An established shopping destination, Ashford is home to a multitude of designer and high-end brands with impeccable transport links. Ashford International is less than 5 minutes walk from the Designer Outlet, where you can shop the likes of Coach, Belstaff, Sandro, Calvin Klein and Karl Lagerfeld. If you’re arriving from London, the high-speed link from St. Pancras takes just 38 minutes and is priced from as little as £13.40 one way when you book in advance. There are also regular services running from Charing Cross, London Bridge, Waterloo, Victoria and the South. If it’s artisanal shopping you’re after, there are plenty of markets showcasing the very best of the area’s homegrown produce.
Where to stay
Whatever your preference, be it a charming guest house or upmarket hotel, there are plenty of comfortable places to rest your head in Ashford. All the better if you plan on roaming the plethora of stunning trails and ancient woodlands the next day.
Recently opened is The Hampton by Hilton. It is located next to Ashford International Train Station, and is a short walk to Ashford Designer Outlet,
Those seeking a spot of indulgence can place Eastwell Manor on their radar. A luxury hotel and spa that dates back to the 1500’s, old world charm and character can be found in abundance here. What’s more, it’s located a mere 15 minutes from the town centre which makes it convenient for dining, shopping and getting to know your surroundings. Grand in every sense of the word, the building has been lovingly restored with rich elegant interiors and exquisite details. Mews rooms and suites offer quaint and colourful designs with modern bathrooms and roll top baths, perfect for when rest and relaxation are the order of the day.
Where to stay
If you’re looking to trade garden views for sea views, the Hythe Imperial Hotel won’t disappoint. Equally as luxurious, it presents unbeatable panoramas and an opportunity to explore the delights of the coast. A Victorian gem, the hotel has been decorated to an impeccable standard with options that include everything from modest sized rooms to more opulent suites. To unwind, guests can head down to the spa or test their skills on the 18-hole golf course.
To experience a truly unique stay, look no further than The Cave Hotel. 30 minutes from Ashford’s centre, the eclectic Cave combines relaxation with cutting-edge design. The accommodation is luxurious and packed with state of the art technology, there’s an indulgent pool area, incredible golf at Boughton, and wood-smoked cuisine inspired by flavours from around the globe. Situated a short 5 minute stroll from Ashford Designer Outlet, serious shoppers might want to take up residence at the newly built Hampton by Hilton Hotel. With every amenity you’d imagine from the global brand, guests can expect a truly comfortable stay in modern but homely surroundings.
Known for Michelin-starred fine dining, crisp apple cider, and world-class wineries, foodies will revel in all that Kent has to serve up. Diners can expect the freshest, seasonal, home-grown ingredients sourced from local producers.
30 minutes drive from Ashford, you can enjoy views of the rolling waves alongside your meal at Rocksalt on Folkestone seafront. Floor to ceiling windows expose diners to remarkable views over the English Channel with a range of fresh seasonal seafood, locally sourced meats and homegrown vegetables being the order of the day. A focus on quality, locality, sustainability and provenance have put this restaurant on the map in recent years. Those visiting the area might want to book ahead to secure a reservation at this unique spot.
In the mood for a tipple or two? Venture along to the award-winning Curious Brewery, 5 minutes from the city centre. A lesson in how to brew beer in modern Britain, visitors can learn the tricks of the trade by booking themselves a tour followed by a tasting session. Alternatively, if wine is your drink of choice, the area's assortment of vineyards are not to be missed. Within 30 minutes of the town centre, you’ll find Chapel Down, Hush Heath (home of award-winning Balfour Brut Rosé) and Gusbourne Estate wineries. Each offering a memorable day out that includes tours, tastings and shopping.
In between dining, there are plenty of famous attractions, landmarks, bustling markets and beaches to explore. If you’re visiting with children, the Steam Railway at Tenterden is a must. The picturesque line weaves between Tenterden and Bodiam for 10 and a half miles, where passengers can experience a bygone age aboard beautifully restored Victorian coaches. For a premium offering, you can opt for an intimate dinner aboard the Wealden Pullman as it winds gently along the Rother Valley.
Nature lovers can explore the delights of the Wye Downs, an unspoilt stretch of chalk downland and woodland located on the North Downs near the village of Wye. Alternatively, head to Folkestone seafront for a coastal walk followed by a glass of fizz at the incredible Lighthouse champagne bar.