Kent is not only one of the warmest parts of Britain, but it also offers a heady mix of culture, history and a diverse landscape (think of: the flats of Romney Marsh versus rolling countryside), small villages and bustling shopping centres. Plus, it has nine beautiful Blue Flag beaches along its 300-mile coastline.
If you are thinking about moving to, retiring to, or buying a second home in Kent, then you will be spoilt for choice. Because of its diversity, Kent has something for everyone. So, here we pick our top 10; the best places to live.
Average house price for a four/five-bedroom home: £539,000 as of Autumn 2020 (significant variances by specific location/type with higher-end properties ranging from £750,000-£1.8million);
Education: 32 primary, 16 secondary, 14 senior schools/colleges in the city and immediately surrounding areas. Two grammar schools – Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys and Simon Langton Grammar School for Girls are rated above average. The University of Kent is also present, offering a range of courses.
Transport links: Main road link is the M20 connecting to Swanley and London, the M25, Folkestone and Dover. There are 148 Canterbury to London trains per weekday with a fastest time of 52 minutes (daily average, just over 1.5hours).
Is Canterbury a nice place to live?
Canterbury is famous for its historic buildings, notably the Cathedral. Other historic attractions include the city’s walls, St. Augustine’s Abbey, the Westgate Towers, Godmersham House and many others.
Canterbury boasts some great city-centre walks and lots of independent shops, boutiques and cafes where you can people watch. The city also has plenty of green spaces.
There are some great country walks and cycling routes in the surrounding areas – e.g. Canterbury to Whitstable on the coast (around 8 miles). There are two theatres and plenty of other evening recreational facilities.
The city is highly regarded by many types of residents and is popular with commuters, families and students. The average age is 40.
Canterbury is well known for its culture and history. It’s also famous for being very convenient for links to the continent. It has a broad-spectrum appeal for couples, families and those that are approaching retirement.
House prices in the city itself are reasonable overall but can vary with some areas being considerably more expensive than others.
As is normal with vibrant cities, activity and associated noise/bustle are relatively commonplace. Some of the surrounding villages are beautiful and much quieter – but anticipate considerably higher property prices on average, with some being considered to be exclusive.
2. Royal Tunbridge Wells
Average house price for a four/five-bedroom home: £650-£800,000 as of Autumn 2020. (significant variances by specific location/type with higher-end properties exceeding £3million).
Education: 40 primary, 18 secondary (including two grammar schools and several private schools), 13 senior schools/colleges in the town and immediately surrounding areas. (Source: Ofsted – 2019 figures).
Transport links: Main road link is A21-M25-M20 connecting to Swanley and London. There are circa 70 trains per weekday to London with the fastest time of 53 minutes (daily average, just over 1.2hours). Gatwick Airport is only a 40-minute drive away.
Is Royal Tunbridge Wells a good place to live?
Known for its busy and bustling centre, this is an attractive market and spa town. It is well equipped with parks and green spaces, notably Dunorlan Park. A visit to the historic waters at Chalybeate Spring (where the water “cures all ills”) is a must.
The Spa Valley steam railway is also very famous. The centre boasts numerous Georgian and Victorian buildings and also has The Pantiles – a bespoke shopping experience with over 70 independent shops and vendors present.
It also has The Forum – a famous music venue which has launched many musical careers. There are numerous restaurants, cafés and bars of quality, providing multiple options for days and evenings out.
Why live in Royal Tunbridge Wells?
The town offers an affluent country lifestyle whilst being very close to London. That has affected house prices considerably. As a result, it has for many decades been very popular with more affluent commuters. It is a relatively young town demographically with 82% of the population being under 64.
The town and surrounding areas have long been known as some of the most desirable locations in South-East England. As such, the more prestigious properties in the area command premium prices, with many regularly selling well into seven figures.
The centre of the town itself can be very busy at times. Inevitably, town centre or nearby properties may therefore suffer some noise and parking congestion as a result. Outer areas and surrounding villages/hamlets are much quieter.
Average house price for a detached house: £500,000 as of Autumn 2020. More prestige property averages will be in the range of £800,000-over £1million.
Transport links: Rail to London is an average of 60 trains per day with a typical journey time of 1H.41Mins. The fast train is 1H.18Mins. Main road link is the M2 with a light traffic time to London estimate of 1H.54Mins – considerably longer at peak times.
Living in Broadstairs
Set on its own island (of Thanet), Broadstairs has long had a reputation for being one of the quieter and less developed parts of the county, away from the hustle and bustle. It is best known for its magnificent coastal areas and walks, including Botany Bay and Dumpton Gap plus some highly regarded sandy beaches.
Historically, the Charles Dickens House Museum (closed in 2020 for COVID reasons) was the inspiration for Betsy Trottwood’s house in David Copperfield.
The town is quaint and known for its artistic community and slightly alternative culture with cafés, bars and restaurants. Note, the town itself is a popular holiday destination and can become busy and noisy in peak season. Surrounding areas are much quieter.
The town offers immediate access to an impressive and unspoilt coastline and countryside. It has been largely insulated from over-development. House prices are the highest in Thanet however they may be more affordable than in other more traditional desirable parts of Kent.
Broadstairs is attractive because of its relatively reasonable pricing of more exclusive property than other parts of Kent. The rural and slightly alternative nature appeals to many. However, that comes at the cost of less convenient commuting into London and some congestion in July/August and sunny bank holidays.
Average house price for a detached house: Circa. £700,000 as of Autumn 2020. Note this average excludes smaller new-build developments. More prestige property averages will be in excess of £1.5million upwards.
Education: There are approximately 31 schools in Cranbrook and the surrounding areas. These include primary, secondary, college and private institutions (some offer multiple age-range education) including the Benenden Boarding School.
Transport links: Rail to London (from Staplehurst) is an average of 36 trains per day with a typical journey time of 1H.6Mins. The fast train is 1H.2Mins. Main road link is the A21-M25 with a light traffic time to London estimate of 1H.34Mins – considerably longer at peak times.
Is Cranbrook a good place to live?
Cranbrook is one of the UK’s most prestigious areas for property. It is located in lovely countryside, and that is reflected in a wide range of countryside leisure pursuits on offer. There are museums, country centres, walks and plenty of pretty local historic buildings to visit or admire, including the Union Mill (windmill).
Cranbrook is a larger village with a population of around 6,000. It offers a selection of good restaurants, pubs and related establishments. Many excellent dining opportunities are available in pubs and restaurants in the surrounding countryside.
Extremely popular with professional families seeking a rural environment relatively close to London. It has a very high quality of life, and it has not suffered from over-development.
Ease of commuting to London is also an attraction. Although there is no rail station, there is at Staplehurst approximately 6 miles away with fast services into London.
Cranbrook will tick many boxes for those seeking a wide selection of excellent accommodation with great commuting into London and a genuine country lifestyle.
5. West Malling
Average house price for a larger four/five-bedroom detached home: Circa. £600,000 as of Autumn 2020, with the more prestige properties exceeding £1million.
Education: There are approximately 12 schools in West Malling. Ten are primary with two offering education at secondary and above levels. In the close, surrounding area, there are 13 schools rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, including a specialist school for hearing impaired children.
Broadband speed: There are at least 11 providers. The average ‘real world’ speed is 63.15 Mbps, around 147% higher than the UK’s national average. Please note, this is based upon the greater Tonbridge area and exact speeds in West Malling may vary.
Transport links: Rail to London is an average of 40 trains per day with a typical journey time of 1H.18Mins. The fast train is 55mins. Main road link is the M20 or M26 to M25 with a light traffic time to London estimate of 1H – considerably longer at peak times. Gatwick and Stansted are the nearest major airports.
Why live in West Malling?
Known as a rural area, West Malling is excellent for recreation with country parks, walks and historic churches. Coldrum Lond Barrow and Manor Park Country Park are two examples.
Known as a rural area, West Malling is excellent for recreation with country parks, walks and historic churches. Coldrum Lond Barrow and Manor Park Country Park are two examples.
The nearby freshwater Leybourne Lakes are great for scuba diving, open water swimming, windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking.
The town itself is a small and affluent market town with a population of around 3,000. It has a range of facilities and smaller shops, cafés and bars housed in beautiful typically Kentish buildings. Evening entertainment is restrained rather than riotous. West Malling has a very pleasing and refined ambience overall.
Ideal for professional and retired families looking for a rural but sophisticated environment close to London. Ease of commuting to London is a big plus. This is a younger environment, with the average age being around 40. These figures are based upon Tonbridge and West Malling, as separate stats are unavailable.
West Malling offers country town living within easy commuting distance of the capital. With its quaint yet also cosmopolitan high street, beautiful houses and countryside, it has something for everyone.
6. Penshurst (district of Sevenoaks)
Average house price for a four/five-bedroom home: Circa. £800,000 as of Autumn 2020. More premium properties are in excess of £1million.
Education: There are approximately three schools in Penshurst at primary level. A far greater number offering education to all ages is available in nearby towns such as Tonbridge and Sevenoaks plus several grammar schools in the nearby area.
Broadband speed: There are multiple providers of broadband services in Penshurst, however, exact objective ‘real world’ speed statistics do not seem to be distinguishable from those in surrounding towns.
Transport links: Rail to London is an average of 48 trains per day with a typical journey time of 1H.30Mins plus changes. The fast train is 47Mins. Main road link is the A21-M25-A2 with a light traffic time to London estimate of 1H.17Mins – considerably longer at peak times.
Is Penshurst a good place to live?
A very picturesque village sitting between two rivers. The area is famous for its natural beauty and this naturally predisposes a lot of recreation towards countryside activities. The village has several beautiful old buildings of note including the 14th century Penshurst Place – a fortified manor house.
Highly regarded by both professional/commuter families and more mature couples seeking retirement but within easy reach of London. Its provision of a village lifestyle within close distance of the capital is a major attraction. Due to its small population, there are no specific demographics available for ages etc.
Penshurst provides wonderfully scenic village living within a very short distance of London via relatively easy commuting.
Transport links: Rail to London is an average of 48 trains per day with a typical journey time of 47Mins. The fast train is 22Mins. Main road link is the M25-A2 with a light traffic time to London estimate of 1H.9Mins – considerably longer at peak times.
Living in Sevenoaks
A larger town with a population of around 30,000 (114,000 in the wider census district), Sevenoaks offers a full range of shopping and recreational facilities. Ancient sites to visit include Ightam Mote and Knole, with multiple others in the area.
There are plenty of parks, notably Emmetts Garden and the Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. There is a large range of dining establishments offering all major cuisines.
One of the top reasons that Sevenoaks is deemed a good place to live is for its excellent commuting options into London.
A much-envied area for commuting and therefore a high percentage of younger professional families live here. The town centre is very busy during the day and some noise/congestion is to be expected. Nightlife in the centre can also be lively.
Outer areas and the surrounding countryside have a much quieter and more exclusive feel.
Sevenoaks is a bustling location ideal for commuters and a lifestyle in the centre that may be ‘busy’ for those seeking a quiet existence. By contrast, the outer areas and surrounding villages are much quieter and offer a countryside culture.
Education: There are 2 primary schools in Lamberhurst. A much wider range of excellent schools including several grammar schools is available in nearby Tunbridge Wells.
Broadband speed: There are at least 2 providers of broadband services in Lamberhurst. The ‘real world’ average speed is 16.32 Mbps, approximately 36% lower than the UK’s national average
Transport links: Commuting rail options are from Frant and Wadhurst stations each approximately 4 miles away. There are a further six stations within a 7-mile radius. Rail to London is an average of 74 trains per day with a typical journey time of 1H.1Mins. The fast train is 48Mins. Main road link is the A21-M25-A2 with a light traffic time to London estimate of 1H.22Mins – considerably longer at peak times.
Why live in Lamberhurst?
A very small but very pretty village with a population of around 1700 (2011 census). Lamberhurst offers secluded rural lifestyles set in beautiful countryside with its own Vineyard, but still very close to London.
As a village, there is little in the centre itself, but nearby Scotney Castle is a 14th-century jewel and the ruins of Bayham Abbey are also worth visiting.
On the border with East Sussex, the village and Parish once sat across both counties but was put entirely into Kent in the late19th century.
Dining and evening entertainment are largely gastro-pub and country restaurant based.
Families and retired people looking to escape from it all whilst keeping open their links to both London and the South Coast.
Individual demographics are not available, but they will be similar to those in nearby Tunbridge Wells. The population is likely to be more mature.
Lamberhurst is a beautiful village location with good commuting facilities into London.
It is known as “quiet” and that might not suit those seeking a vibrant nightlife or entertainment base immediately available nearby, though Tunbridge Wells is close and has all the major facilities.
Average house price for a four/five-bedroom detached home: Circa. £450,000 – however that includes smaller new-builds. More exclusive properties start from £800,000 to over £1million.
Education: There are a number of independent and grammar schools within numerous nearby towns such as Canterbury. Just outside Chilham village, the Hope View School is an Independent Special School for pupils with complex needs.
Broadband speed: There are at least 2 providers of broadband services in Chilham. There are no published objective ‘real world’ surveys for the maximum speeds available.
Transport links: Commuting rail options are from Chilham itself. Connections to London average around 37 trains per day with a typical journey time of 1H.30Mins. The fast train is 53Mins. Main road link is the A2-M2 with a light traffic time to London estimate of 1H.26Mins – considerably longer at peak times.
Living in Chilham
A very small and highly attractive village used in numerous TV series. It has a range of ancient buildings and a population of around 1200 (2011 census). The surrounding countryside is known for leisure activities and quiet relaxation.
There are two pubs and some minor shops but facilities in the village itself are limited.
However, the proximity to Canterbury means all facilities and entertainment are close by. Chilham Castle is well worth a visit, but the village and area are agricultural, so expect to need to go into Canterbury for most amenities.
Great for families and mature purchasers seeking a quiet rural lifestyle but with city facilities very close to hand.
Chilham is a highly desirable location, offering a classic village lifestyle. Being quiet, it may not suit those seeking to be a short walk from a significant choice of entertainment. Canterbury, however, is very close by and a short drive.
10. Chestfield (Near Whitstable)
Average house price for a four/five-bedroom home: Circa. £625,000, as of Autumn 2020. More prestigious properties command prices from £950,000 and over.
Education: There are no schools in the small village of Chestfield itself. Two grammar schools are available in nearby Whitstable along with multiple educational establishments catering for all age ranges.
Broadband speed: There are at least 8 providers of broadband services in Chestfield. The ‘real world’ average speed is 16.26 Mbps, which is 36.26% lower than that of the UK overall.
Transport links: Rail links from Whitstable to London constitute an average of 80 trains per day with a typical journey time of 2H.6Mins. The fast train is 1H.15mins. Main road link is the A299-M2-A2 with a light traffic time to London estimate of 1H.28Mins – considerably longer at peak times.
Living in Chestfield village
A very small village with a population of less than 3,000. Whitstable is a few miles away, which offers full facilities. The area is heavily wooded which makes it ideal for walking, hiking and riding etc.
The coast is nearby with a full range of beaches and other coastal recreational activities. Good dining and evening entertainment is provided by Whitstable.
The town’s castle and gardens are well worth visiting and the old harbour and the Victorian charm of its narrow streets provide great seaside experiences and some bespoke shopping.
Commuting into London combined with the best of both worlds – a rural and coastal lifestyle.
However, rail commuting times are longer than from many other parts of the county. Also popular with retired couples.
Individual demographics are not available for Chestfield but for nearby Whitstable, they show a slightly older population of around 30,000 with approximately 25% being over 65.
Chestfield is a very small village with a genuine country feel to it but also very close to the conveniences and lifestyle attractions of Whitstable and Canterbury.
Although quiet, nearby Whitstable can become busy during peak summer weeks and bank holidays.
As it is not as close to London as the other places we have listed, the upside is that you do get more for your money in terms of sprawling properties in a quiet location with lots of outside space.
Who lives in Kent?
Kent is an idyllic place for families to put down roots and the demographics show that the majority of households in the county are families, similar to the trends across the wider South East region.
The top schools, access to green spaces, excellent commuter links and the strong communities across the county are hugely appealing to those looking for a place to raise children.
Types of property in Kent
Knowing that over a third of households in Kent are families and that buyers are attracted to finding a home in the county due to the space available, it is unsurprising that there are considerably more house transactions in Kent than across the South East region.
Wherever you are looking for a home and whatever your motives for moving our professional property finders would be delighted to assist.