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The town of Maidstone has managed to maintain its picturesque charm, despite its close proximity to London and relatively large population of just over 113,000. Car hire in Maidstone makes it easy to travel the 42 miles to London Gatwick Airport, the 32 miles to London itself, or the distance to the many attractions within Maidstone's surrounding countryside. Lord Cornway once described the nearby Leeds Castle as the loveliest on Earth. A stroll along the Maidstone Bridge across the River Medway leads visitors to the Royal Star Arcade's 19 shops and the Hazlitt Theatre within the 19th century Corn Exchange Arcade.
Who to Book With
Many Maidstone visitors choose to rent vehicles at London Gatwick Airport or other locations in Great Britain's capital. However, Maidstone itself also contains plenty of places offering vehicles for hire. Regional companies, such as S&B Car and Van Hire, and national companies, such as Practical Car and Van Rental, stand alongside Budget, Hertz and other international firms throughout the town. Booking online in advance offers the best deals.
Best Time to go
Summer is the busiest tourism season in Maidstone and the rest of southeast England. However, as winters are mild and most local attractions are indoors, visitors should not be discouraged from taking advantage of the deep discounts available during the low season.
Need to Know Essentials
The following documents are necessary to collect all vehicles:
- A valid UK driving license with both parts
- A valid passport or other proof of identity
- Booking proof
- The credit card with which the vehicle was reserved
Driving in Maidstone is generally a relaxing experience, apart from the regular rush hour traffic. The A20 is the main route connecting the town with the M20, the motorway leading west to London and east to Folkestone. The A229 and the A26 are the region's two other main roads. The Chequers Centre is the town's most recommended car park. A park-and-ride service is available every day except Sunday.
Although much of Maidstone's town centre is restricted or inaccessible to private vehicles, car rental remains the easiest way to travel around the town's picturesque countryside. The town also contains two major rail stations, a couple of bus operators and some lovely long-distance footpaths. The Medway Valley Walk is an especially scenic stroll along the River Medway's banks and through the town centre.
Southeastern Railway supplies both high-speed and mainline services between Maidstone, London and the rest of southeast England. The town's two main rail stations are Maidstone West, along the Medway Valley Line, and Maidstone East, the departure point for rail journeys to London and Ashford International. The smaller Maidstone Barracks station has been unstaffed since 1989.
Maidstone taxis tend to be cheaper than buses, especially for large groups. Maidstone Taxi cars and minibuses seat up to 16 people and travel as far as London's West End at reasonable fixed rates. Express Cabs travel to all five of London's major airports.
The Aylesford-based Nu Venture company has operated bright green buses throughout Maidstone and Kent for more than 30 years. The region's other major bus network is run by Arriva Southern Counties, a division of the larger Arriva bus company. Visitors can get updated schedules for both bus lines at the Traveline Southeast website or in person at the Town Hall's visitor information centre. All bus tickets are purchased directly from drivers.
Most Maidstone attractions, including the Royal Star Arcade shopping centre and the Corn Exchange Arcade with the Hazlitt Theatre, are located indoors. In addition to the main Maidstone Museum, the town is also home to the open-air Kent Life museum and a carriage museum open only in summer. However, the town's most historic buildings may be the 14th century All Saints Church and adjacent Archbishop's Palace. The lovely Leeds Castle is also well worth a daytrip to.
Kent Life - Herb, fruit and hop gardens grow around the historic buildings of Kent Life, a fascinating open-air museum on the River Medway's east bank, adjacent to Allington Locks. An 18th century barn, a timber framed chapel, a 16th century farmhouse, and a recreated blacksmith's forge are among the museum's painstakingly-reconstructed buildings.
Hop Farm Family Park - Enjoy a number of worthwhile attractions at the more than 450 year old Hop Farm Family Park. The Hop Story Museum is the best place to learn more about these buildings, which were originally constructed to dry hops for beer making. Visitors can also travel back in time at the period Yesterdays Village or enter the wax museum's torture cellar. Further family-friendly attractions include a petting farm, a Victorian carousel and a children's driving school.
Leeds Castle - This legendary Castle has sprawled across two River Len islands just five miles southeast of Maidstone since 1119. This castle, which Lord Cornway once declared the world's loveliest, was a favourite residence for King Edward I. In 2010, almost 560,000 tourists visited the castle, which now includes a maze, a golf course, a grotto and even a dog collar museum.