They don’t call Kent the ‘garden of England’ for nothing. Hidden in the village of Ightham is a medieval manor house and gardens, now owned by the National Trust. We visited Ightham Mote on a sunny afternoon in July, as lockdown restrictions were beginning to lift, so booked tickets online in advance.
From what I can gather, the tickets cover your entry into the house (which was actually closed due to Covid) and the gardens, but Ightham Mote actually includes an entire estate which you could stroll around for hours. Since we had Ted with us, we decided on a walk around the estate first. Dogs aren’t actually allowed in the house and gardens. I grabbed a map, and we had a choice of three routes: the red route, green route, or Scathes Wood.
The green route is the longest (about 2.5 miles) so we picked that one. Reader, I shall tell you now, we made a big mistake.
Firstly, in my urgency to explore, I ignored the warning next to the green route on the map which read ‘Steep’. Secondly, I didn’t pay attention to the recommended direction – starting the walk from the north of the house means that there is a gentle uphill slope, and a steep downhill path. Starting from the south, like us, flips it the other way, and what should have taken us an hour, took us nearly two.
Don’t let that put you off. The green route is beautiful, even when you go the wrong way. We started by passing farmlands, and were blessed with the melodious sounds of sheep, singing us the song of their people. It was a shame that we couldn’t actually see any of them. What we could see was a stunning vista across the English countryside.
As our walk progressed, we passed a quaint cottage before entering a wood and beginning to climb. The path became steep and precarious; not suitable for people with disabilities, or pushing a buggy.
Once we made it to the furthest point on the map, the route started to wind downhill. A lot more comfortable, I can assure you! We eventually located the pond, which I imagined to be a little more open than it actually is, and continued along the path to discover a shack, which used to be used for holidaymakers
Once we returned to the Ightham Mote cafe, I took the chance to wander around the gardens while Dan waited outside with Ted. Although the picnic area was technically closed, there were scores of families relaxing in the sun beside the house.
The house itself is stunning. On one side, it’s made of stone, but on the other, there are the classic timbers. I wasn’t expecting the moat to actually touch it, as many other houses I’d seen (like Hever castle) had a small grass edging surrounding it. It was disappointing that visitors couldn’t go inside, so I had to settle with circling the perimeter.
Truly, I can’t decide whether the house or the gardens are more beautiful. On a summer’s day, the flowers are bold and inviting – the National Trust do an incredible job caring for them. Alongside, the picnic area is a corridor of climbers, in vivid reds, purples, and oranges. I felt genuinely jealous of how well the plants were growing: all the flowers in my garden have died.
But that was nothing in comparison to the orchard and cutting garden. It was fascinating to walk alongside apple trees and growing rhubarb in the orchard. I’d never seen rhubarb being grown before. Then, I stumbled across the cutting garden, and was blown away by the brilliance of the summer flowers. There were more colours than I knew existed, surrounding another corridor, this time lined with huge puffs of lavender.
Would I go back? In a heart beat! Ightham Mote is a beautiful location for a summer day out, and I hope that next time the house itself will be open to explore.