a day at Leeds Castle near Maidstone set in 500 acres of parkland, or 13th-century Hever Castle in west Kent, once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. It has magnificent gardens and two mazes that children will adore.
A great way of getting around is cycling and there are several sightseeing routes that might appeal. You can peddle the 5 mile Tudor Trail which runs alongside the River Medway and through woodland from Tonbridge Castle to Penshurst Place, and then continues to Hever Castle. Alternatively, foodies might enjoy the ‘Crab and Winkle Way’, a 7.5 mile route from Canterbury to Whitstable via Blean Woods, a peaceful RSPB nature reserve and Clowes Wood. Before you peddle off, take time to look around Canterbury, one of the county’s most impressive cities with a spectacular cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey and of course, the shops. Once you’ve completed the ride and you arrive in Whitstable you can reward yourself with a stroll round the harbour and some freshly caught seafood. Try The Whitstable Oyster Company restaurant or the Crab & Winkle restaurant. It’s also worth noting that the town holds an annual oyster festival in the summer.
Other noteworthy seaside towns worth checking out are Margate, home to the Turner Contemporary Gallery (which is on the site where painter JMW Turner stayed when he visited the town), and Folkestone for its sandy beaches and the Folkestone Triennial arts festival, when the town’s public spaces are transformed into an art gallery. If you’re feeling peckish while you’re in town, book a table at Rocksalt, chef Mark Sargent’s excellent seafood restaurant with harbour views or get takeaway fish and chips from his more casual restaurant The Smokehouse. Beer fans should also pay a visit to the Shepherd Neame Brewery, Britain’s oldest brewer and a family-run company, in Faversham to see how it’s made and sample some of the ales.
Finally, for a special treat have lunch or dinner at Modern European restaurant Chapter One on Farnborough Common; European restaurant The West House at Biddenden or French food at Thackeray’s in lovely Tunbridge Wells, all of which boast Michelin star chefs.
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THE MARQUIS AT ALKHAM
dover, united kingdom
The Marquis at Alkham is a small boutique hotel and restaurant in the picturesque village of Alkham, Kent. This wonderfully-restored Chic Retreat serves gourmet cuisine in a gorgeous contemporary setting; perfect for a romantic break.