Tunbridge Wells was founded in the 17th century following the discovery of the Chalybeate Spring in 1606. The waters from the spring were said to have restorative properties, and so Tunbridge Wells grew into a thriving spa resort town. Queen Victoria regularly travelled down from London to "take the waters", and in 1909 King Edward VII officially granted the town its "Royal" prefix (although this is rarely used by the inhabitants any more).
Tunbridge Wells can be accessed from the north using the A21 trunk road, which runs as a dual carriageway for most of its length between the M25 and the outskirts of the town. The A21 continues south past Tunbridge Wells to Lamberhurst and Hastings.
Tunbridge Wells Station is located in the town centre at the bottom of Mount Pleasant Road, close to the historic High Street and 5 minutes' walk from the Pantiles. It is on the London (Charing Cross/Waterloo/London Bridge) to Hastings route; trains are operated by Southeastern, tel. 08457 48 49 50.
London is between 40 and 55 minutes away, depending on whether the train is direct or a stopper service. A standard class off-peak return ticket to London is £13.20 adult; £6.60 child.
The centre of Tunbridge Wells is fairly small, and can easily be travelled on foot. The Pantiles is around 10–15 minutes walk downhill from the main shopping area around Royal Victoria Place. As with most other towns in England, the town is well serviced by buses and taxis.
Arriva is the main local bus operator in and around Tunbridge Wells, although other companies also operate some services:
Buy your ticket from the driver when you board the bus.
Paper timetables can be obtained at the Tunbridge Wells Gateway (8 Grosvenor Road, near the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre). The Traveline and Kent County Council websites provide journey planners and route maps.
The Arriva 281 "Shopper Hopper" bus service provides a useful link for those looking to avoid walking up the hill between the Pantiles and main shopping district. It runs every 12 minutes, with tickets costing £1 for the day.
The main taxi rank is at the train station, although you can order a taxi by telephone to pick you up from anywhere.
- Streamline - +44 1892 511911
- County Cars - +44 1892 541666
- Crown Cars - +44 1732 368111
- Starline Taxis - +44 1892 531191
- MS Executive Chauffeurs - +44 1892 513042 or 0800 980 7252
- Kent Chauffeurs
- Chalybeate Spring, The Pantiles. Chalybeate Spring is located in The Pantiles, London Road. See what created the wonderful vistas of the town at Chalybeate Spring. On some days, it is possible to drink the metallic water, however, in recent events, the spring has not been in use, and will not be in use until the end of 2013. When possible, it is free to drink the water.
- Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, ☎ +44 1892 554171, e-mail: email@example.com. Civic Way. Open M-Sa, 9.30-17.00 (closed bank holidays and Easter Saturday). From Victorian oil paintings and archaeology to historic fashions and toys. Admission free.
- Dunorlan Park, Pembury Rd (Just out of town). Once a private landscaped garden, this park is well used by locals, having recently been restored following a Heritage Lottery Fund award of £2.1 million. There are two car parks: a small one on Pembury Road (beware, the access in and out is not the easiest) and a larger one on Halls Hole Road, a country lane at the bottom of the park - as both car parks fill up quickly on sunny days, if you're staying in town its only a 15-20 minute walk from the main shopping area. Kids and kids at heart will like the boating lake, and there is also a recently refurbished café selling snacks, drinks and ice creams.
- Bayham Old Abbey, Furnace Lane, Little Bayham, TN3 8LP (5 miles east of Tunbridge Wells), ☎ +44 1892 890381. adults £4.40, children £2.60, concessions £4.00.
- Walk along The Pantiles, the oldest part of the town, and sample the waters from the Chalybeate Spring (open daily from Easter to September). Great in warm weather when the various pubs and restaurants put out table and chairs and the clientele along here spill out into it giving it a great atmosphere.
- Take a walk in the High Rocks, impressive sandstone outcrops linked by eleven bridges that provide scenic walks in acres of peaceful woodland
- Go swimming, play tennis or have a game of squash at Tunbridge Wells Sports Centre, St Johns Road, tel: +44 1892 540744, .
- Ride the Spa Valley Railway from Tunbridge Wells to Eridge, Tel: +44 1892 537715. Carefully restored steam trains operate through 3.5 miles of glorious countryside. The line starts at the old Tunbridge Wells West station near Sainsbury's, with trains calling at High Rocks and Groombridge. Operates from Late March to End October plus December. Standard Admission (return travel): Adult £5.00, Child & Over 60s £4.00. Family & joint tickets with Groombridge Place also available.
- Visit the Salomons Museum. Admission: Free!
- Penshurst place gardens. Very near Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge is not as upmarket but houses this stunning ancestral home with gardens.
- Go to 'Halls bookshop, a second hand book shop in Chapel Place. The interior is incredible and looks like something out of a Harry Potter movie. It is very quaint with books dating back from the early 20th century (I found one from 1910) including first editions.
- Have a drink in the Opera House pub (owned by Wetherspoons), so named as it used to be an opera house. The interior is mostly intact and pretty magnificent to explore from the comfort of a chair with a cheap drink.
- Tunbridge Wells is a shoppers paradise if you like designer clothes in a mellow setting with oodles of history. A long wait at Pizza Express and Carluccios - booking imperative.
- Listen to Live Acoustic Music every Sunday Night from 8PM - FREE entry at the Mount Edgcumbe, Off Mount Ephraim, The Common Tunbridge Wells Tel: +44 1892 526823.. Also check out the Local Live Music Website for Music listings in the Tunbridge Wells Area
- Cinema: the Odeon shows the blockbusters. It's out in Knight's Park, at the far end of the industrial estate.
- Assembly Hall Theatre, Crescent Rd (Town centre, next to the Town Hall), ☎ +44 1892 530613.
- Trinity Theatre, Church Rd (Town centre, near the old cinema), ☎ +44 1892 678678. This converted church hosts a range of theatre, dance, comedy and music events. It also shows "arthouse" films on a regular basis. Bar/café available.
The main shopping area of the town is centred around the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre, although there are shops throughout the town centre, with more independent shops located in and around the High Street.
There is also rather a generic industrial estate on the edge of the town with a variety of big box stores.
All the major fast food chains are represented, mostly in the town centre, and the Royal Victoria Place shopping mall has a fairly large food court, although it is generally noisy and crowded.
Apart from some in Camden Road, most restaurants can be found in the centre, on Mount Pleasant and in the High Street area. There are also many pubs in and around Tunbridge Wells that offer good food.
Specific restaurants (cost assumes starter, main course, one drink, tip):
- Chez JJ, 86 Camden Rd, ☎ +44 1892 525830. French restaurant, so French even the signs on the door and the menu comes out in the language. Luckily the staff will speak English so don't be scared - it just adds to the experience. Good value food as well!
- Himalayan Ghurka, 31 Church Rd. Nepalese restaurant, possibly the best curry you will get in Tunbridge Wells.
- Hotel du Vin, Crescent Road, TN1 2LY, ☎ +44 1892 526455. A bistro in the middle of town, near the town hall, that offers excellent food and a wide selection of wines. ~£40.
- Java Bean, 67-69 High St, TN1 1XX, ☎ +44 1892 689205. Great friendly staff and a great option for lunch or quick coffee (only open during the day).
- Masala The Indian Restaurant, ☎ +44 1892 616700. Just one of the Indians in the town. Authentic Indian restaurant at the heart of The Pantiles. Masala is the largest restaurant in the town, and part of the Nizam Inidan chain.
- Mount Edgcumbe, ☎ +44 1892 526823. The Common (off Mt Pleasant) Tunbridge Wells, TN4 8BX. At Mount Edgcumbe every meal is seasoned with overwhelming tranquility. With peaceful views and welcoming dining room, Mount Edgcumbe combines 18th century grandeur with a dining experience for the modern world. Try Moules Mariniere or Moules Thai, followed by Chargrilled Ribeye Steak served with thick cut chips and a Green Peppercorn Sauce, and raspberry creme brulee, or just enjoy a drink in the bar. It sounds good but tastes better.
- Sankeys, 39 Mount Ephraim, TN4 8AA, ☎ +44 1892 511422. Consistently high quality seafood from the British Isles, as well as some game. ~£30.
- Wagamama, Mount Pleasant Road. One of the Japanese noodle bar chain restaurants. Quite affordable. ~£14.
- Mount Edgcumbe, The Common (off Mt Ephraim) Tunbridge Wells, TN4 8BX, ☎ +44 1892 526823. A country pub situated up on the Common just minutes from the busy town centre of Tunbridge Wells. Plenty of free car parking, and an excellent Beer Garden overlooking the Common. In the Bar there is a 4th-century cave where you can sit and drink. Outside the large Beer garden overlooking the Common, and a huge outcrop of Sandstone rocks, is where you can sit under huge umbrellas shading from the summer sun, or sheltered under the heaters well into the night. The Harveys is fantastic, along with a choice of 6 x lagers, 2 x ciders, and 9 different house wines - served by the glass!
- The Compasses, 45 Little Mount Sion (Up a steep and narrow cobbled street, just off the High Street), ☎ +44 1892 530744. Su-Th 11AM-11PM F-Sa 11AM-12AM. Said to be the oldest pub in Tunbridge Wells, this pub has plenty of character and warm open fires.
- The Opera House (Wetherspoons), 88 Mount Pleasant Road, TN1 1RT (just up from the war memorial), ☎ +44 1892 511770. This former opera house, and later bingo hall, was converted to a pub a few years back. It's a vast boozer with a certain charm, always busy, largely due to the dramatically cheaper beer here than in other watering holes in the town.
- Travelodge Tunbridge Wells Hotel, Mount Ephraim, TN4 8BU, ☎ +44 871 984 6381. A Victorian spa hotel c1860 now run by Travelodge. The public areas retain many original Victorian features although the rooms are Travelodge corporate bland. There is a charge for parking.
- The Lancers, 34 Church Rd (Turn left out of railway station, head up hill, left at lights. The Lancers is on the right at the end of the road.), ☎ +44 1892 532387. Check-in: By arrangement, check-out: 11AM on the morning of departure. Small, central B&B, former home of Dr Who actor Tom Baker. 95.
- The Brew House Hotel, 1 Warwick Park, TN2 5TA, ☎ +44 1892 520587. Check-in: 3PM (Please ask if arriving earlier), check-out: 12PM. The Brew House Hotel is a four-star luxury boutique hotel located near the Pantiles.
- Tunbridge Wells circular walk. It makes a great day trip especially if you bring a picnic along. There are many entry and exit points on the footpaths so although the entire circular walk is 27 ½ miles (44.3 km) you can easily do a much shorter hike starting and ending in the town itself. Many of the walks take you through pretty villages, atmospheric woodlands, farmland (and through livestock fields), past churches, along streams/rivers and past lots of pubs :). You can grab a copy of a map with details of the different walks in the tourist information centre in the Pantiles. There is lots of wildlife around - including birds, livestock, snakes and lizards (if you're lucky!). If you want to do some camping there are several camping areas on route.
- Penshurst Place, Penshurst, TN11 8DG, tel: +44 1892 870307, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, . Open daily from 27 March to 31 October (2004). Features an impressive medieval manor house which is open from 12:00-17:30, gardens from 10:30-18:00. One of the oldest gardens in England. Includes a 100 metre long peony border, the Union Jack garden and many fruit trees and borders. There is a large adventure playground for children. Admission: Grounds only £5.50, House & Grounds £7.00. Visit on the first Saturday of the month to tie a visit with attending the monthly farmers market to pick up some cakes, cheeses, jams, bread and other delicious treats.
- Groombridge Place, ☎ +44 1892 863999, e-mail: email@example.com. Groombridge. Open daily from April to November, 9:30-18:00 (check website for dates). Winner of the Top Garden Attraction in the UK by Good Britain Guide 2000. Admission £8.50.
- Bewl Water, nr Lamberhurst, tel: +44 1892 890661, . Open daily, all year except 10 July and 25 December, 9:00-sunset. The largest man-made body of water in the South East, for walking and cycling, sailing, windsurfing and fishing. Admission £4.00 per person (£5.00 on Bank Holidays) at the main entrance to park near the rather tacky visitor center. However many public rights of way approach the water, including one across the dam itself and these are open access.
- Hop Farm Country Park, ☎ +44 1622 872068, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Paddock Wood. Open from 10:00–17:00, 7 days a week (except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day). Once a working hop farm, it now offers a wide variety of attractions and events. £7.50 for adults, £6.50 for children.
- Haysden Country Park, Tonbridge. Beautiful lakes, with rambling, bike and bridle trails. Free.
- Scotney Castle and Gardens, Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, TN3 8JN (near Lamberhurst, 8 miles/15 minute drive from Tunbridge Wells), ☎ +44 1892 893820, e-mail: email@example.com. A National Trust-owned attraction. The small castle, surrounded by a moat, is very picturesque. The castle itself is very small with the well-managed gardens being the main attraction for many visitors. Like many National Trust properties, the tearoom serves delicious cakes.
- Ashdown Forest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Tonbridge, particularly its castle
|Routes through Tunbridge Wells|
|Brighton ← Crowborough ←||S N||→ Tonbridge → Maidstone|
|Crawley ← East Grinstead ←||W E||→ becomes|