Days Out in England England with Kids Kent

Kent Life – A Great Day Out in Kent, England

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Kent Life is an open-air museum where you come to have fun and to learn all about all things Kentish.

Stretching over 28 acres, this is a great destination in the South East of England for an active day out to please the whole family.

The site is a mix of a working heritage farm and a living museum. You learn about local history in a hands-on way while getting in close contact with many cute and cuddly animals. Next to the barns and stalls, fruit trees and vegetable patches are carefully tended to. Plus, in true Kentish tradition, there is a hop garden where tall hop plants are grown as they have been in Kent for centuries.

Hop plants with the oast house - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

In addition, several historic cottages and workshops have been transferred to, re-built, and preserved at Kent Life thus giving you an opportunity to open the door to antique and vintage interiors and to learn about life in this corner of South East England in the past centuries. 

Inside the historic blacksmith workshop - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

The most striking among all these old buildings is the traditional oast house – an imposing structure that stands apart with its cylindrical kilns in which hops used to be dried by hot air. 

The kilns of the historic oast house - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

So, in this blog post today I want to tell you more about Kent Life and share with you my experiences there. It’s a place that my family likes to visit on days out in Kent, England and I hope that the information given below will help you map out a great day out there for your family, too.

Feeding the goats - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

Just a small note before we start in earnest. I’d like you to know that my blog reflects my personal opinions and travel experiences. I don’t accept payments in any form or kind for blog posts and we as a family cover all our expenses when we visit a sight or a destination (be it entrance tickets, food, and/or accommodation). I use my blog to pass information along about interesting and exciting things to do and see in many different destinations with the emphasis on history and culture. Please, feel free to browse through my blog posts and find more curious places to visit around England and Europe.

Now, without further ado, let’s start on this adventure! Here it is:



Kent Life – A Great Day Out in Kent, England



What is Kent Life and Why Visit It?

The display inside one of the kilns of the historic oast house - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

I can best describe Kent Life as a great mix between a heritage farm and an open-air museum where you can learn about all things Kentish in a fun and informal way while getting to pet and feed some truly cute and cuddly animals – from rabbits and ponies to goats and sheep. There are even alpacas living there, although, obviously, they are not typically Kentish but seem to have really taken to the Kentish climate.

Kent Life stretches over 28 acres in the Kent countryside in the South East of England. It keeps the county’s culture alive in many different ways – from growing local fruit cultivars to preserving historic buildings that are furnished just as they were decades and centuries ago.

The sight is ideal for families although anyone with an interest in local culture and history should plan a visit when in the area. 

Kent Life appeals in different ways to visitors depending on their age and interests. Kids will love the opportunity to run around and play in the large playground, as well as the ability to get close to the many different animals living here. Adults may enjoy delving into local history, visiting the blacksmith’s and the cobbler’s workshops, taking part in the many different events held throughout the year, and simply being in the countryside without, actually, getting their feet wet or muddy.  

What I personally enjoy the most about Kent Life is the ability to visit a traditional oast house and to learn about the life of the hop pickers in the not too distant past. As you travel around Kent in England, you see oast houses in many places in the countryside. Rectangular in shape, they have one or more cylindrical structures attached to them. These structures are crowned by a conical rooftop and traditionally, were used as kilns to dry the freshly picked hops.

Nowadays, most of the oast houses preserved in Kent have been turned into private dwellings, so it’s not easy to visit one and see it from the inside. With Kent Life having an oast house at a central point in its heritage farm, I relish the opportunity to explore it and photograph it up close and personal. Inside it, there is also a great informational display about hops and the tradition of hop growing and hop use in Kent.   



How to Reach Kent Life?

Cuddly sheep - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

You will find Kent Life in the county of Kent in the South East of England. This heritage-farm-cum-open-air-museum is very near the county’s main city – Maidstone. It is easy to reach from several other main towns in Kent like Chatham, Rochester, and Gillingham, as well as from London itself.

The most straightforward way to reach Kent Life is by car. Have a look at this Google Maps link in order to calculate travel directions and times depending on your specific point of departure. There is a large car park right next door to Kent Life’s entrance.

Alternatively, you can also arrive by public transport. There is a direct train connection between London Victoria and Maidstone East train stations.  You can use Rome2Rio or Trainline to check travel schedules and times. Once in Maidstone, you can then take bus 155 and get off at the Malta Inn bus stop for a short walk to Kent Life.   



How Much Does It Cost to Visit Kent Life?

Historic dining room - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

For up to date information on ticket prices and opening times, please, always refer to Kent Life’s official website here.

During our last visit to Kent Life in September 2020, we paid £9.00 per adult and £8.00 per child. According to Kent Life, these were temporary admission prices which were only slightly reduced in comparison to the regular admission prices as some of the facilities and attractions in the farm and park were not open due to the current health situation.

We also paid for lunch in the on-site Dotty’s Tea Room, for ice-creams from the ice-cream shack, and for the paint-a-pot workshop. In addition, a bag of animal feed cost about a pound and we bought three as part of the fun of visiting such places is to get to feed the animals and interact with them.

The tea room prices for light lunches, sandwiches, cakes, and drinks were comparable to any high street coffee shop. The prices for the paint-a-pot workshop depended on the size of the figurine that children chose to paint and started from £3.50.

I noticed that many of the visitors had brought their own lunch with them and were enjoying it on the picnic tables next to the playground area. This could be a good idea to keep the costs down.

At the same time, activities like the tractor ride (short but sweet), the pony grooming demo, the animal talks, and demonstrations were completely free of charge. A donation was appreciated only for the Kent Owl Academy demonstration.    



What Can My Family and I Do at Kent Life?

Vintage kitchen - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

Kent Life is a fun place to visit with the whole family. From daily demonstrations and activities to seasonal events, there is always something to do and enjoy here. Both children and grown-ups will find different corners around the heritage farm and open-air museum that will appeal to their imagination and thirst for knowledge. 

If you are wondering what exactly to expect, here are some of the coolest things to do at Kent Life in my own experience:

  • Cuddle Corner and Farmyard – this is where children can get in close contact with many cute and cuddly animals.
  • Oast House, Hoppers’ Huts, and Hop Garden – learn all about hops and the tradition of cultivating them in Kent, England. It’s a truly captivating story. 
  • Animal Farm – meet face to face some gorgeous sheep, goats, and even alpacas. Try feeding them from the palm of your hand (provided you have bought a bag with special animal feed for a pound at the entrance).
  • Historic and Vintage Cottages and Workshops –  fully preserved, furnished, and visitable on the inside, these old buildings are like a travel machine to bygone times.
  • Playground – a large, open-air area where children can run around and burn some energy on the many pieces of play equipment. The long rope swing is fabulous!
  • Daily demonstrations and activities – the schedule for the day is written on the large blackboard by the Play Barn. Demos and activities run regularly throughout the day and are a lot of fun.
  • Kent Owl Academy and Meerkats – a small area next to the Hop Garden where you can see owls and other birds of prey. There is even an enclosure with a family of meerkats.
  • Seasonal events – a rich programme of events is on with festivals, feasts, and even fireworks held regularly throughout the year.
  • Food Places – a tea room, a pizza restaurant, and an ice-cream shack offer refreshments and food.



What Are Your Personal Impressions of Visiting Kent Life?

Historic church - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

We have been visiting Kent Life for a number of years now. It was one of the last places that we headed to before our move from England to Italy back in 2014 and then it was one of the very first places that we revisited in Kent after our return from Italy to England in August 2020.

It is a great place with lots to do and see in a day and it fits the needs and requirements of each member of our small family.

The large playground, the direct contact with animals, and the rich programme of demonstrations and activities make our child happy. At the same time, the ability to visit fully preserved historic and vintage houses and workshops is what keeps mine and my husband’s attention.

The oast house with the hoppers' huts - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

My favourite bit is the oast house with its large cylindrical kilns. Inside it, there is a rich display explaining the history of hops and the role this tall plant has been playing for centuries in Kent, England. There is lots of information to take in with my favourite tidbit being that the use of hops as a vegetable was mentioned by Pliny in his Natural History in the 1st century AD as at the time hops were eaten like asparagus in Spain.

Another curious detail is that Captain Cook took hops with him to brew beer on his last voyage between 1777-1779. And did you know that hop pickers in Kent had to use stilts in order to reach the tops of the tall hop plants?!

Inside a historic hoppers' hut - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

Just by the oast house, there is a long line of hoppers’ huts. They recreate the living conditions of the hop pickers and it is quite sobering to see first hand how humble life was for them.

Inside a historic hoppers' hut - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

Visiting the other historic cottages, farm buildings, and workshops dotted around Kent Life is another great experience to have here. There are so many castles, stately homes, and other imposing buildings around England that it’s easy to focus just on the great and glorious moments in the English history and somehow overlook what life must have been through the centuries for farmers, workers, and people who did not belong to the ruling classes.

Historic kitchen with a bath tub - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

For me, Kent Life offers a valuable opportunity to explore what daily life was like in England over the last couple of centuries or so. The preserved kitchens, dining rooms, lounges, and bathrooms together with the fully furnished blacksmith’s and cobbler’s workshops are like a door opening to a world that is no more, where everything was done by hand and locally.

Inside the historic cobbler's - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

I particularly enjoyed visiting the General Store with its numerous drawers, bottles, boxes, and packagings. On its walls, there were posters that were decades old and advertised such strange from our modern point of view products as a powder for cats and dogs designed to keep them calm during air raids.

‘The powders dull the nervous system and prevent any tendency toward Hysteria during Air Raids’, the poster said. And this one sentence was enough to transport me back in time and to understand a bit better how trying life must have been for humans and their pets during the two World Wars.

The sink in the historic kitchen - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

For me, visiting Kent Life is always a good idea. If you are looking for a new weekend destination or for something to do with the family on a day off, if you are tired of museums but you are interested in history and if you want your kids to learn about animals in a fun and relaxed way by feeding them, cuddling them, and even grooming them, then head to Kent Life. It’s just over an hour away from London and very easy to reach from most major destinations in Kent, England. 



What Else Can I See and Do Near Kent Life?

Two goats - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

To properly see and experience everything that Kent Life has to offer, it’s best to spend the whole day there. 

In case you are a quick sightseer and/or want to squeeze in another adventure in the same day or the days before or after your visit to Kent Life, here are a few more options to pleasantly fill up your time in the area:

  • Maidstone Museums – a group of interesting museums introducing you to the history and culture of Kent’s county town – Maidstone.
  • Leeds Castle – self-billed as the loveliest castle in the world, this is a nice castle that is half-surrounded by water and has beautiful gardens and extensive grounds for walks and relaxation surrounded by lush vegetation.
  • The Historic Dockyard Chatham – the world’s most complete and best-preserved dockyard of the Age of Sail. One of my favourite places in Kent for its rich history and great sights it offers.
  • Rochester Cathedral and Rochester High Street – the cathedral is a 1,400 years old place of Christian worship with stunning medieval architecture in the heart of the charming town of Rochester in Kent. Rochester High Street is a treasure trove of historic buildings, quirky shops, and excellent cafes and restaurants.



In Conclusion

Vintage lounge - Kent Life - Maidstone, Kent, England -

Kent Life is a large attraction in the county of Kent in the South East of England. Stretching over 28 acres, this open-air museum and heritage farm is a great destination for a family day out. Here kids can play and get in close contact with many different domestic animals while grown-ups can relax and take in curious tidbits about Kentish history and culture.

Several traditional for Kent cottages, farm buildings, and workshops have been transferred to and rebuilt in Kent Life. Fully preserved and furnished inside, they offer a curious glimpse into the past of this beautiful corner of England.

In the above blog post, I give you exhaustive information about visiting and enjoying Kent Life. I have provided lots of practical details to make your day out there as easy to organise and as enjoyable as possible. I have also shared my personal experiences from visiting Kent Life several times over the years.

I hope that it all will come in useful when you are planning your days out in England.



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