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Sometimes referred to as Royal Tunbridge Wells, this 400-year-old spa town was founded in the 17th century when the healing waters of the Chalybeate Spring were discovered. Queen Victoria liked to travel from London to take the waters at Tunbridge Wells, and today the town still is primarily known as a spa getaway less than an hour from London. Even if you don’t need rejuvenation, the town itself is very pleasant and serves as a useful base for driving around the West Kent region.
Who to Book With
Travellers who take the train down from London will find international car hire companies and local outfits at the railway station, including Avis and Sixt. Avis even has an agreement with the Russell Hotel to deliver rentals directly to their customers. Due to the small size of Tunbridge Wells and its popularity as a weekend escape for Londoners it’s suggested that car rentals be booked online prior to arrival to ensure lower rates and a better selection.
Best Time to go
Tunbridge Wells enjoys a typical English climate with no great extremes of weather and generally wet mild conditions. Most of the rain falls in winter so this is the low season, ideal for people who want a quiet spa retreat. Spring and summer are noticeably busier, but the excellent weather is ideal for getting outdoors and enjoying drives to the coast and around West Kent.
Need to Know Essentials
The following are required by the rental office to pick up your vehicle:
- A valid EU or UK driver’s license or International Driving Permit
- A secondary form of photo ID
- The credit card you used to book the car
- A print-out of your rental confirmation if possible
The historic centre of Tunbridge Wells is compact enough to travel on foot. The city manages several car parks right in the centre of town for convenient and affordable parking. Fees are typically £1.20 per hour and between £5 and £10 per day depending on the location of the car park. Parking on the downtown streets of Tunbridge Wells is much trickier and not worth the effort of cruising around in search of a spot.
It’s very easy to reach Tunbridge Wells by road, especially from the greater London area. Both the A21 and A26 highways run right past Tunbridge Wells on their way to the south coast, while the larger M25 and M20 motorways are just 20 minutes away from town for convenient access to the rest of southern England.
There are lots of ways to get to Tunbridge Wells, including rail, bus, road and even by ferry or plane if you don’t mind a short drive to town. Within Tunbridge Wells itself buses and taxis provide local transport, while car rental companies offer visitors the chance to get out and explore this corner of southeast England on their own terms.
Tunbridge Wells lies directly on the busy train route between London’s Charing Cross and Hastings. It takes just 50 minutes to get here from London, and this line makes several useful stops along the way. Connecting rail service to Gatwick Airport adds another potential mode of travel. There are offices to rent a car at Tunbridge Wells’ train station, which is located right on High Street. National Rail handles all the trains.
Taxis are very popular in Tunbridge Wells since the majority of visitors are just coming for a weekend getaway. The main taxi rank is situated at the train station at the end of High Street, but you can always call one of the local companies like Number One Taxis for a pick up 24 hours a day.
The local buses around Tunbridge Wells are managed by Arriva. The routes in town are actually quite useful for visitors, especially the 281 Shopper-Hopper bus that runs between the Pantiles and the Top of the Hill area. This popular line runs every 12 minutes throughout the day and fares cost just £1 for the entire day.
After you’ve soaked away your stress in the healing spas of Tunbridge Wells rent a car and hit the beautiful West Kent countryside. This lovely corner of southern England has all kinds of fun easy day drives from Tunbridge Wells. The English Channel coast is just an hour away, offering everything from the White Cliffs of Dover to the fun of Brighton.
Hastings - This is a fascinating historic town best known as the site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Drive directly south through beautiful rolling Kentish countryside to reach Hastings, where attractions like Hastings Castle and the battlefield provide lots of ancient mystery to absorb.
Brighton - This is one of England’s most famous seaside resorts, just an hour south of Tunbridge Wells via the smooth scenic A26 highway. From its lively beaches and fun pier to unique attractions like the Royal Pavilion and Preston Manor, Brighton has a little bit of everything.
Penshurst Place - This offers drivers a lovely day outing to wander around an extraordinary medieval manor house. The surrounding gardens are among the oldest in England, and if you need even more medieval opulence hop back in the car and head over to Groombridge Place and savor its incredible gardens.