Royal Tunbridge Wells is located in the county of Kent, in the south east of England. It has the royal touch, with only three towns in England with a royal title. Not many of the locals use it’s royal status but simply call it Tunbridge Wells.
Tunbridge Wells became a spa town when the Chalybeate Springs were founded by Dudley Nord, a Courtier to James I. Dudley Nord discovered the Chalybeate Springs when he was visiting the countryside to heal his ailments. He drank from the springs, to find his health improved and was convinced it was the spring waters that aided in the improvements. It soon became a popular spa town, particularly after King Charles I and his wife visited. With the growing popularity the town grew, with houses and shops built along a promenade, which is now called the Pantiles. It wasn’t until 1909 that the, “Royal” title was added.
Things to do
Tunbridge Wells has been our home town for a number of years, and we are still exploring much of the area that we don’t know about.
The Pantiles were formally known as the walks which leads to the well. The town derived its name from the well and its neighbouring town of Tonbridge. In the summer months, it is possible to drink from the Chalybeate Springs, from the well in the Pantiles.
It is possible to drink from the spring waters, but we prefer to walk along the Pantiles. On our first visit to the Pantiles, the first thing we noticed was the original buildings still standing, and have not changed in appearance. Along the side of the Pantiles are cafes, art shops, and restaurants. The original bandstand is still present with many bands performing during the weekend in the summer months. After our first visit to the Pantiles, it soon became a weekend stroll stopping in a restaurant for brunch or lunch. During the summer months, there are often events, such as the jazz festival, beer festival, gin festival to name a few. This is a pedestrianised area, so can be nice and peaceful being away from the traffic.
Dunorlan Park was once a private garden and mansion, called Dunorlan House. Henry Reed built the mansion, and in 1879 put the property up for sale, but he found it difficult to find a buyer. It did eventually get sold, with the owner moving in. The owner sadly passed away, and the property was passed down to their son. The property became vacant for some time when the son died, but the war saw the mansion come back into service. The mansion housed troops, and parts of the garden were used for target practise. After the war, the mansion and garden were sold to the council for £42000, whereby the garden were opened up to the public. The council couldn’t find a use for the mansion, so they sold it to developers. The developers demolished the building, and eight new houses were built. The tea pavilion at Dunorlan’s were built in 1966 and is still in operation today.
Parking is limited at Dunorlan Park, but it is free and unlimited. We are always lucky enough to find parking at the top car park, but not so on the other side in the second car park. Once we had parked our car, we walked down the path into the park admiring the views as we go. To our left are some steps that lead to the original terrace, this is the only remaining part of Dunorlan House. We could just imagine how grand the house was once, but the amazing views across the land and the lake are stunning. There are some benches along the terrace, so we always stop to take a breather for a while, just taking in how grand the park is. The next stop around Dunorlan Park is the temple at the top of the avenue, it is a plain and simple temple but at one point a statue called the Dancing Girl had pride of place inside. It was sadly stolen some time ago and all that remains is the structure of the temple. The dancing girl has never been found, and how the thieves were able to remove it undetected from its stone platform is a mystery. The temple is located at the top of the avenue, which leads down a hill to the fountain at the bottom. What we love about coming to this peaceful park, is that there are so many hidden gems. To the right of the waterfall, is the water garden which is a secluded area. By now we had reach the lake which is the centre piece of the park, we continued to walk around the lake and back to the café to have a picnic before buying some ice cream. If you like to go out onto the lake, then hiring a pedal boat is a great way. There is a natural play area for young children to come and play, and is a great place for families, dog walkers and runners. This is our favourite park in Tunbridge Wells, and are often here every weekend in the summer months exploring and relaxing with a picnic.
We have only recent known about Wellington Rocks in Tunbridge Wells. We parked up on Mount Ephraim which is free parking but with a maximum stay of 2 hours. This was plenty of time for us to explore the rocks, and it is even possible to climb the rocks although they are not high. This is great for children, to climb and explore the rocks and have their own little adventure. We were able to fly our drone, for a birds eye view of its formation.
The Opera House
This was once a fully operational Opera House but has since been converted into a pub, with much of its features inside remaining the same and untouched as it did on its last performance. The Opera House was built at the beginning of 1900 and had a capacity of 1100 guests, this sadly changed when it ceased as a theatre. In its history it was also turned into a bingo hall before Wetherspoons purchasing the premises and converting it into a pub.
As soon as you walk into the pub, it is very unique and like no other. The interior is of the once working Opera House in all its glory, the only difference here is that it has a bar as you enter and a smaller bar on stage with the table and chairs scattered around. Seated up at the stage of the Opera House, the galleries in the upper section can be seen. What we love is that the seating in the upper section of the Opera House are unchanged but it is not possible to sit in this area. We can’t explain how amazing it is to be seated in this bar, and just wondering what it must have been like performing on stage in this grand location, or seated watching a beautiful show unfold on stage. This is one place that must be visited in Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Another park in Tunbridge Wells, smaller than Dunorlan and with no hidden gems to explore, but if it is just relaxing and picnicking then this is a lovely park. Our first flat we moved into in Tunbridge Wells was about 3 minutes’ walk, so every weekend was spent here in the summer months until we discovered Dunorlan’s. We arrived at the park and followed the path around, to a new children’s play area, before walking around the paths and stopping at some park benches as we go. There is a café here selling snacks and ice cream. At the top of the park are some football and basketball courts, with teenagers seen shooting some hoops. During Christmas, there is a small Christmas market with an ice skating rink and mulled wine. There are events held here during summer and over the Christmas period.
Royal Victoria Shopping Centre
The shopping centre was open by Diana Princess of Wales in September 1992, and comprises of 3 floors and about 110 shops. The lower section of the shopping centre holds the food court and toilets, with fast food outlets and some cafes selling hot and cold food. A pay and display car park with approximately 8 floors are linked to the shopping centre by stairs and lifts.
We come to the shopping centre when we need to purchase clothing, electronics, and much more. When we come shopping we often use the car park connected to the shopping centre, and take a wander around the shops. There are a variety of shops, such as Super Dry, Fenwick’s, Boots, M&S, Apple, O2, Car Phone Ware House, HMV, WH Smiths, Ann Summers, Monsoon, New Look and many more. There are plans to build a new shopping centre here.
Getting to and from Royal Tunbridge Wells is very easy with various modes of transport.
There is a direct train from London Charing Cross to Tunbridge Wells, which is about a 45 minute journey. The service runs approximately every 30 minutes from London to Hastings via Tunbridge Wells.
There are regular bus services between Tunbridge Wells, and villages on the outskirts of the town. There also bus services which run regularly to the seaside such as Brighton, which takes nearly 2 hours to reach the coast.
Getting to Tunbridge Wells is quite simple with a direct route from London via the A21 to Hastings taking about 45 minutes. If coming from Brighton, Eastbourne or Haywards Heath then take the A26 into Tunbridge Wells.
There are a number of car parks in Tunbridge Wells, all pay and display and overnight charges apply. Late night shopping is on a Thursday which comes with free car parking between 6pm and 8pm. There are a couple of others car parks in town and on street parking. The on street car parking, have parking restriction, or permit parking only. It isn’t too expensive to park, with a minimum of 1 hour parking costing £1.40, after this the charges increase hourly.
Places to eat
There are some lovely places to eat in Tunbridge Wells, from the fast food outlets in the food court at the shopping centre to the many restaurants. We would recommend Patisserie Valerie for its yummy cakes and very good portion sizes. They have an offer of 4 cakes for £10, to take home. Their menu has a variety of food such as breakfast, sandwiches, pasta’s and salads. Our favourite is Eggs Benedict Royal and Pancakes. In our honest opinion however the food has gone downhill more recently but the cakes are still up to standard. Near the station is Caluccio’s, which is an Italian restaurant, and very good quality food at a very good price, we always have the rum panna cotta for dessert.
Bars and Clubs
There are a few good pubs and clubs in Tunbridge Wells.
The Barn is a local pub next to the train station, with a great atmosphere, relaxing place for pre drinks with friends, and if you feel hungry, then a short walk up the stairs to their restaurant serving some great food. We have on occasion eaten here, the food is good but can be a little expensive.
Wetherspoons/The Opera House
A very cheap place for drinks, and with the amazing décor this will be one to not miss when out for the night in Tunbridge Wells. We don’t come here for the drinks but the merely for the atmosphere of a real theatre.
Pitch and Piano
Although we are not a couple that go out clubbing or drinking often, we have on occasion gone for a quiet drink and drifted in here on a night out. The dance floor being on ground level, with the latest music pumping out, while dancing to the tunes.
If you are planning a trip to Royal Tunbridge Wells, then please contact us for any help or advice. If you would like a tour of Royal Tunbridge Wells, then we would be happy to take you out to see much of the best sights in Tunbridge Wells. Looking for somewhere to stay whilst in Royal Tunbrige Wells, well read our review on Hotel Du Vin in the centre of town.