Easily reached by both road and rail, the Kent villages of Lenham and Hollingbourne are right on the edge of Kent Downs, providing great riding in stunning English countryside, with plenty of quaint tearooms and country pubs for those all-important fuelling stops
Known as ‘the Garden of England’, Kent is densely packed with trails and quiet lanes to enjoy by bike, as well as interesting history and sights to see along your journey.
It is dotted with pretty towns and villages, hop-drying oast houses with their pointy white tops, and numerous wonderful independent cafés. Food and drink connoisseurs will love the wealth of local produce to sample, with many amazing vineyards and orchards for great local beers and cider.
There really is something for everyone when exploring the beautiful rolling green hills of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The small market village of Lenham is on the southern edge of the North Downs, between Maidstone and Ashford. In Roman and medieval times, it sat conveniently along the route between London and Canterbury but is now bypassed by the M20 motorway.
While easy and convenient to access by both car and train, with a station connecting it to the likes of London and Ashford, it continues to enjoy a quiet and peaceful setting in the Kent countryside.
Despite not being a modern stopover destination, the village still offers a good selection of services, with pubs, restaurants and tea-rooms. The village is also home to the source of the Great Stour river, which flows all the way to the North Sea, at Pegwell Bay.
There is also an attractive medieval Grade I listed Tithe Barn built around the late 14th century which is the largest barn of its type in Kent (160 ft long overall). It was one of a pair (until the other was burned down). The remaining barn is now used to host art and food markets.
Hollingbourne is located further north, from junction 8 of the M20 motorway. Close by is Leeds Castle, with its long, rich history dating back to 1086 when it was called ‘Esledes’ (meaning slope or hillside) and was owned by the half-brother of William the Conqueror, Odo the Bishop of Bayeux.
In more recent times, in the 1930s, Leeds Castle became one of the great country houses of England and a centre of lavish hospitality for leading statesmen, European royalty and film stars. In the 1970s when Lady Baillie died, she left the castle and grounds to a charity created to preserve the castle for future generations to enjoy. Ever since, Leeds Castle has become one of England’s top tourist attractions and welcomes more than 600,000 visitors a year, and even offers accommodation in holiday cottages, B&B, a glamping site or a luxurious stay in the manor house.
With more than 500 acres of parkland to roam and attractions for adults and children alike, there is something for all the family, including adventure golf. There is also accommodation and refreshments available at the Castle View Restaurant and The Grill.
The Dog & Bear hotel offers nice 3-star accommodation and a good restaurant
The Red Lion pub, also situated in the centre, offers a wonderful, classic English pub, with friendly staff and pub meals.
Bow Window café has a pretty little English garden to sit out in and enjoy an amazing afternoon tea or a spot of lunch, or if you need fuelling before the ride, a wonderful array of breakfasts.
Cornerhouse café offers a variety of sandwiches, cakes and afternoon tea in an informal setting.
The Chequers Fish bar serves up amazing takeaway fish and chips, while the Square Fish Café next door offers a contemporary bar and seafood restaurant, offering the most fabulous modern seafood dishes in a comfortable and informal setting.
Homebake is the local bakery, situated in the village centre, offering an assortment of sweet and savoury snacks to take away.
The Co-Op convenience store should fill any further requirements you may have.
The Dirty Habit (currently closed for refurbishment until winter 2023) is a great pub, in a lovely old building with exposed beams and has been serving travellers along the Pilgrim’s and North Downs Way for many years.
The Windmill gastropub offers a classic, rustic country pub with a large garden.
The Sugar Loaves pub provides yet more fabulous eating options in this village, with lovely outside seating and delicious food, including pub classics as well as more formal dining.
A little further afield
On the road between Lenham and Harrietsham is Frankie & Finn’s wood-fired takeaway pizza establishment.
Percival’s Rest bar & restaurant, in Harrietsham, offers a variety of great food and drinks throughout the week, midday to late evening (only closed on Mondays).
Lenham road ride (23 miles)
This route starts by climbing the steep North Downs escarpment, heading north, to enjoy the quiet country lanes and farmland, along more the gradual slopes of this rolling countryside. There is plenty to see and do along the way too.
In addition to the pretty countryside and orchards, you will pass both Belmont House & Gardens and Doddington Place Gardens. There are also some wonderful pubs and a cider farm offering produce from the fields you are passing through too, providing the full Kentish experience.
Hollingbourne byways and bridleways (12 miles)
This short but mostly off-road route heads up onto the steep North Downs escarpment for an entertaining ride along some challenging tracks, from a fun, twisty narrow bridleway between the trees to rough and rutted byways.
These rutted byways lead you further afield and to the lovely Bredgar & Wormshill Light Railway, where you can get refreshments before continuing through huge orchards and pretty woodlands, before a challenging descent delivers you back down to the valley bottom to finish.
Hollingbourne to Charing gravel ride (34)
This route provides a lovely linear ride along the valley, largely following the Pilgrim’s and North Downs Way routes, avoiding the steeper hills, and using a mixture of tarmac and easy-going off-road tracks, to provide a lovely ride for riders of all abilities. It is especially beginner friendly because it follows the line of the railway too, so it can be ridden there and back, or by bicycle one way and catching the train back.
Both Lenham and Hollingbourne have train stations, which are on the Southeastern Trains service, providing good connections with London and Ashford and beyond.
Hollingbourne is very easy to access, being just off the M20 motorway at junction 8 and a free car park by the train station makes for easy parking. Lenham, although also just off the motorway, requires you to exit at junction 8 as well, and then travel 5 miles along the A20. There is limited parking in the centre, but also another car park close by on Maidstone Road behind the Dog & Bear Hotel.
More cycling experiences in Kent, Cornwall and Norfolk
Lenham and Hollingbourne is just one of our highlighted locations that's perfect for cycling. Here's Cycling UK's full set of cycle-friendly hubs, with accredited facilities and promoted routes
EXPERIENCE is a €23.3 million project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF, €16 million) through the Interreg VA France (Channel) England Programme 2014-2020, boosting visitor numbers in six pilot regions across England and France. This project will harness the experiential tourism trend to extend the season (October – March), generating 20 million new off-season visitors spending €1 billion across the Channel region by June 2023.