I visited Lullingstone Country Park and Lullingstone Roman Villa (English Heritage) with my pre-schooler. Lullingstone is in the Darenth Valley in Kent, only a short train ride from London (Victoria) and just north of Sevenoaks but feels like it could be in the depths of rural Kent. It’s packed full of gorgeous villages like Eynsford, Shoreham, Otford and Farningham (plus other nearby villages with funny names like Pratt’s Bottom and Badger’s Mount), has amazing country walks and proper pubs plus tons of interesting things to do with kids too.
Lullingstone Roman Villa is based up a long country lane, so you really need a car to get there, though it is walkable from Enysford station. It was inundated with school kids when I visited, as it’s a great spot to learn about Roman history. It’s not really appropriate for preschoolers so we didn’t stay long. The highlight for my son was going up and down in the lift, but for older kids it’s worth a trip. It’s not a big place. It’s an indoor attraction set around the Roman Villa. There’s lots of boards to read, and some videos and artefacts plus a few interactive games and books. It’s English Heritage, so is pricey if you just visit once, but obviously great value (free!) if you are a member. There’s a small shop there and tiny area for self-made teas and coffees. Toilets are adjacent to the centre, next to the car park.
Lullingstone Country Park was much better suited to us. It was a brilliant find. I’m not sure why we haven’t stumbled across this place before. There’s a small shop and larger cafe with the holy grail – outdoor cafe seating next to a playground. The playground is small but pretty good. There’s a couple of slides for different ages plus some swings and seesaws. Parking costs £1.50 weekdays and £2.50 weekends.
There’s a few different walks to do, or if you aren’t feeling particularly energetic, it’s just a lovely place to bring a picnic and sit in a meadow. The Lullingstone Loop (6.4km) and Horse Route (6.3km) are longer walks, the Lullingstone Loop passing by Lullingstone Castle and its river plus Lullingstone Roman Villa. There’s also a Woodland Walk (3.2km) and the Discovery Trail (2.4km). The Discovery Trail is aimed at families, so off we went.
It passes up through a meadow covered in ox eye daisies and buttercups, with picnicking areas either in the meadow or in woodland. There’s lots of chances to sit down on benches along the way. Then it heads into woodland. All the route is fine for buggies, though the terrain is not flat, so it is a little challenging. The woods has lots of carvings of various mini and mega beasts in it plus a swing and zipwire half way round too, which should give an incentive to reluctant hikers. It then curves back round along a path through a golf course – not so exciting – though my son loved seeing the mini tractors mowing the grass, before heading back down the meadow to the visitor centre.
I’m going to head back to the area as I’ve discovered there is so much more there to explore like the Eagle Heights Wildlife Foundation, Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford Castle and The Hop Farm, which grows lavender and sells local produce, plus the amazing walks – particularly through Otford, with its ford for kids to splash about in.