Tenterden – a guide for visiting the jewel of the Weald


It's a big claim to describe a single location as the 'Jewel of the Weald' as there is so much to see in this area, but we think Tenterden is worthy of this title. The town is packed with fascinating history and is definitely one to visit if you're interested in trains. Here are our favourites things to see and do in the town:

Kent & East Sussex Railway (& Col.Stephens Railway Museum)

If anything is a 'must-do' attraction in Tenterden, then it's got to be the Kent & East Sussex Railway. Originally opened in 1900, this was England’s first ‘light railway' and is an important part of the country's transport history. The line was closed in 1954 but reopened 20 years later and now runs steam hauled and diesel observation trains on a 10.5-mile line from Bodiam Castle to Tenterden.  The Wealden Pullman is maybe the best train to catch if you can, and can include a lovely meal as well as excellent service from the onboard staff. Feel free to ask the staff questions too as they are all very knowledgeable and hard-working. The museum here is devoted to the life and work of Colonel Holman F Stephen, who built and managed the railway. Without his efforts and enthusiasm, there would be no railway to enjoy. The museum is free to enter but we recommend leaving a donation to help them maintain the quality. Learn more about the railway and museum here -


St Mildred's Church

St Mildred's is a beautiful church both inside and out. The grounds have an untouched quality to them which we feel gives the building a slightly mysterious feeling. Once you enter the church, you'll immediately spot the barrel-style Wagon Roof. Built in the 12th-century, the church has a simplistic design but is still lovely to look at. The staff here are always welcoming and there are some very useful information boards which provide an overview of the history. Even if you don't pay a visit to the church, you'll probably spot the 130ft tower from elsewhere in town. Learn more here -


Smallhythe Place

Managed by The National Trust, this early 16th-century house in the hamlet of Small Hythe just next to Tenterden is a fascinating visit. Not only is it very picturesque, it also has a lovely history attached to it - the house was owned by Victorian actress Ellen Terry, and is now essentially a small museum dedicated to her life. The house contains her theatre collection, and the grounds include the rose garden she created, as well as an orchard, and the Barn Theatre, a gorgeous thatched building which still holds performances. Overall, a great place to visit. Expect to pay around £10 per adult, learn more here -


Tenterden Museum

Although it might not the most popular museum in the town, Tenterden Museum is still a very interesting place to visit and certainly worth a few hours of your time. The exhibitions provide an excellent and quirky breakdown of the local history of the town, and although it's a small museum there is plenty to see and learn about. Highlights include the 1960s style rooms and for the kids there is a great area with colouring and lots to get involved with. At only £3 per entry there is no reason not to go, learn more here -


Chapel Down

If wine is your thing then a trip to Chapel Down vineyard is highly recommended. You could just turn up for a look and to grab a few bottles, but we'd recommend going for a tour to get the proper experience - they aren't extortionate (start at £25.00 per person) but they give you a great overview of the location and they include a tutored tasting of a selection of their award-winning sparkling and still wines. If you're spending a whole afternoon there then the cheese and wine pairing wine tour is probably the one to go for. Anyway, we need a glass of wine now! Learn more here -


Sissinghurst Castle Garden

This location isn't technically in Tenterden, but it is still well worth a visit and is only a short distance from the town with ample travel options available to get there. Created by poet Vita Sackville-West and her husband in the early 20th century, this Grade I listed estate is one of the most famous gardens in England and is now managed by the National Trust. A visit here is a real treat - firstly, it goes without saying that a wander around the gardens is amazing. The area is split up into a number of different smaller gardens, with the best of the bunch (in our opinion) being the great-smelling Herb Garden, and The White Garden with the beautiful white Japanese anemones. You can also explore the Long Library and The Tower, from which you can enjoy panoramic views of the estate. Learn more and plan your visit here -

If you enjoyed this guide, please check out our guide about the nearby Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest and about other locations in England such as Teesdale and Devon.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

One Comment

  • Carol Burns

    I am planning to be in England in October, 2023, to visit Tenterden to see Smallhythe Place and Sissinghurst Castle Garden. Will you please tell me if those are open for visitors in October? Also, are you familiar with the name of the train stop for that area? Most grateful
    ~ Carol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *