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Autumn family days out in Kent at Ightham Mote, Scotney Castle, Emmetts Garden and Hole Park.

By Angela Cole

Long summer nights may be giving way to cooler autumn days, but they are replaced by radiant reds and breathtaking bronzes in gardens across the county.

From the end of September, you can walk on a carpet of leaves while you discover the seasonal sights. Here are a few to check out:

Playing in the autumn leaves near the Boathouse at Scotney Castle. Picture: National Trust/John Miller
Playing in the autumn leaves near the Boathouse at Scotney Castle. Picture: National Trust/John Miller


For autumn, the castle’s moated reflection offers a new perspective while the view of the Weald from the higher ground surrounding the castle is not to be missed.

Garden and estate manager Paul Micklewright said: “The beech avenue in nearby Kilndown is breathtaking and can be visited by following our red marked estate walking route.”

For those wanting to share their visit with the world on social media, Paul recommends heading to the boathouse in the garden to take snaps with the American sweetgum tree.

Or try the yellow tulip trees, complemented by the yellow spindle-fruited Celastrus over the doorway on to the bowling green lawn at the old castle.

And the 100-year-old purple cut-leaved Japanese maples, below the Bastion, are an autumn staple for visitors to enjoy.

There are new guided estate walks on offer from Saturday October 8 to Sunday October 23, so make sure you pack your walking boots in the car for your visit.
For details, go to nationaltrust.org.uk/scotney-castle

Scotney Castle in the autumn
Scotney Castle in the autumn


This National Trust property is famed for its vibrant autumn colour and exotic plant and tree collection. The South Garden has a collection of hardy exotic trees and shrubs, giving a display of red, pink and orange at this time of year. While the majestic katsura trees are among the country’s largest.

“Our exotic tree collection comes into its own in autumn,” said head gardener Matt Scott.
“The bright red of the winged spindle and golden leaves on the Japanese maple are a true wonder to see.”

The rock garden is packed with 40 different species of alpine plants interspersed with heathery banks, autumn bulbs, winding paths and a lily pond.

For visitors looking for a challenge, tackle the Weardale Walk, which links the estate with nearby Chartwell. The five-mile circular route passes the woodland area of Toys Hill and Hosey Common as well as the pretty hamlet of French Street.

While at Chartwell, admire the autumn borders featuring yellow wax bells, cyclamen and heathers. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/emmetts-garden for details.


The National Trust’s Ightham Mote hosts its annual apple and orchard weekend on Saturday October 1 and Sunday October 2. You can try apple tasting and browse stalls packed with Garden of England goodies between 10am and 4pm.

While there, take a scenic walk across the 546-acre estate, where there are a series of circular walks. Keep your eyes (and nostrils) open for the katsura ‘toffee apple’ tree, which gives off an aroma of burnt sugar from late September near the North Lake.

For more info, head to nationaltrust.org.uk/ ightham-mote

Moated Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst. Picture: National Trust/NTPL/John Miller
Moated Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst. Picture: National Trust/NTPL/John Miller


It’s a wonder of the Weald and you can sample its charms this autumn – especially on a Sunday.

The 16-acre Hole Park Gardens in Rolvenden, open on Wednesdays and Thursdays until the end of October, and stage their Autumn Sundays throughout the month.

One of the attractions included in the Seven Wonders of the Weald, Hole Park has formal gardens, meadows and woodland, and its late flowering agapanthus is unique to the area.
There is a circular network of hard paths which are suitable for all, including wheelchair users. And don’t forget to stop by for a light lunch or homemade cake.

Autumn Sundays run on October 2, 9, 23 and 30, with the gardens open from 11am to 6pm. Admission is £7 and £1 for children. For details, go to holepark.com


With its fiery leaves and brilliant berries contrasting with the rich green conifers, Bedgebury is included in the Forestry Commission's top 10 for autumn nationally. Striking at this time of year are the larch, which turn a deep golden colour and the Dawn Redwood and Swamp Cypress. Take a stroll around a 1,25 mile trail, following the markers, to see them better. For details go to forestry.gov.uk

Head out and explore Kent with these country parks.

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