A fairly easy circular walk around the magnificent estate surrounding medieval Penshurst Place.
Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)
Minimum time 1hr 45min
Ascent/gradient 148ft (45m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Broad tracks, short section on busy road, one badly signposted section by river, 2 stiles
Landscape Leafy parkland with views of Penshurst Place
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 147 Sevenoaks & Tonbridge
Start/finish TQ 527438
Dog friendliness Good, although on lead, some dogs might not like unusual squeeze gates
Parking On-street parking in village, also car park for Penshurst Place
Public toilets Penshurst Road
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1 Walk up the main street of the village, then turn up the road opposite Quaintways tea room. Turn right at a public footpath sign and cross a stile. There are great views of Penshurst Place almost immediately and it's well worth a taking a photo. The house dates back to 1341 and the Great Hall is a fabulous example of medieval architecture. It has a timber roof, a musicians' gallery and an open hearth at its centre. There have been some notable visitors to the house over the years: Elizabeth I danced here with Robert Edward Dudley; the Black Prince ate a Christmas dinner here, and the children of Charles I came here after their father was executed. Now walk to a squeeze gate, cross the road, then go through another squeeze gate. Bear to the right in the direction of the lake. Go through one more squeeze gate and, keeping the lake to your right, walk around it then head towards the trees.
2 The path now veers to the left and goes uphill. Go through two more squeeze gates, then follow the signs for the Eden Valley Walk which leads to the right. This is a 15 mile (24km) linear walk that traces the route of the Eden from Edenbridge to Tonbridge.
3 Cross a stile and keep walking ahead along a wide, grassy track lined with trees. It's so atmospheric that you half expect a Royalist soldier to come cantering past you at any moment. At the end of the track cut down to the right and continue along a busy road to reach a sign for the Eden Valley Walk on the right-hand side, just before a bridge.
4 Go through a squeeze gate and walk through pastureland, along the side of the River Medway which is on your left. Walk by the river for about ¼ mile (400m), then turn right, away from the water, and head across the pasture to a little bridge. Follow the footpath uphill to a stile which takes you on to a concrete track. Turn right and then left at a junction.
5 Continue walking ahead, go through a gate, then down to a stile. Bear left and walk down a track from where there are lovely views of Penshurst Place. Walk under an archway, then turn right and walk back to the village.
From the very start of this walk you are rewarded with wonderful views of Penshurst Place, one of the finest medieval manor houses in England. Your route takes you through the lush surrounding parkland, down an avenue of mature trees, then along the grassy banks of the Medway, before you finally pass the house once again.
Penshurst Place is not just an extremely handsome building, it is also steepd in history. Built in the 14th century, the house has been home to many of England's most notable and colourful characters. They include Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (1391-1447) and brother of Henry V, who founded the Bodleian Library at Oxford; Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham (1478-1521), who was beheaded by Henry VIII - who then took Penshurst Place for himself; Sir William Sidney (1482-1554), who distinguished himself in battle at Flodden Field and was gifted the property by Edward VI, and his descendent Algernon Sidney (c1622-1683), a republican and supporter of Oliver Cromwell. At the Restoration Algernon was abroad and, feeling it was unsafe to return to live in England, travelled throughout Europe for many years. He eventually returned to Penshurst in order to see his dying father, but unfortunately he was still a marked man and was eventually arrested on trumped up charges by Charles II and beheaded.
Most notable of all these residents was Sir Philip Sidney who was born here in 1554. A poet, soldier and statesman he was one of those people who seemed to do everything well. He was gifted at languages, well read, athletic, a good dancer, witty, handsome, popular - an all round good egg. He was also, for a time, Elizabeth I's favourite courtier and she was reputedly so fond of him that she refused to let him sail to America with Sir Francis Drake - in whose work Sidney was very interested. His poetry was inspired by unrequited love - he was forbidden to marry the woman he really loved - and by the beautiful countryside around Penshurst.
However, like many idols, it was only after his death that Sir Philip Sidney was established as an heroic figure. He was badly wounded fighting the Spanish and was brought some water to relieve his thirst. But he saw another wounded soldier being carried past and gave it to him instead saying 'thy necessity is yet greater than mine'. Sidney died a few weeks later aged 32. His loss was felt so greatly that for months it was considered improper to appear at Court, or in the City, in light coloured clothing.
In Penshurst village, look out for the 'original' Leicester Square, named after the Elizabethan Earl of Leicester. The square is enclosed by timbered and tile-hung Tudor cottages.
A few miles south of Penshurst are Groombridge Place Gardens, well known as the setting for the film The Draughtsman's Contract (1982). Set in a valley there are lovely water gardens and walks through an area known as the Enchanted Forest. The house itself has been attributed to Wren.
Quaintways is a lovely tea room with lots of character, in the centre of the village. They do very good traditional cakes and scones, as well as light lunches such as sandwiches and soups. They're used to walkers and are very helpful, but if it's been very muddy they do ask you to remove your boots or stick your feet in a couple of plastic bags before going inside.