Feed your Instagram at these 7 amazingly Instagrammable spots near London

COVID 19 update - please observe the current guidelines and check the opening hours of any attraction noted in the itinerary before undertaking your journey. 

These photogenic places in and around Sevenoaks are guaranteed to keep your Instagram followers happy – and they’re all around an hour’s drive from London.

Snap pretty scenes and caption them with intriguing stories at these Insta-worthy locations in Kent. From vibrant lavender to Anne Boleyn’s actual bedroom to views that have impressed social reformers and prime ministers, you’ll find plenty of amazing angles at these Instagrammable spots near London.

1. Rows of purple lavender at Castle Farm

Kent lavender fields at sunset |Credit Thomas Alexander Photography

It’s no secret that cherries, plums and vineyards thrive in the Garden of England, but did you know that lavender does, too? Brighten up your Instagram feed with a splash of purple at The Hop Shop at Castle Farm, the UK’s largest lavender producer.

There’s a thoughtfully placed bench in a viewing area among the rows of flowers, but it’s worth joining a lavender tour for access to the blooms beyond. You’ll also learn how the oil is extracted on site and the best ways to use lavender oil. For a shot at the ultimate ‘gram, book a BYO sunset lavender picnic (you’ll need to be flexible over timings as sunset picnics are confirmed just a few days in advance to guarantee good weather).

The lavender fields are at their best late-June to late-July but there’s plenty to do outside lavender season. In autumn, fill one of the farm’s pretty woven baskets with Norfolk Royal apples (the big, red Snow White-worthy variety). And whenever you go, don’t miss the shop. It’s packed to the rafters with lavender-themed goodies and farm produce, all year round.

Follow: @thehopshop_kent


2. Tudor architecture at Chiddingstone

Chiddingstone village shop | credit Liam Pearson

Insta-architecture buffs will adore Chiddingstone. The village is owned by the National Trust and a wander along its tiny high street is a journey back in time. It’s one of the most complete surviving examples of Tudor living in the country.

Chiddingstone’s history goes back to before records began, but the half-timbered buildings teetering over the cobblestone pavement date from Tudor times. Anne Boleyn’s father once owned the Post Office, believed to be the county’s oldest working shop. Tucked behind the village is The Chiding Stone. No-one really knows how this strange, sandstone boulder got its name, but various theories include a druid altar, a Saxon boundary and a place to punish witches.

Don’t miss Chiddingstone Castle. It may not be as old as Chiddingstone village, but with its battlements, large pond and cheerful spring flowers, it’s equally picturesque. The rambling, National Trust-owned Castle Inn is a great spot for a drink after a stroll through the surrounding countryside.

Follow: @southeastnt ; @thetuliptreetea ; @chidd_castle ; @thecastleinnchiddingstone

 

3. Sculpture and exotic flowers at Riverhill Himalayan Garden

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens in the Sevenoaks sunshine

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens in the Sevenoaks sunshine

Riverhill Himalayan Garden was first planted by John Rogers, a friend of Charles Darwin and a patron of the plant collectors of his day. Much of this hillside garden was lost over time, particularly in the post-war years, but Rogers’ great-great-great-grandson is managing the ongoing restoration project, slowly re-discovering forgotten areas of the garden.

In spring, the rhododendrons, bluebells and primroses dazzle. Come summer, the Rose Walk is awash with scent, while the peony borders run a riot of colour around the Walled Garden in June. The Wood Garden is the place to point your lens in autumn, but expansive views across the Weald of Kent and the British sculpture exhibitions are there to admire whenever the garden is open.

To capture an enviably rare photograph, keep an eye on the website to find out when the West End (usually kept as a private family garden) will be open to the public. It’s home to the Waterloo Cedar, one of the largest cedars in England.

Follow: @riverhillhimalayangardens ; @riverhillheadgardener

 

4. Views that impressed prime ministers and social reformers at Ide Hill

Views across West Kent from Ide Hill

Views across West Kent from Ide Hill

Ide Hill has many claims to fame. At 216 metres (709ft) above sea level, the village’s church and football pitch each have the distinction of being the highest in Kent, plus it’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest thanks to the surrounding wildlife-rich woodland.

Mostly though, it’s simply breathtakingly beautiful. It’s easy to see why Churchill was moved to exclaim “This is what we’re fighting for” as he walked in the area, and why Octavia Hill, social reformer, a founder of the National Trust and all-round remarkable woman, fought to protect it as part of London’s “Green Belt” – a phrase first coined by Hill.

Get snap-happy as you soak up the spectacular views across the Kent Weald from the maze of walking trails that cover Ide Hill, including the Greensand Way, North Downs Way and Octavia Hill Centenary Trail. Look out for the inscribed bench dedicated to Octavia Hill, “who, loving nature with a great love, secured this view for the enjoyment of those who came after her.”

 

5. Set-jetting on Kent Filming Office’s Tudor(ish) Movie Trail

 

Insta-worthy autumnal views of Penshurst Place

Insta-worthy autumnal views of Penshurst Place

This corner of Kent was a popular retreat for the Tudors. Follow in their footsteps – and those of the film directors who have drawn inspiration from the Tudor dynasty – using Kent Film Office’s Movie Map.

Many of the area’s Tudor palaces still exist, from Hever Castle (Anne Boleyn’s childhood home) to Penshurst Place, where Henry VIII stayed while courting her. You and your Instagram followers probably already know them from films such as The Other Boleyn Girl and The Hollow Crown: Henry V.

Insta-worthy sets you can visit include the beautiful Tudor village of Chiddingstone, Knole’s magnificent show rooms and deer park, and the Elizabethan Long Gallery at Penshurst Place, which became Anne Boleyn’s chamber in the BBC’s Wolf Hall. During filming, one visitor thought Damian Lewis looked familiar but couldn’t quite place him. Lewis, in full Tudor costume, replied: ‘Well of course you do – I’m Henry VIII’!

Follow: @penshurstplace ; @hever_castle

6. Birds and bugs at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve

 

Birds and Bugs at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve

Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve | Credit John Miller

You’ll find tranquil Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 73 hectares (180 acres) of woodland, marshes and lakes dedicated to nature conservation, on the edge of bustling Sevenoaks. But it wasn’t always so serene here…

Pre-1950s, this was a sand and gravel pit. Nowadays, the half-water, half-land site teems with nature and birdlife. More than 2,000 species have been identified, from teal, lapwing, kingfishers and grey heron to dragonflies, damselflies, fungi and even glow-worms.

You can find out more about the wildlife and the site’s journey from pre-history to pioneering nature reserve in the Jeffrey Harrison Visitor Centre. There are walking trails and regular events such as winter birding walks and torchlight surveys to join. Shutterbugs welcome!

7. Piles of local produce at Knockholt Farmers’ Market

Cacti on sale at Coolings

Cacti on sale at Coolings

For a mouthwatering display of proudly Kent produce, head to Knockholt Farmers’ Market, held on the lawn outside Coolings Garden Centre on the fourth Saturday of every month. The rows of colourful tents frame a photogenic array of local produce, from vegetarian Bombay aloo Scotch eggs and pretty patisserie to handmade cold-pressed soaps.

Try one of Jacqui-tea-and-me’s scrumptious nostalgic bakes, many with a gluten-free twist. Or pick up some air-dried meaty snacks from Downward Dog Natural Treats for your favourite four-legged friend. If you’re looking for an unexpected photo of a farmers’ market, check out Joe Gomez’s Sharpening Solutions and capture the spinning wheel as it grinds tools to a precise point.

While you’re there, it’d be criminal not to pop into Coolings, too. There’s more than 1.2 hectares (3 acres) of plants on sale, from fruit trees and brightly coloured shrubs to alpines and acers, many of which were grown at the on-site nursery. Arthurs, the coffee shop, is a great spot for brunch or afternoon tea (the latter must be pre-booked).

Follow: @coolingsgardencentre

 

5 local Instagram handles to follow for the inside scoop:

  • @visitsevenoaksdistrict: "Celebrating tourism in the Sevenoaks District! Find out more about our amazing attractions and share your photos by using #VisitSevenoaksDistrict."
  • @sevenoaksdistrictcouncil: “Sharing the best of Sevenoaks District & the Council! Share your photos of the District with us using the hashtag #sevenoaksdcpictures.“
  • @sevenoaks_foodie: “On a mission to buy, cook and eat more local food from our beautiful corner of Kent.”
  • @sevenoaksbookshop: “Independent bookselling since 1948. Enjoy our café, join the monthly lunchtime book club, and come along to our author events.”
  • @simplysevenoaks: “Passionate supporters for the delights of Sevenoaks District. Use#simplysevenoaks to be featured."
  • @stagsevenoaks: “Stage - Screen – Community. Follow us to find out what's on at The Stag Sevenoaks, behind the scenes content and any special offers!”

 

Opening times of the various attractions mentioned above vary throughout the year. Please check individual attractions’ websites before you visit. Always check availability and book ahead for tours.