Only a few miles east of the M25 in Kent, Lullingstone Country Park is 460 acres of ancient woodland, grassland and wildflower meadows set amongst the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
MUMMY’S GIN FUND SAYS:
Lullingstone is only 30 minutes’ drive from the urban sprawl of Lewisham, but it feels like a different world. This is our default option if we need a fix of fresh air, rolling Kentish hills, but don’t want to travel too far. It’s a great place to visit in any season – bring a picnic in summer or blow the cobwebs away with a winter walk. See if you can spot kingfishers, skylarks and even grass snakes! There’s also plenty in the surrounding area to make a fuller day trip if you want to. The Roman Villa with its spectacular mosaic floor and rare wall paintings is a definite must see and worth the English Heritage entry fee (£6.60 adults; £4.00 for over 5s; £17.20 for a family; free if you’re an EH member; end March-end September; 10am-6pm; 7 days a week).
It’s all under cover and quite child friendly too (buggy accessible, with toilets, a shop, a self-service drinks/snack area, picnic area, and dressing-up box). We also like to stop off at The Hop Shop which is only a few minutes’ drive from the Park. It’s a farm shop which sells a lovely range of locally produced lavender and hop products. They also have an orchard where you can pick your apples (from mid-September to mid-October). And at Halloween, they have all sorts of shape and sizes of pumpkins that the kids will love to choose and weigh! If you fancy stopping off for lunch, both nearby Eynsford and Shoreham villages have several pubs near the river which serve food.
Address: Castle Road, Eynsford, DA4 0JF.
Playground: Yes, a newly installed small playground next to the visitor centre / cafe/ picnic area, so handy for keeping the little ones entertained whilst you stop for lunch.
Cafe: Yes, selling sandwiches, cakes, hot meals and drinks.
Toilets: Yes, including baby change.
Pram / wheelchair / mobility friendly: It’s a bit hilly in places and the paths are uneven, so it’s not really suited to prams or smaller buggies; slings and three-wheeler buggies are best.
Parking: Yes. Pay and display car park on site. Mon-Fri: £1.50. Weekends & bank hols: £2.50.
Phone: 03000 411811.
Run by Kent County Council, it’s open all year round (except Christmas Day) and is free to visit (parking is up to £2.50 per day). Walking trails are the main attraction here and there are 3 main waymarked routes of varying length to choose from, plus shorter walks around the River Darent and visitor centre. The 1.5 mile Discovery Trail (1 hour) is the most suited to more adventurous kids and includes a zip wire, swing and bird hide. It costs £2.50 for a trail sheet per child from the gift shop.
There’s also a 2 mile Woodland Walk (1 hour), and more challenging 4 mile Lullingstone Loop circular walk (2 hours) which goes past Lullingstone’s two other main attractions – the Roman Villa (run by English Heritage – see below for details) and the medieval Castle & World Garden (open Fri/Sat/Sun and bank holiday Mondays between Easter and mid-September; and Sundays only in October; £18 for a family ticket).
The Park has a visitor centre, eat-in cafe (selling sandwiches, cakes, hot meals and drinks), toilets (including baby change facilities) and a shop. A play area is nearby. Picnic benches are also available. Unique outdoor parties for 4-12 year olds can also be booked here all year round, with activities including den-making, bushcraft skills and mini-beast safaris. See the website for details. Other nearby attractions include Eagle Heights in Eynsham with its popular bird of prey displays (open 7 days a week; £7.95 adults; £4.95 over 4s.).
Review by Rachel Smith