Kent

The Top Things to Do in West Malling, Kent

Sandwiched between the North Downs and Maidstone and just over an hour from central London, the market town of West Malling in Kent is perfectly placed for country breaks. Inside the town itself, a broad high street provides a welcoming hub with attractive buildings housing everything from Michelin-recommended restaurants to local florists to artisan cafés. Meanwhile, here and beyond the inner circle of the town you’ll find a wealth of historical and natural attractions, including a 3,000-year-old burial chamber, 900-year-old abbey and 230-acre country park.

So that you don’t miss a trick during your holiday in Kent, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in West Malling. 

Buy Local Produce at West Malling’s Farmers’ Market  

Held on the fourth Sunday of every month, West Malling’s Farmers’ Market takes place in the town’s main street. With a history dating back to the Roman times, this market has a steadfast place in the town’s traditions and is the best place to go to sample local produce. Take your time exploring the market and chat to the local producers to learn about production methods, tastes and ingredients and peruse the goods on offer. With so much on offer – from meats and cheese to fruit and vegetables to bread and cakes, and more – you’re sure to leave with a fully laden basket. 

Walk Around Manor Park Country Park 

The 52-acre Manor Park in West Malling was once part of an 18th Century estate belonging to nearby Douces Manor. Today, this stunning country park is open to the public to enjoy and affords an array of natural habitats through which to wander at leisure, from wildflower meadows to woodland copses to serene lakeside shores. Woven with a network of flat-surface trails and paths dotted with benches, this dog-friendly park has year-round appeal. What’s more, there’s also a children’s play area and a café within the park too, perfect for keeping the whole family happy. 

Explore the Remains of St Leonard’s Tower 

The striking remains of St Leonard’s Tower stand on a natural sandstone ledge on the south-western fringes of West Malling. While this 11th or 12th Century tower’s origins are largely a mystery, its location near the head of a narrow valley and its seeming lack of fireplaces or latrines suggest it could have been used for defensive purposes. If you’d like to see it for yourself, you can visit this English Heritage tower free of charge anytime during the day. You can’t go inside, but its exteriors inspire plenty of intrigue and are a great subject for photography.  

Watch a Game of Cricket  

West Malling is well connected to the cricketing world, being the site of the first recorded cricket match in Kent. It’s also thought that the town’s cricket matches (which still take place every Saturday in the summer) inspired the cricket match between ‘All Muggleton and Dingley Dell’ in Charles Dickens’ novel Pickwick Papers. A whole new claim to fame, an illustration of this fictional match was used to decorate the back of the old English £10 notes in the 1990s, in the background of which you can see what’s believed to be the spire of West Malling’s parish church, St Mary’s Church. 

Play a Round of Golf 

If golf is more your thing, then you will be spoilt for choice in West Malling. With a choice of three golf courses all within easy reach of the town – West Malling, Wrotham Heath and King’s Hill – you can enjoy hours of competition or practice around each course. At West Malling Golf Club, there are two golf courses: the Par 70 Spitfire and Par 67 Hurricane, which are named after the iconic fighter planes that flew out of the town’s former airfield, RAF West Malling, during the Second World War. This airfield was also where the Beatles filmed their music video for I Am the Walrus

Visit St Mary’s Church 

West Malling’s parish church, St Mary the Virgin, can be found at the top of the high street in the centre of the town. Though parts of its structure have been repaired and reconstructed over the years, the church’s tower and western chancel have survived from the original Norman church that was built by Bishop Gundulph almost 1,000 years ago. Among the church’s most notable features are its 70ft spire (that had to be replaced in the 1700s after being set ablaze during a lightning storm and sent crashing through the church roof), colourful stained-glass windows and an elaborate coat of arms for King James II. 

See the Cascades at Malling Abbey  

In the middle of West Malling is the 900-year-old Malling Abbey. Founded in 1090 by the Norman monk-bishop Gundulf of Rochester, it is still home to a community of Benedictine nuns to this day. As well as the site’s Norman, Medieval, Tudor and Georgian structures, there’s another unusual feature hidden with the abbey’s grounds – a picturesque water cascade. While it’s unclear how old the manmade waterfall actually is, a watercolour by the famous painter J.M.W Turner depicting the abbey and cascade has been found, dating it to at least the 1790s – though it’s possibly Medieval.  

Tour the Town’s Streets 

If you’re keen to stretch your legs and learn more about the secrets of West Malling, then you can always try a self-guided tour of the town. Along the town’s high street and splintering lanes are many Georgian buildings, making for fascinating viewing. Along Swan Street, both the Swan Hotel and Went House date back to the 1700s, while the Grade II* listed Prior’s Cottage on King Street dates back to the 1600s and is believed to have once been a home for lepers. Of course, other note-worthy buildings include the church and abbey which are in easy walking distance of each other.  

Eat and Drink in Town  

The streets of West Malling are home to a surprising number of wonderful pubs, restaurants and cafés. Particularly popular restaurants are the Michelin-recommended Swan, the Farm House and the Chefs Table, while for pubs the King & Queen, the Angel Inn, the Duke of Wellington and Five Pointed Star are all welcoming, dog-friendly options. For fish lovers, Frank's Restaurant & Mussel Bar on the high street is a must-try, while for alfresco meals with a twist, the Moody Mare should be on your list for its outdoor tipis. You can also visit the town’s Farmer’s Market, held on the fourth Sunday of every month. 

See the Coldrum Long Barrow 

The 3000-year-old Coldrum Long Barrow is the best-preserved megalithic longbarrow in Kent. A magical place in its own right, it’s believed that the name 'Coldrum' could derive from the old Cornish word 'Galdrum', which translates as ‘place of enchantments’. A thousand years older than Stonehenge, it’s the kind of place that radiates history and conjures up stories for all those willing to let their minds wander. One of the top places to visit in West Malling, this National Trust-run site is open from dawn ‘til dusk and facilities are available in the town itself.  

Stroll Through Leybourne Lakes Country Park 

Covering an area of 230 acres, the award-winning Leybourne Lakes Country Park features a rich and intricate tapestry of habitats, including four lakes, grassland and marshland. A haven for all, it draws everyone from birdwatchers to cyclists, and from dog-walkers to sports enthusiasts looking to enjoy its winding paths and activities. As well as the park’s walking routes and guided trails, there’s also a children’s play area, a café and a water-sports centre within the country park – the latter of which offers SUP lessons, yoga, swimming, kitesurfing, diving and more throughout the year. 

Day Trip to Maidstone  

Ideal for daytrips, West Malling is less than 10 miles from Maidstone. The largest town in Kent, the historic County Town of Maidstone offers a broad selection of things to see and do. For shopping opportunities, the town centre awaits with an eclectic mix of boutiques and stores, while for the foodies, there’s a huge number of eateries sourcing local food from Kent: “the Garden of England”. Maidstone also happens to be the events capital of Kent and hosts a wide array of events and festivals every year, including Maidstone Fringe Festival and the Kent County Show. Slightly further afield is Leeds Castle – one of the top attractions in Kent.

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