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 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.
1 Tunbridge Wells station is 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, ☏ .
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 served 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 - ☏
- County Cars - ☏
- Crown Cars - ☏
- Starline Taxis - ☏
- MS Executive Chauffeurs - ☏ or ☏ 0800 980 7252 (domestic)
- Kent Chauffeurs
- 1 Chalybeate Spring, The Pantiles. Chalybeate Spring is 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, the spring is somtimes not in use. When possible, it is free to drink the water.
- Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, Civic Way, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Sa 9:30AM-5PM, closed bank holidays and Easter Saturday. From Victorian oil paintings and archaeology to historic fashions and toys. Admission free.
- 2 Dunorlan Park, Pembury Rd (Just out of town). Once a private landscaped garden, this park is well used by locals, having 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 café selling snacks, drinks and ice creams.
- 3 Bayham Old Abbey, Furnace Lane, Little Bayham, TN3 8LP (5 miles east of Tunbridge Wells), ☏ . Adults £4.40, children £2.60, concessions £4.00.
- 4 Penshurst Place, Penshurst, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 27 March to 31 October daily: manor house noon-5:30PM, gardens from 10:30AM-6PM. Features an impressive medieval manor house. 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. 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. Grounds only £5.50, house & grounds £7.00.
- 5 Groombridge Place, ☏ . Apr-Nov: daily 9:30AM-6PM (check website for dates). Groombridge. Winner of the Top Garden Attraction in the UK by Good Britain Guide 2000. £8.50.
- 6 Bewl Water, nr Lamberhurst,, ☏ . Daily 9AM-sunset, except 10 Jul and 25 Dec. The largest man-made body of water in the South East, for walking and cycling, sailing, windsurfing and fishing. Admission is 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. £4 per person (£5 on Bank Holidays).
- 7 Hop Farm Country Park, Paddock Wood, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 10AM–5PM, closed 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.
- 8 Haysden Country Park, Tonbridge. Beautiful lakes, with rambling, bike and bridle trails. Free.
- 9 Scotney Castle and Gardens, Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, TN3 8JN (near Lamberhurst, 8 miles/15 minute drive from Tunbridge Wells), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A National Trust-owned attraction. The small castle, surrounded by a moat, is very picturesque. The castle 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.
- 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, ☏ .
- Ride the Spa Valley Railway from Tunbridge Wells to Eridge, ☏ . 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, child & over 60s £4. 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 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. If you can, catch the legendary annual 'Spoons Opera when the pub is briefly returned to its former glory as a functioning Opera House.
- 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 Carluccio's - 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.
- 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 27½ 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.
- Assembly Hall Theatre, Crescent Rd (Town centre, next to the Town Hall), ☏ .
- Trinity Theatre, Church Rd (Town centre, near the old cinema), ☏ . 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.
- 1 Royal Victoria Place, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 2SS, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 10:30AM-4:30PM.
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 a good number of quality charity shops around Victoria Place and down to 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, ☏ . 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!
- 1 The Hare, Langton Rd, Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells TN3 0JA, UK (At the corner of the main crossroads in Langton Green), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Th noon-11PM; F Sa noon-midnight; Su noon-10:30PM. Quaint gastro-pub in Langton Green with great decor and a garden backing onto a field, lovely in the summer months. Excellent food (especially the chunky chips!), a few options for vegetarians and vegans. Can be difficult to find parking in the summer. £10-25 for a main course.
- Hotel du Vin, Crescent Road, TN1 2LY, ☏ . 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, ☏ . Great friendly staff and a great option for lunch or quick coffee (only open during the day).
- Masala The Indian Restaurant, ☏ . Just one of the Indian restaurants 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: see Sleep.
- Sankeys, 39 Mount Ephraim, TN4 8AA, ☏ . 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.
- 1 Fuggles Beer Cafe, 28 Grosvenor Rd, TN1 2AP (In the top part of town near Tesco), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su noon-10:30PM. Friendly bar specialising in beer near the centre of town. Regular events held, a wide range of drinks and much of what they stock is available to be bought in bulk. £3-5 for a pint.
- Mount Edgcumbe: see Sleep.
- The Compasses, 45 Little Mount Sion (Up a steep and narrow cobbled street, just off the High Street), ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F Sa 11AM-midnight. Said to be the oldest pub in Tunbridge Wells, this pub has plenty of character and warm open fires.
- 2 The Opera House (Wetherspoons), 88 Mount Pleasant Road, TN1 1RT (just up from the war memorial), ☏ . Su-Th 8AM-midnight, F Sa 8AM-1AM. 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. ~£2.50 for a pint.
- 3 The Beau Nash, Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN4 8AU (the top of Mount Ephraim, coming from the town centre), ☏ . Su-Th noon-11PM; F Sa noon-midnight. Cosy, traditional tavern near the centre of town. Hidden behind some houses just off the main road going through the town so it stays quiet. Friday is soul night and the first Sunday of every month is open mic night from 8PM. Pub quiz every Tuesday at 8:30PM.
- Travelodge Tunbridge Wells Hotel, Mount Ephraim, TN4 8BU, ☏ . A Victorian spa hotel (circa 1860) 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.
- Spa Hotel, Mount Ephraim, TN4 8XJ, ☏ .
- 1 [formerly dead link] Tunbridge Wells Retreat, 55 - 57 London Road, Kent, TN1 1DS, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Rooms from £45.
- Hotel du Vin, Crescent Road, TN1 2LY, ☏ .
- 2 Mount Edgcumbe, The Common TN4 8BX (off A264 Mount Ephraim), ☏ . Country pub with six rooms in this Georgian mansion above town by sandstone bluffs. Not every beer garden can boast a 6th century cave for cosy rendezvous. Excellent dining. B&B double from £120.
|Routes through Tunbridge Wells|
|London ← Sevenoaks ←||NW SE||→ Robertsbridge → Hastings|
|Brighton ← Crowborough ←||SW NE||→ Tonbridge → Maidstone/Rochester|
|Crawley ← East Grinstead ←||W E||→ END|