If you find yourself reading this particular blog post, then you might also be wondering where and what is Royal Tunbridge Wells? This small town in Western Kent (south east of London) has attracted visitors since 1606 when a traveler passing through discovered the Chalybeate Spring. Legend has it that a Lord on his way back to London was weary from his travels, and felt rejuvenated once he drank from the Spring. He declared the Spring to have healing properties. The news of the Spring and its exceptional properties circulated and noble visitors from London and elsewhere flocked to the resulting hamlet “springing” up alongside the natural spa.
From the spa emerged the town to accommodate all the travelers stopping by to visit the Spring. This is how coffee houses, gaming rooms and assembly rooms for dances and balls emerged. Upon entering the first main street of the town we ran into a lovely antiques bookshop where I bought a very old edition of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (my favourite book of all time).
Before heading to Royal Tunbridge Wells we did ask friends for recommendations. One such recommendation was Juliets, a lovely, local, almost Bohemian cafe. In fact, it was so good that we had lunch here twice! They bake dozens of different types of cakes, but also serve a great breakfast or brunch. Their veggie rolls are to die for.
After lunch, we headed upwards to Tunbridge Wells Common to find the “Rocks”. The Wellington Rocks are just one of many sandstone outcrops of rock around the town. This is actually why a lot of rock-climbers visit the area because some of the sandstone outcrops are more like cliffs!
Along with visiting the spring, it was also customary to promenade down the Pantiles. The Pantiles is a pedestrianised street with shops and cafes, and plenty of splendid Georgian architecture.
The Pantiles were originally called “The Walks” as this was the path that led from the spring. It really is quite a lovely walk, with wooden buildings alongside the path. The buildings house coffee shops, art galleries, restaurants, and all sorts of quirky, independent stores. We ended walking up and down the Pantiles several times during our stay, as it really transports you back to an earlier time, i.e. the 1600s. You can just imagine English gentlemen and ladies parading down the path, coming from sipping from the spring and relaxing at the spa.
Venturing about 20 minutes outside the town, we landed at the elegant Dunorlan Park. This 78-acre park was originally the garden of a grand mansion built by a rather wealthy northerner. It’s a lovely place to roam around, especially in autumn when the colours of the leaves are changing so beautifully. We were really lucky to have such a sunny day out.
Walking around the lake, we also ran into a Christmas market of all things! It had a giant ice skating rink full of laughing children. We decided to go for some doughnuts, a grand choice indeed. I love the green spaces of England, and this park in Royal Tunbridge Wells is one such great space.
You might wonder why Tunbridge Wells is Royal. Apparently, Princess Victoria was a regular visitor to Royal Tunbridge Wells, which back then would have only be called Tunbridge Wells. In 1909 King Edward VII dubbed Tunbridge Wells with its royal title, partly to commemorate the fact that his mother, Queen Victoria, had loved the town so much.
And so, my birthday weekend trip to Royal Tunbridge Wells came to an end. Some of my more adventurous friends may ask: why not go somewhere more “exotic” or “abroad”? Well, I’ll have you know that I truly enjoy England and I want to discover of much of it as possible why I’m still lucky to live here. It’s important to explore the world, but it’s also important to discover what is right under your nose.
Would you go and visit this little, darling spa town in South England?