The trio of enchanting villages:  Newenden, Sandhurst, and Hawkhurst

These hot spots along the East Sussex border are located within just 6 miles of each other, you can easily spend a week working your way through these villages and surrounding areas. From historic houses, castles, and paddle boarding this area of Kent has lots to offer.

Starting with Newenden, which is thought to be the first-ever village formed in Kent, dating back to AD 791. Head to the ancient bridge, known as Newenden Bridge or Rother Bridge, it was built in 1706 and is still supported with its original timbers. From here you can hop on a boat and take a trip along the Rother River to Bodiam Castle. This stunning 14th-century moated castle is worth a visit all year round. Check their website before you visit as they host events for all ages throughout the year.

When you start to feel peckish during your visit, stop by Lime Wharf Cafe which overlooks the River Rother and serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea as well as summer BBQs, paella and cocktails. If the river looks enticing on a hot summer day, you can hire paddle boards or kayaks and take to the waters from Bodiam Boating Station. If you’re feeling adventurous and up to the challenge you can row a boat from the cafe to 1066 country! There are over 10 miles of flat river which you can explore at your leisure.

Another exciting way to get to Bodiam Castle is by travelling there on the Kent and East Sussex Railway. A historic steam railway line, today it offers an 18.5 km ride through the Rother Valley in vintage and British Railways coaches, usually hauled by a steam locomotive! The preserved line currently runs from Tenterden to Bodiam, at which you can alight and walk to the castle.

For special occasions, why not dine on the train? The Wealden Pullman forms the perfect venue for daytime celebrations or for a more intimate evening ride at sunset. Enjoy a delicious meal onboard served by authentically attired Pullman attendants whilst the train gently winds its way along the valley. The dining carriages date back from the 1920’s and a 1930’s first-class carriage was built for the Southampton Ocean Liner traffic.

To continue the traditional Kentish experience check into The Oast in Newenden. This oast house was originally built to dry hops for beer making, it’s now a lovingly restored and converted holiday home sleeping 8 guests. It’s located in the centre of the historic village of Newenden opposite the village green where cricket has been played since 1300. There is plenty of outdoor space at The Oast such as its sunny terrace with far-reaching westerly views down the Rother Valley as well as the one-acre paddock which is ideal for little children to run around it.

In Sandhurst, history comes alive in the form of historic buildings and landmarks, including the iconic Sandhurst Windmill, a striking reminder of the village’s agricultural heritage. In the village centre, you can expect timber-framed cottages and centuries-old pubs that have an old-world charm to them. A short drive from the village centre is Hole Park Gardens, a 16-acre, family-run garden, renowned for its bluebell wood and wildlife.

A countryside getaway might just be what you need to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If you’re looking for somewhere peaceful check out Motor House Loft, the master bedroom has lovely rural views looking out to the surrounding fields of Sandhurst. This holiday home sleeps four guests and offers very quiet, peaceful accommodation.

When visiting Sandhurst, a must-go for any gardener or historic home lover is Great Dixter, it’s a renowned historic house with glorious gardens. Fancy two garden visits in one day? Hawkhurst is home to the wondrous Pashley Manor Gardens. They hold an annual Tulip Festival (April 19 – May 3) which unfolds like a living canvas! Over 48,000 tulips blanket the gardens in a breathtaking array of colours and shapes. Here, amidst the meticulously landscaped grounds, visitors are treated to a display of over 100 varieties of tulips, carefully arranged in themed garden ‘rooms’ and vibrant pots.

For those who like the idea of a holiday home with a gorgeous garden, head to Bedgebury Oast, the lawns and flowerbeds are beautiful in peak summer. This holiday home is situated on the Bedgebury Estate and sleeps up to 10 guests across 5 bedrooms. The garden is a perfect place to enjoy a G&T in the sunshine or for competitive garden games with friends and family.

Nature enthusiasts can embark on a scenic hike along the Sussex Border Path or enjoy a leisurely bike ride through the idyllic countryside. Pack a picnic or stop at one of the many foodie delights that bound Newenden, Sandhurst, and Hawkhurst.

From cosy tea rooms serving freshly baked scones, such as Sandhurst Tea Rooms, to quaint country pubs offering hearty meals made from locally sourced ingredients, there’s no shortage of options to satisfy your appetite. One such place is The White Hart in Newenden, a 16th-century village pub serving hearty favourites made from fresh, local Kentish fare. Expect roaring fireplaces and oak-beamed ceilings which create a cosy ambience perfect for savouring a pint of locally brewed Kentish ale or a delicious Sunday roast.

If you’re looking to explore East Sussex towns even further check out our blog post on Camber & Rye, it’s packed with ideas on what to see and places to eat in East Sussex.