It is thought that Ashford originates from an original settlement established around 893AD, which became large enough to have a mention in the doomsday book, listed with a church and two mills under the name "Essetesford" in 1086. Ashford officially became a market town in 1243 and by 1600 had risen to become an important market town, primarily for livestock.
Ashford is in the center of Kent, and was one of the first towns in Kent that drastically changed into a highly developed town with modern standards. Ashford International was opened on 28 February 1996 and first operated trains from France terminating at Waterloo, London. Now trains terminate at St Pancras International in London. The town also has an airport with regular flights to France. The towns name derives from the combination of two words. Ash from Ash Tree. and Ford from ford (river crossing).
The main roads into Ashford are the M20, which runs from the M25 via Maidstone and on to Folkestone, and the A2070, which connects Ashford with Hastings in the south and the A28 to Canterbury in the north.
Eurostar high-speed trains running from Paris (Gare du Nord), Lille (Europe), Calais (Fréthun) and Brussels (Zuid-Midi) stop at Ashford International station. Passengers travelling by Eurostar to the UK from Paris (Gare du Nord), Lille (Europe), Calais (Fréthun) and Brussels (Zuid-Midi) stations undergo UK passport/identity card checks in France/Belgium before boarding, rather than on arrival in the UK. The UK passport checks take place after the French/Belgian passport/identity card exit checks in the stations. However, UK customs checks take place on arrival in the UK.
Passengers travelling to France/Belgium from Ashford International go through French passport/identity card checks in the station before boarding the train, whilst selective customs checks take place on arrival in France/Belgium following disembarkation.
Ashford International is also served by domestic trains from several major London stations (see below). Ashford International station was re-opened on 28 February 1996 and first operated international trains departing from Waterloo, London. The station was the first stop in England on the Channel Tunnel rail link, allowing trains to link from the UK directly to France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel.
In 2007 a new high-speed rail line was installed at Ashford International called High Speed 1. All International trains now depart from St Pancras International railway station in London, which was reopened in 2007 to replace all services previously operating from Waterloo, London. In 2009 Ashford International train station further improved its domestic train services with the launch of Britain's first high-speed domestic trains to St Pancras International, London and Ebbsfleet International, Kent.
In 2007 St Pancras International reopened and replaced all services previously operating from Waterloo, London. Trains operate each hour direct from St Pancras International via Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International stations, operating frequent train services to Brussels, Calais, Paris, Disneyland Paris, Moutiers, Avignon, Lille and Bourg St Maurice.
Domestic trains are operated by SouthEastern Railway and Southern Railway to London St Pancras to Ebbsfleet (typical journey time 35 – 37 minutes), London Cannon Street, London Charing Cross, London Victoria and coast bound Dover Priory, Canterbury West, Ramsgate, Margate. By 2010 trains from Ashford International and Stratford International will run to Ebbsfleet International railway station. As of 2009 the new high-speed trains on the St Pancras International - Ashford route will have a full timetable.
Ashford International has onsite car parking for over 1000 vehicles. Fare and timetable information is available from South East Trains, tel. +44 8457 484950.
Ashford is soon set to have its own airport 'London Ashford Airport' situated in Lydd, which is set to open in 2009 and is said to handle over 2 million passengers a year. For the time being, the closest major international airport is London Gatwick, approximately a 45 to 50 minute drive away up the M20, M23 and M26.
Most services are actually run by Stagecoach and timetables can be found on their website. http://www.stagecoachbus.com/eastkent/ A hire car is a good investment to explore the surrounding country. For example Canterbury is only a few pleasant miles away and the "Park and Ride "bus service to the center of Canterbury is tremendous and saves many hassles parking.
- AFM Private Hire, ☎ +44 1233 333500.
- Arrow Taxis, ☎ +44 1233 666666.
- Blue Line Taxis, ☎ +44 1233 666123.
- United Taxis, ☎ +44 1233 666999.
- Xpress Cars, ☎ +44 1233 666699.
By Mini Coaches & Minibuses
- Ashford Mini Coaches.
- Kent Minibus Hire - Nova Travel.
- Crosskeys Coaches.
- Minibus & Coach Hire in Ashford.
- Biddenden vineyards. For local wine and cider (very good and strong!)
- Ashford Local Tourism. List of tourist attractions in Ashford.
- Willesborough Windmill, Hythe Road, Willesborough. open to the public at weekends. a white smock mill built in 1869
- Ashford Green Corridor. natural 'green' route through Ashford
- The Agricultural Museum, Brook (Wye Rural Museum), The Street, Brook.
- Godinton House and Gardens.
- Woodchurch Rare Breeds Centre.
- Kent & East Sussex Railway. Operates between Tenterden and Bodiam in East Sussex, passing through some very attractive countryside in the process. A one day adult unlimited ticket costs £11. Bodiam Castle is at the end of the line. A trip on the train and a visit to the castle make a good day out. There is a pub at the entrance to the castle which provides good food, as well as the castles gift shop and tea room.
- Hiking. The surrounding countryside, particularly the North Downs, are good for walking, with the Pilgrims' Way, North Downs Way and the Stour Valley Walk all in the area, catering for the long distance walker or the day tripper.
- Cineworld Cinemas, Eureka Leisure Park (near Junction 9 of the M20 motorway). 12 screen multiplex cinem
Ashford is a hotspot in the southeast for shopping, having over 200 stores across the town. Over 100 in the main town centre, and 100 in the modern designer outlet.
- Ashford Designer Outlet (5 minutes walk away from Ashford town centre, adjacent to the Ashford International Eurostar). £5 parking a day.
- Tesco Crooksfoot Extra (just off junction 10 of M20). 24 hour. supermarket
- John Lewis (Just off junction 9 of M20). Large out of town department store
Ashford is well served by many different restaurants. A short walk around the town centre will find most varieties of cuisine.
- Hoodeners Horse, The Street Great Chart, ☎ +44 1233 625583. Mexican English, cosy pub eaterie fresh food cooked to order and a range of real ales.
- Pizza Express, 14 North Street, ☎ +44 1233 637700. Typical Italian, Pizzas, Pasta dishes and salads.
- The Royal Spice, Ashford Rd, Bethersden (on the A28, towards Tenterden), ☎ +44 1233 820280. Good Indian food served in a very modern environment, in a converted public house
- Trattoria Romana, 32 Bank St., ☎ +44 1233 638033. Italian food in a friendly atmosphere.
- Yeung's, 6-10 North Street, ☎ +44 1233 613813. Open seven days, 12noon - 3.00pm and 6.00pm - 11.00pm. Oriental Buffet restaurant with over 40 freshly prepared dishes to choose from, eat as much as you like. £5.80-£10.80 per person.
- Zarin, 31 Bank Street, ☎ +44 1233 620511. Open 7 days a week (including Bank Holidays). Lunch: Mon - Sat 12noon - 2:30pm, Dinner: Mon - Thurs 6pm - 11:30pm, Fri & Sat 6pm - 12 midnight, Sunday: 12noon - 11pm. Smart, modern Indian restaurant.
Further out of town, pubs offer good food at reasonable prices. Wye also has some good restaurants.
- The New Inn, Canterbury Road, Etchinghill (jnc 11, M20), ☎ +44 1303 862026. A 16th century coaching inn, village pub and highly popular restaurant. Fantastic reputation for fine cuisine, open seven days a week for lunches and evening meals. Terrific food, real ale, oak beams & cosy atmosphere
- The Swan, A20 Charing (Maidstone side) (From roundabout in Charing, take Maidstone turn. On left after 100m), ☎ +44 1233 712357. 3 restaurants in one. Thai, steak bar and sushi bar - all are highly recommended and reasonably priced. Well decorated in an unusual style. Booking is advisable at the weekend.
- Riverside Inn, Torrington Road (Opposite the Designer Outlet. Off Asda roundabout then right into Beaver Road and then 2nd right again into Torrington Road), ☎ +44 1233 633404. Just a five minute walk from the International Station this country feel family pub has a high reputation for homecooked food with daily specials as well as an extensive menu. Two beer gardens. Open 7 days a week Food served from 12-9pm Monday to Saturday and 2-6pm Sundays.Tuesday Steak Night and Wednesday Mexican Night. Find us its worth it.
- The Queens Head, Ashford Road, TN23 3ED (295 bus from Ashford International Station or on the A2070 Ashford Road), ☎ +44 1233 620769. Local village pub just outside Ashford serving cask ales, home cooked food. Famous for our Queens Breakfast, Sunday lunch and great value home cooked lunches. Take aways also available on bar food
- Plough Inn, Lees Road, Brabourne Lees (Near Smeeth), ☎ +44 1303 812169. A first class country pub. Good food and service.
- Plough, Stalisford Green. Particularly good country pub near Charing. Serves local produce, including local beers/cider.
- Bull Inn, Bull Hill, Bethersden, ☎ +44 1233 820534.
Locally produced Biddenden wine and cider are high quality. The cider at 8% ABV is only sold by the half pint in some pubs. There is no shortage of good pubs and bars although the best tend to be in the villages around the town.
There are many good pubs around the town.
- Bar 27, 27 High Street. Very friendly bar with great food, nice interior and outside seating in Summer.
- The County Hotel,, 10 High St. A large Wetherspoons pub serving food and drink busy from Thursday to Saturday.
- Riverside Inn, Torrington Rd (From the designer outlet shopping centre, walk across the foot bridge over the road and you are there). Small pub located in South Ashford
- William Harvey Inn, Church Rd, Willesborough (From Ashford town centre travel out along the A292, Hythe Road towards Hythe, with the Willesborough Windmill on your left turn right at the traffic lights in to Church Road). A 350 year old traditional pub
- The Hare & Hounds, Maidstone Rd (couple of miles out of the town along the A20, heading towards Maidstone). An old pub
- The Hoodeners Horse, The Street, Great Chart (in the village, near the A28 on the way to Tenterden), ☎ +44 1233 625583. Serving Mexican style food
- The Flying Horse Inn, Boughton Lees (adjacent to the village cricket field in Boughton on the A251 heading towards Faversham). An old pub on the Pilgrims Way
- The Tickled Trout Public House, Bridge St, Wye (adjacent to Wye railway station and the River Great Stour). A busy country pub
- The Queens Head, Ashford Road, TN23 3ED (295 from Ashford International Station or on the A2070 Ashford Road), ☎ +44 1233 620769. 8am-11pm. Local village pub just outside Ashford serving cask ales, home cooked food. Famous for our Queens Breakfast, Sunday lunch and great value home cooked lunches. Take aways also available on bar food
- The Queens Head, 47 Lucilla Avenue (295 bus from Ashford International Station or on the A2070 Ashford Road if driving), ☎ +44 1233 620769. 8am-11pm. Local village pub just outside Ashford serving cask ales, home cooked food. Famous for our Queens Breakfast, Sunday lunch and great value home cooked lunches. Take aways also available on bar food
- The George, The Street, Bethersden.
- Broadhembury Caravan & Camping Park, ☎ +44 1233 620859. Steeds Lane. - Follow Romney Marsh Road through Kingsnorth and turn left into Steeds Lane. 3.7 miles from Ashford.
- Dunn Street Farm, ☎ +44 1233 712537. Head North-West along the A20 and then right to Westwell. 4.9 miles from Ashford.
- Travel Inn, ☎ +44 870 1977305. Orbital Business Park, Sevington.
- Travelodge, ☎ +44 1233 213000. Eureka Leisure park, near M20 junction 9.
- Holiday Inn Ashford - Central, Canterbury Road (Just south of junction 9 of M20), ☎ +44 871 942 9001.
- Holiday Inn Ashford - North A20, Maidstone Road, ☎ +44 1233 713333. Basic rooms. Although on its own out of the town in the countryside the motorway unfortunately runs close by so always traffic noise. Small gym, friendly staff.
- The Conningbrook, Canterbury Road, ☎ +44 1233 636863.
- Ashford International Hotel, Simone Weil Avenue, ☎ +44 1233 219988. Simone Weil Avenue, near M20 junction 9.
- Eastwell Manor, Boughton Aluph, ☎ +44 1233 213000. An old manor house that must be seen. It is expensive to stay, but lunch is available by booking for £10 for 2 courses or £15 for three.