I have been meaning to take a day trip to Knole for the longest time for a couple of reasons. Firstly it is one of the closest old English houses to where we live and one of the only ones in the area I’ve never been to and secondly because of its well-known deer park. After all who doesn’t want to spend a day looking at cute bambis?
Well this weekend I finally got around to visiting and discovered a great family day out! It is also easily commutable from central London, which makes it a perfect day trip to add to your London itinerary if you’re looking to get a taste of the English countryside, soak up some history and see some adorable animals.
How to get there from London
Knole is a pretty easy trip to make by public transport from London as it is located in the middle of Sevenoaks in Kent. You can catch a Southeastern or Thameslink train to Sevenoaks from a variety of stations in central London, including Victoria, Blackfriars, Charing Cross and London Bridge.
Sevenoaks station is in the centre of town and when you exit you turn right and walk along the high street up the hill. It is about a 20 minute walk to the turning into Knole Park, which is on the left next to Sevenoaks school. Don’t worry as it is well sign-posted!
It is worth noting that if you are driving to Knole there is a £4.00 parking fee which you pay at the gate as you enter. If you are just visiting Knole Park, which is free, and do not want to pay it may be worth looking into whether there is alternative parking nearby and you can walk in the front entrance.
Knole House is a 600 year old estate that passed from royalty to the Sackville family. Although the Sackville’s still live here, the parts open to the public are run by the National Trust. There are a few different parts of the estate you can look at including the showrooms, gatehouse, orangery and gardens.
The showrooms are very ornate and typical of other English stately homes with lots of 17th century artwork, furnishings and tapestries. However the house is currently undergoing a huge conservation project and only 5 of the showrooms are currently open. We did go inside the showrooms but, unless you are a real stately home enthusiast, I wouldn’t honestly say it is worth the ticket price right now (£8.15). It does also give you access to the gardens but these are only open on a Tuesday so we didn’t get to see them.
I would however recommend going into the Gatehouse Tower which requires a separate ticket (£3.15). The tower was the living quarters of Eddy Sackville-West between 1926 and 1940. The name might be familiar as Eddy was the cousin of Vita Sackville-West, a poet and novelist who was the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, in which Knole features. Eddy was also friends with other members of the Bloomsbury Group so as you can imagine there is a fair bit of information about them here which will interest bookworms (like me). You can also climb the spiral staircase right to the top of the tower for views over the surrounding park and beyond.
The deer at Knole Park
Now on to the most exciting part of the trip… the deer! Knole House is situated in Knole Park, the last remaining deer park in Kent from the medieval times. It is also completely free to visit the park if you want to skip the house and just enjoy a day out in the English countryside.
Even though Knole Park is 1000 acres the good news is if you’re short on time or don’t want to walk too far with young children you don’t need to go deep into the park to see any deer. Many of the deer seem to congregate around the house and main paths where people walk. Even though they are wild and shouldn’t be approached, touched or fed they don’t seem at all bothered by humans, which makes me wonder how many people stick to these rules.
It is really important not to touch the deer in the park, not just for your own safety, but like with other small animals the babies can be abandoned by their parents if they do not recognise their scent.
There are three marked walks that you can do around Knole Park. If you visit the house they will give you a (very basic and not that helpful) map showing them but really you just need to find the start and then follow the coloured arrows. The red and black arrows are 5km walks and the blue is 4km and is designed for families. They are all circular and start and end at the entrance to the house.
We had a bit of a struggle finding the marked walking routes as the signs are not very clear. If you are standing outside of the entrance to the house with the house behind you then you turn left and walk across the grass until the path appears. Once you are on the path you will soon see a post with the coloured arrows and it’s fairly simple from there… just a touch confusing at the start as there is no path leading away from the house!
Whilst walking you get to see so many deer as there are over 350 that live in the Knole Park. There are two different types, the fallow deer and the sika deer, and you will notice they have different types of antlers. If you keep your eyes peeled there might be some really close by doing a bad job of being camouflaged in the long grass – those antlers are a giveaway! The one pictured above was with right next to the walking path.
Let me know your favourite day trips from London to escape to the English countryside, I would love some recommendations!