A guide to the South East for culture vultures
Ok, yes… When it comes to history and culture, London can run circles round the rest of the UK. It’s got everything from connections to famous literary figures – think Baker Street, Shakespeare’s Globe, and hello, Harry Potter World – to world-class museums and famous art galleries. But, when you’ve aimlessly wandered around the Tate one too many times, pretending to understand what the blob of paint on a blank canvas means, it’s maybe time to venture outside the capital for a dose of regional culture.
Enter the UK’s only high-speed rail line. Hop on at St Pancras station and be whisked to the gorgeous towns and small cities in Kent and Sussex. Before you settle for a pub lunch and a walk in the country, take a look at some of its best cultural and historic highlights. Take a look below and see where you should head next time you take daytrip from the capital…
Head to cultured Canterbury
A family day trip to Canterbury is so much more than traipsing the kids round the (in fairness, incredibly impressive) UNESCO World Heritage site cathedral. A high-speed train will whisk you from central London to this historic city in just 51 minutes. While there, a must visit is the Canterbury Tales Museum, that brings to life Chaucer’s Tale – the kids will thank you for it when they have to study it in school.
This interactive museum is sure to hold even the most tricky of children’s attention. When it comes to seeing the rest of Canterbury, the Canterbury Spy Mission Treasure Trail is a great way to keep the kids attention while exploring the rest of the sites. They’ll have to look for the clues as they go, by examining buildings, plaques and monuments. At the end of the trail, you’ll be able to work out the deactivation code to save the day.
Kids' energy levels getting low? Make a pit stop at The Fudge Kitchen and load up on a sugary treat. For the seriously sweet-toothed, we recommend their unique drinking fudge – you’ll never want a hot chocolate again. And if there's time, take the high-speed train further along to Herne Bay and walk the Herne Bay Cultural Trail.
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Head to radiant Ramsgate
Being part of the Confederation of Cinque Ports (a historic series of coastal towns in Kent and Sussex), it’s fair to say Ramsgate is more than just your average seaside town. It's a great place for a day trip for friends looking to inject a little bit of history into their weekend, as it’s got cultural attractions aplenty.
Start by admiring the sea views from the town’s historic port, before visiting one of its fascinating museums – for shipwrecks and coastal town heritage, try the Maritime Museum, or if you are more about the present, unleash your inner geek at the Micro Museum. It explores the history of the modern-day computer and you’ll be able to spend a few hours getting your hipster on by playing their video games on classic vintage consoles.
Ramsgate is also home to some impressive architecture, in particular, the Ramsgate Tunnels. Here you can discover the only known civilian deep shelter against air raids authorised by Central Government. During the 1940’s bombings, over 300 families lived in the tunnels and a guided tour will help bring their experiences to life. A bit claustrophobic? Then maybe a trip to Italianate Glasshouse and Tea Garden is more to your liking. The Grade II listed building was restored in 2005, it's now a peaceful spot to enjoy a picnic in pretty surroundings.
Visiting Ramsgate in the summer? Then make sure you visit the Ramsgate Festival on 22nd- 30th July, a multi-arts community festival that organises a variety of theatre and dance productions, workshops and exhibitions.
Get there: High-speed trains depart from London St Pancras throughout the day to Ramsgate.
Head to romantic Rochester
Ok, so a lot of Dickens' works don’t scream romance, but Rochester‘s historic buildings and pretty surrounds make it a great place for coupley insta-shots. For the more literary inclined, The Guildhall Museum is a good starting point to learn more about Dickens, whose life began and ended in this area of the country. Once you’ve made your way around the interactive exhibits, wander around the town and try to spot the building that appeared in his literature. Literary attractions don’t end with Dickens though. Be sure to peruse the shelves at Baggins Book Bazaar that sits on Rochester’s attractive High Street and happens to be England’s largest second-hand book shop.
Away from the books, take a romantic stroll through the Grade II listed Vines Park, before heading to the magnificent Rochester Cathedral, and then explore Rochester Castle. Its attractive location along the River Medway, makes for a great spot to end your day and take in this historic and impressive town.
Ready to explore the South East? The UK’s only high-speed train route will whisk you from the city centre to Kent in 90 minutes or less. It’s an ideal day trip for families, groups of friends and couples alike.