Leeds Castle

04-Jun-15 • Sean O'Neill

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"The Wild Boar Family" sculpture

04-Jun-15 • Sean O'Neill

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St Margaret's church, Hucking

11-Jun-15 • Sean O'Neill

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Wildflower meadow, Hollingbourne Meadows

20-Jun-15 • Sean O'Neill

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"The Shepherd" sculpture

31-Jul-16 • Sean O'Neill

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Hook & Hatchet Inn, Hucking

16-Jul-14 • Sean O'Neill

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Hollingbourne Meadows

16-Jul-14 • Sean O'Neill

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Hollingbourne Circular via Hucking walk

An attractive woodland estate at the top of the North Downs and a circuit through the grounds of Leeds Castle to finish

Hollingbourne Circular, via Hucking

Main Walk: 17 km (10.6 miles). Four hours 20 minutes walking time. For the whole excursion including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 9 hours.

Short Walk, omitting Hucking Estate: 13¼ km (8.2 miles). Three hours 25 minutes walking time.

Curtailed Walk, omitting Leeds Castle: 11¾ km (7.3 miles). Three hours walking time.

OS Map

Explorer 148. Hollingbourne, map reference TQ833551, is in Kent, 8 km E of Maidstone.


5 out of 10 (4 for the Short Walk, 3 for the Curtailed Walk).


For much of the train journey you can see the North Downs ridge off to your left and from the station you are soon striding across vast farm fields towards this open downland. A fairly steep little climb then takes you straight into the Woodland Trust's Hucking Estate, an unexpected oasis of grassland and woodland in a landscape dominated by arable farming.

The walk continues with a figure-of-eight circuit through this attractive estate, going out along gently sloping open valleys to the tiny hamlet of Hucking before looping back along woodland paths and grassy rides. After leaving the estate you join the North Downs Way as it slants down the hillside to Upper Street, one of the three settlements which make up Hollingbourne village.

The walk concludes with a contrasting section on the other side of the village. After going through the deceptively peaceful Hollingbourne Meadows you have to suffer the constant roar of motorway traffic, high-speed trains thundering past and a dreary stretch alongside the busy A20. This dismal link route is the price you pay for some stunning views of a famous castle as you traverse its grounds on public rights of way.

Modestly describing itself as “the Loveliest Castle in the World”, the moated setting of Leeds Castle is certainly spectacular. Built by a Norman knight in 1119, it became a royal residence for 300 years in the Middle Ages, then a private home in Tudor times. Its last private owner was an American heiress who undertook extensive renovations and left it to a charitable trust in 1974. If you want to visit the castle buildings or deviate from the public footpaths in any way you would need to buy an entrance ticket for £24.90 (2017), although this is effectively an annual pass as it allows unlimited repeat visits for a year.

Additional Notes

This walk has been split off from Extra Walk 221 (now Hollingbourne Circular via Thurnham), its alternative route via Hucking having been scuppered when the Hook & Hatchet Inn (see below) closed for two years. This revised walk's option of a later lunch stop in Upper Street has made the attractive section through the Hucking Estate feasible again.

The two walks share the same loop through the grounds of Leeds Castle – there are few viable alternatives as the A20, M20 & HS1 constitute a formidable triple barrier – but for variety it is described here in the opposite direction.

Walk Options

There are many attractive paths and rides through the Hucking Estate and if you pick up the Woodland Trust's leaflet you could easily devise some alternative routes. A short cut described in the text (saving 2¼ km) cuts out the walk's outermost loop, at the point where the out and back sections cross over. More drastically, the Short Walk follows a waymarked route near the estate's southern boundary, saving 3¾ km. One of these options would be worth considering if you started an hour late and wanted to catch up the main group.

If you want to curtail the walk after lunch you could omit the loop through the grounds of Leeds Castle. The suggested route for this Curtailed Walk is a short stroll around Hollingbourne Meadows before heading to Eyhorne Street and the station.

No specific route for a very short “castle-only” walk is given, but you could easily devise your own link route from the station to the walk's afternoon section, either looping out via Upper Street or going directly through Eyhorne Street.


There is an hourly off-peak service from London Victoria to Hollingbourne (on the London–Maidstone–Ashford line), taking about 1 hour 5 minutes (slightly longer on Sundays).

If driving, there is a small free car park at the station.

The only bus service on the walk route is Arriva 13, which runs infrequently from Hollingbourne church through Eyhorne Street to Maidstone (Mon–Sat).

Suggested Train

Take the train nearest to 09:30 from Victoria to Hollingbourne for the Main Walk, or the train an hour later for the Short Walk. The later train would also be better if you plan to stop at the first lunch pub (see below).

Train Times


The first pub close to the Main Walk route (after about 5 km) is the Hook & Hatchet Inn (01622-880272) in Hucking, which reopened in 2016 after being closed for nearly two years. This refurbished country pub has a particularly attractive garden and serves “simple and delicious” home-cooked food all day. It would be a good choice after a late start, and is near the middle of the Curtailed Walk.

The more up-market Dirty Habit (01622-880880) in Upper Street (Hollingbourne) is more conveniently placed as a lunch stop, after 9 km on the Main Walk and 5¼ km on the Short Walk. It has a quiet patio area at the back and serves excellent though rather pricey food to 2.30pm weekdays, all day at weekends.

At the time of writing the Dirty Habit had a limited selection of the kind of bar meals appealing to most walkers, rather at odds with the extensive “Walks” section on its website (perhaps a legacy from a previous occupant). The other pubs on or near the walk route are closer to the end of the walk and are listed below as tea places, but most claim to serve food all day so might serve as alternative lunch places.


Near the end of the walk, there are two pubs in Eyhorne Street for refreshment before the journey home. The Windmill (01622-889000) is an up-market pub/restaurant, while the Sugar Loaves (01622-880220) is a more traditional village pub, serving food all day. Both have back gardens away from the road.

On the way back from the castle grounds a short detour down the A20 would take you to the Park Gate Inn (01622-880985), a Vintage Inns pub. This “country pub & dining” establishment normally serves food all day and has a large (though not quiet) beer garden.

It is tempting to suggest the refreshment places inside the grounds of Leeds Castle but that would entail leaving the public footpaths and there are prominent notices stating that walkers are not entitled to do this. However, there may be kiosks on the paths and no doubt their vendors would be happy to sell you food and drink en passant.

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Out: (not a train station)

Back: (not a train station)

By Car

Start: ME17 1TX Directions


Start walking Large print Using GPS data

National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234



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Walk Directions  

The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.

Hollingbourne Circular, via Hucking

Click the heading below to show/hide the walk route for the selected option(s).

Walk Map: Hollingbourne Circular, via Hucking Walk Map

Walk Options

Click on any option to show only the sections making up that route, or the heading above to show all sections.

  1. Main Walk (17 km)
  1. Short Walk, omitting Hucking Estate (13¼ km)
  2. Curtailed Walk, omitting Leeds Castle (11¾ km)

Walk Directions

Click on any section heading to switch between detailed directions and an outline, or the heading above to switch all sections.

  1. Hollingbourne Station to Broad Street (1¾ km)
  2. Leave the station via an unmarked path behind the station building and turn right to come to a crossing point over the tracks. Cross over and turn left to go down to the field corner. Cross a stream in the hedge and turn right to follow the footpath northwards, all the way to the hamlet of Broad Street.

    Arriving from London, cross the footbridge and go into the small station car park. Do not leave down the station approach road but go round to the back of the station building and take an unsigned path up a tree-lined bank. At the top go over an awkward stile and turn right onto a potentially muddy farm track. This comes out into a field where you bear right towards a crossing over the railway line, 75m ahead.

    Cross the tracks with great care as trains not stopping at the station will be going very fast. On the far side turn left along the field edge, ignoring a path ahead across the field. In the bottom corner go through a gap in the tree boundary and across a ditch on a plank footbridge into the bottom corner of a large irregularly-shaped field.

    You will be heading roughly N for the rest of this section, but the right of way is not clearly marked out on the ground. Start by turning half-right and aiming for the left-hand end of a distant line of trees 250m away, passing to the left of another projecting group of trees along the way. At this second set of trees bear slightly right and head for a clump of three trees in front of the left-hand edge of a wood (with the houses of Broad Street a further 1 km ahead).

    Keep ahead at a footpath marker in the clump and then continue alongside the wood, ignoring a footpath branching off to the left along the way. At the far corner of the wood bear slightly left, aiming for the the right-hand end of another wood 400m away and still heading N.

    At this wood bear slightly right towards the corner of a hedge 200m away. Bear right to go alongside it, then halfway along go through a gate in the hedge into a meadow. Turn half-right and follow a grassy path to another gate, which leads out onto a lane (Pilgrims Way1) in the hamlet of Broad Street.

  3. Broad Street to the North Downs Way (¾ km)
  4. Continue on the footpath a little way off to the right on Pilgrims Way. Where this comes out onto the foot of the downs, turn half-left to reach Broad Street Hill. Cross this lane and turn right to climb up the downs. At the top turn right onto the North Downs Way (NDW) to return to the lane.

    Turn right briefly onto the lane, then in 25m turn left at a footpath signpost. Go over a stile and follow a rather awkward narrow path as it zig-zags between hedges and fences for about 250m. At the end go over a stile into the bottom of a field at the foot of the downs. Turn left as indicated, go over another stile and make your way towards a double wooden fieldgate in a gap in the trees 200m ahead, climbing gently.

    Go over a stile to the left of the fieldgate, across a lane (Broad Street Hill) and through a wooden kissing gate onto another part of the downs. Turn right and make your way up the side of the downs, staying fairly close to the trees and lane on your right. After climbing steadily for just over 300m (with increasingly fine views off to your left) you reach the top right-hand corner. Go over a stile onto the North Downs Way2 (NDW), turn right and go down a few steps onto Broad Street Hill again.

    If you are doing the Short Walk, go to §5.

  5. Out through the Hucking Estate (1¾ km)
  6. Hucking Turn left onto Broad Street Hill and then immediately fork right into the Hucking Estate. Turn left and follow the Woodland Trust's Landscape Trail, around a wood on the right and into a long open valley. After going through a belt of trees maintain direction up the right-hand side of the next valley and climb into a meadow. Go diagonally across this and make your way onto a track past the east end of Hucking Church. Go out onto Church Road and turn left to go past the church.

    Hucking Estate

    For the Main Walk, turn left briefly onto Broad Street Hill and then immediately fork right through a side gate beside a Woodland Trust fieldgate into the Hucking Estate3. Follow a broad grassy track ahead to another gate and go into some grassland dotted with gorse bushes. Turn half-left and go across the grass to another fieldgate.

    Go through a wooden kissing gate to its right and turn half-right, passing a green waymarker for the Woodland Trust's Landscape Trail. After passing to the right of an isolated tree bear right into a long shallow valley; off to the right is the first of several wooden sculptures, “The Wild Boar Family”4.

    Follow a grassy path along the valley floor, initially heading NE and curving gently to the left. In 300m you could go through a gate onto a fenced path on the right-hand side of the valley (as indicated by a green waymarker), but it is simpler to stay in the centre of the valley. At the end go through a fieldgate and a wide gap in the trees into another open valley.

    The main route now does a 2¼ km loop around the northern part of the estate, returning from a narrow path down through the trees on the left. If you want to cut out this circuit, double back through a wooden gate onto the fenced path you were walking alongside and continue the directions at [•] in the next section.

    For the full walk, go along the floor of the second valley. Instead of following it round to the left maintain direction by climbing gently up its right-hand side towards a wire fence between two pieces of woodland. Go through one of the gates in this fence into a meadow and make your way diagonally across it; there is no clear path but you can aim for the red-tiled roof of Hucking church when this comes into view.

    Go through a gate in the hedge ahead into a smaller meadow and turn half-right onto a broad grassy path to its far corner. Go through a metal kissing gate and turn left onto a broad track, passing the church on your left. At the end of the track you briefly leave the estate and turn left onto a lane (Church Road) through the hamlet of Hucking, going past the entrance to St Margaret's church5 (which is worth a quick visit).

  7. Back through the Hucking Estate (3 km)
  8. Go along Church Road for 200m and then fork left to re-enter the Hucking Estate. Go aross a wide valley and round a wood on the left onto an open plateau (with the Hook & Hatchet Inn just outside its north-western corner). Leave the plateau in the opposite corner and follow a winding woodland path back to and across the gap between the two valleys on your outward route. Rejoin the Landscape Trail and follow a grassy ride up into Smokes Wood, then turn right at a crosspaths to head south. Turn left in Bolton Wood and continue across a patch of grassland to leave the estate. Turn right onto a byway which soon meets the NDW.

    Go along Church Road for 200m, with glimpses of the Isle of Grain 16 km away to the right. Shortly after the lane bends left and starts to descend, fork left onto a track. Re-enter the Hucking Estate through a gate, emerging in the top corner of a valley. Go straight ahead across the valley floor and up the other side, aiming for the right-hand end of the wood on the far side.

    At the top go around the right-hand side of the trees and along a broad strip of grassland. Near the end go through a gate on the left into the corner of a grassy plateau. You will be leaving this field in the far left-hand corner, but the suggested route is to head off to the right for 125m where you will find a second wooden sculpture, “The Tranchet Axe”. Unless you want to visit the early lunch pub, turn left to head for the south-eastern corner of the plateau.

    • Detour to the Hook and Hatchet Inn (+250m)
    • For the pub, turn right at the sculpture to head for the nearest corner of the plateau. Leave the Hucking Estate through a gate onto a lane to find the pub on the right. Afterwards, return to the plateau and go diagonally across it to the opposite corner.

    In the corner ignore a gate leading out to a lane and go through another gate to its left. Continue on a grassy path between a wood and a hedge, parallel to the lane on the other side. Ignore another exit to the lane and stay on the woodland path, which zig-zags left and right. 75m after this second turning, the path goes down a short flight of wooden steps to a T-junction where you turn right.

    The path winds its way through the wood, gradually turning more to the left. In 150m you pass a large semi-cleared area on your left. At the end of this ignore a fork to the left and go down a narrow path alongside a belt of trees. At the bottom go through a gate and across a gap between the two valleys on your outward route. Turn right through a gate onto the fenced path running alongside the right-hand valley.

    [•] In 25m turn left up a grassy ride into Smokes Wood by a green waymarker, rejoining the Landscape Trail. In 175m turn right at a path crossing onto a similar grassy ride. In 350m keep ahead at another path crossing, the site of a third wooden sculpture, “The Living Log”.

    In 350m another ride merges from the left and the path goes into Bolton Wood. You soon come to a T-junction where you turn left, still on the Landscape Trail. Follow the path out of the wood into grassland, then through a gate in a fence. The main route continues to a gate at the boundary of the estate 175m ahead, but if you want to see the final wooden sculpture at a viewpoint, follow the detour below.

    • Detour to the Viewpoint (+500m)
    • For the viewpoint, turn right as indicated by the green waymarker and follow a grassy path for about 250m to the fourth wooden sculpture, “The Shepherd”. Return the same way initially but bear right to go alongside a fence to the exit.

    Leave the Hucking Estate through a wooden side gate and turn right onto a potentially muddy byway. In 125m you come to a NDW Link signpost and a Woodland Trust information panel, meeting the NDW coming up from the opposite direction. Turn left through a wooden gate, rejoining the NDW.

    Continue the directions at §6.

  9. Along the North Downs Way Link (1 km)
  10. Cross Broad Street Hill to continue briefly on the NDW, then turn left into the Hucking Estate. Follow the Woodland Trust's North Downs Way Link through grassland on its southern boundary, passing a wooden sculpture “The Shepherd” at a viewpoint. Continue across the grassland and out of the estate. Turn right onto a byway which soon rejoins the NDW.

    For the Short Walk, go straight across Broad Street Hill and up steps on the other side to continue on the NDW. You soon come to a signpost where the NDW carries straight on, but the suggested route is to follow the North Downs Way Link, a short detour through the Hucking Estate3 shown on a Woodland Trust information panel here.

    For the shortest possible route you could remain on the NDW for the rest of this section. In about 600m it drops down to a T-junction with a byway where you would turn left to reach another signpost and information panel, meeting the NDW Link coming from the opposite direction.

    For the suggested route, turn left and then immediately right onto a broad grassy path, parallel to the NDW. In 75m go through a gate onto an area of grassland and bear slightly left, following the yellow waymarker. In 150m turn half-right at another marker post by some gorse bushes. A grassy path leads you to a viewpoint with a wooden sculpture, “The Shepherd”4, gazing out over the Wealden Greensand. Continue along the path (at first slightly to the left, then bearing right to go alongside a fence) to the far side of the estate.

  11. The North Downs Way to Upper Street (1¾ km)
  12. Turn off the byway onto the NDW, initially heading south-east through a lightly wooded area, then out onto open downland. After skirting a large depression (Eden's Hole) stay on the NDW as it slants down across the face of the downs, then turns right. Continue alongside a sunken lane (Hollingbourne Hill), eventually dropping down onto it to reach the Dirty Habit pub in Upper Street.

    Follow the winding grassy path through a lightly-wooded area, heading roughly SE. In 200m the path passes under overhead cables and later emerges onto open downland (with Leeds Castle just visible in the trees, 3 km ahead). Follow the NDW round to the left as indicated. In front of you there is a large wooded depression (Eden's Hole) and the NDW has to swing left to get around it, with a stretch along a fenced grassy track beside a huge farm field.

    The track eventually swings right to re-emerge onto the downs. The NDW now descends gently for 250m; the right of way includes a slightly awkward stretch through a copse, but there is also a well-trodden alternative path skirting around it to the right. The path then goes through a gate and levels off, curving round to the left.

    In 200m turn right at a footpath marker to go down to the bottom corner of the field and through a belt of trees. Go through a side gate and along the left-hand edge of a field, with a sunken lane (Hollingbourne Hill) down to your left. In 200m veer left to continue on a short narrow path above the lane. After joining the lane you soon come to a crossroads with Pilgrims Way, with the Dirty Habit pub at the top of Upper Street in the village of Hollingbourne6.

  13. Upper Street to Hollingbourne Meadows (1 km)
  14. Either continue briefly along the NDW and turn right onto a footpath to the east of the village, later going along a belt of trees beside a road; or simply go down the main village street and continue on a footpath past All Saints church. At the end of both routes make your way into Culpeper Close and take a footpath under the railway into Hollingbourne Meadows.

    There is a choice of routes for this section. The alternative route in §7b has more tarmac but takes you past some attractive old houses and All Saints church. You could switch between the two routes near the church, although there is no pavement on the short stretch of road linking them.

    1. Main route
    2. From the crossroads outside the pub take the narrow lane heading SE, passing the pub's patio garden and main car park on your right. In 125m, at the end of the houses, turn right onto a fenced path to the left of a driveway, signposted as a footpath and leaving the NDW. After passing some gardens this zig-zags right and left and comes out onto a driveway, bringing you back to the road at a sharp bend.

      Instead of joining the road veer left onto a signposted footpath through the wide belt of trees ahead, parallel to the road. At the end go across Greenway Court Road onto the roadside path opposite. After passing a school playground join the pavement as it goes round a right-hand bend, then turn left onto a signposted footpath. Follow this between houses and across Culpeper Close.

    3. Alternative route
    4. Turn left out of the pub and go down the main village street, passing several fine old houses including Hollingbourne Manor7 on the right just before the road curves left. At the end of the bend turn right into Church Lane and go through a lychgate into the churchyard of All Saints8, which is worth a visit. Take the surfaced path past the west end of the church, which continues across a large field. At the far end you go past a primary school and return to the road you left by the church.

      The station is ten minutes away if you want to abandon the walk here. Its approach road is 200m along the road to the right, just past the railway bridge.

      To continue the walk, turn left briefly onto the road and then turn right into Culpeper Close. Follow this residential street round to the left and in 40m turn right onto a broad track, signposted as a footpath.

    Go through a metal kissing gate beside a fieldgate and under a railway bridge into Hollingbourne Meadows9.

    If you are doing the Curtailed Walk, go to §11.

  15. Hollingbourne Meadows to Leeds Castle (grounds) (3 km)
  16. Unless you want to detour around the meadows to the left, keep ahead on a grassy avenue, then veer right and left to continue on a permissive path leading up to a smaller meadow. Turn left and follow a footpath along field edges, then through Coombe Wood and Warren Wood. After another field edge turn right onto Greenway Court Road to reach the A20. Turn right again to go alongside this busy road for 500m, under HS1 and the M20. Shortly before a lane on the left (Broomfield Road) cross the main road and cut across the corner of a golf course. Cross the lane to enter Leeds Castle grounds.

    If you want to take a longer route around these meadows, follow the directions in §8b.

    1. Main route
    2. Keep ahead along a broad grassy avenue lined with memorial trees, with a grazing enclosure (Godfrey Field) on your right. At the end of the avenue turn right in front of a low hedge.

      In 50m turn left through a wide gap in the hedge, to go alongside a wildflower meadow. Towards the end of this meadow keep ahead at a crosspaths, where the longer route joins from the left.

    3. Longer route (+500m)
    4. Fork left inside the meadows onto a broad grassy path lined with memorial trees, parallel to the railway embankment on your left. There are winding paths cutting across the centre of the meadow which you could take, but for the longest route follow this perimeter path up to the end of the meadow and then round to the right.

      On the way back there is a large farm field off to your left for about 200m, but shortly after this ends veer left through a gap in the hedge and cross a ditch into a wildflower meadow. Fork left and follow another grassy path gently uphill and round two sides of the meadow to its far corner.

      At the end of this meadow turn left at a crosspaths, rejoining the main route.

    Go across a ditch and along a permissive path up the right-hand side of a field, to reach the corner of another meadow. There is a small metal gate with a yellow footpath marker nearby on the left, leading to a fenced path heading SE between a hedge and a paddock.

    This will take you on a clockwise loop around Leeds Castle grounds. If you would rather do an anti-clockwise loop and have the directions from the other Hollingbourne Circular walk, go straight across the meadow to a second footpath 100m away, heading south-west between a hedge and a fence.

    For the suggested route, bear left onto the first footpath. There is a tall hedge on your left; on the right you pass a paddock and a small wood, then go along the edge of a farm field. Where the hedge ends bear slightly right across a gap and continue with a wood on your left. At the end of the field veer left past an old stile onto a potentially muddy path through the wood. In about 250m the woodland path turns half-right, then back to the left before coming out onto a lane (Hospital Road).

    Turn right onto the lane. In 100m, shortly after passing an isolated house on the right, turn left onto a signposted footpath. Once again you follow a clear woodland path for about 350m, finally emerging in the corner of a field close to the high-speed railway (HS1) and the M20 motorway. Turn left and go alongside the wood to the next corner, then turn half-right across the field to a lane (Greenway Court Road). Turn right and then right again at its T-junction with the A20.

    You now have to endure 500m alongside this busy main road, passing under HS1 and the M20. Where the road bends right (and you have a clear view in both directions) cross the A20 with great care and continue on a grassy path in the verge. This soon rises and veers left, goes around the back of a golf tee and drops down to a lane (Broomfield Road). Cross the lane carefully and take the path opposite into the castle grounds.

  17. Through Leeds Castle grounds (2¼ km)
  18. Leeds Castle Veer left through woodland and turn right onto a broad tree-lined avenue, alongside an estate road. Continue alongside the castle moat and round to its gatehouse. Turn left and follow the tarmac drive south-west away from the castle. Where this comes out into parkland fork right and follow the right of way in a long sweeping curve to the right, eventually heading north-east. Continue on the footpath past a lake and through patches of woodland to return to the A20.

    You should be especially careful in this section, where the directions follow rights of way. Leeds Castle Foundation charges for entry to its grounds and you are not entitled to stray from these public footpaths.

    Leeds Castle Go down a short flight of steps and turn left in front of a golf green at the bottom. Follow a short path through some trees, coming out at the end of a broad tree-lined avenue. Turn right to go along this avenue, heading W with an estate road on your left; later you need to take care where the road crosses a golf fairway. You soon have a fine view of the Maiden's Tower and other castle buildings ahead on your right, across a moat.

    Where the road forks keep ahead, soon passing a restaurant up on your left. At its entrance turn right to stay alongside the moat, now with a lake (the Great Water) on your left. In front of the castle gatehouse follow the drive round to the left. Ignore paths off to the right and continue past the end of the lake, gently uphill.

    Shortly after the drive bends slightly to the left veer right through a wooden gate onto a broad grassy path across a meadow, staying fairly close to the drive (which itself swings round to the right). In 250m the path almost meets the road but turns slightly right up a slope. On the brow of the hill you come to a path junction and turn right onto another broad grassy path, now heading N.

    The path merges with another from the left and continues alongside a fence. At the end bear right again to go down a slope, passing to the left of a clump of trees. Go out through a kissing gate and bear left past a large cedar tree onto a path alongside a lake, with a view of the castle beyond it, 400m away.

    You cross the outflow from the lake and come to a path junction. Ignore the “Exit” sign and keep ahead up a slope between rhododendrons. At the top go straight across an estate road and past a plantation of young trees. The path soon comes out onto another part of the golf course; once again you need to take care as you continue across a couple of fairways.

    Observe the warning notices as golfers on the second fairway are playing over the brow of a hill from the left and might not be able to see walkers on the public footpath.

    On the far side go back into the trees and follow a short woodland path to the edge of the grounds. Go out through an old kissing gate onto a grass verge in front of the A20.

    The Park Gate Inn (150m down the main road to the right) is a possible refreshment stop, although there are two more pubs 1¼ km further on in Eyhorne Street, closer to the station.

  19. Leeds Castle (grounds) to Hollingbourne Station (1¾ km)
  20. Turn left to go alongside the A20. Cross over and take a footpath through woodland and back across the M20 and HS1 on footbridges. Turn left along a field edge, then go down to the right to a small meadow (close to your outward route). Turn left and follow a track across a stream, past farm buildings and along a driveway into Eyhorne Street, coming out by the Windmill with the Sugar Loaves pub 100m off to the right.

    To complete the walk take the footpath off the north side of the village street, between the two pubs. At the end of the fenced path turn half-left to go across two fields. Cross a farm track and retrace your outward route down a short path to the station.

    Turn left onto the verge alongside the main road. At some point in the next 175m you need to cross this busy main road, so choose a point where you have a clear view in both directions. On the other side of the road continue on a tarmac path, then turn right onto a signposted footpath heading NE along the edge of a wood. This potentially overgrown path later zig-zags left and right to cross both the M20 and HS1 on footbridges. At the end go over a stile and turn left along a field edge.

    After crossing another stile turn half-right to go down the side of a small field. At the bottom go over a third stile and along a narrow overgrown path between a wooden fence and a hedge, which comes out into a meadow (100m away from your outward route). Turn left onto a farm track along its edge and follow it down a slope and round to the right in front of farm buildings.

    Go through a gate and pass to the right of a barn, then keep right to continue on a driveway. After passing the Village Hall and its car park you come to the beer garden for the Windmill, the first of two possible refreshment places in Eyhorne Street; the Sugar Loaves pub is about 100m along the street to the right (which is also the continuation of the walk).

    To complete the walk take a signposted footpath on the north side of the village street, between the two pubs (nearer the Sugar Loaves and opposite the Village Shop). Keep right to continue on a fenced path along the side of Magnolia House.

    At the end go over a stile into the corner of a field and turn half-left, aiming for a gap in the hedge 75m away (not a gap in the opposite field corner). Go through the hedge and bear slightly right up a larger field, passing to the right of an isolated tree. At the top cross a farm track via a couple of awkward stiles and retrace your outward route down a narrow path to the station. Platform 1 on the near side is for trains to London.

  21. Hollingbourne Meadows to the Station (1¾ or 1¼ km)
  22. Unless you want take a shorter route (straight ahead along a broad grassy avenue, then turning right) fork left to go around the perimeter of a large meadow. Before returning to the broad avenue, veer left through a hedge into a smaller wildflower meadow and take a clockwise route around its perimeter. On the far side keep ahead at a path crossing to go through a smaller meadow, rejoining the direct route on the far side. Leave the meadow and go along a track into Eyhorne Street. Continue along the main road to reach the Sugar Loaves pub, with the Windmill 100m further on.

    The suggested route goes around the perimeter of these meadows, with the alternative of a more direct route in §11b.

    1. Main route (1¾ km)
    2. At the end of this wildflower meadow keep ahead at a crosspaths. Go through a wide gap in a hedge and follow a grassy path straight ahead across a smaller meadow, rejoining the shorter route at the far end.

    3. Shorter route (1¼ km)
    4. Ignore a gap on the left after 50m and continue up to the corner. Bear left and follow a grassy path across a smaller meadow, rejoining the main route at the far end.

    Leave the meadow through a side gate to the right of a metal fieldgate and continue on a broad track. This soon merges with a driveway from the left and leads out to Eyhorne Street at a bend. Keep ahead on the main road to reach the Sugar Loaves pub on the left in 100m, one of two possible refreshment stops in the village; the Windmill is 100m further on.

Walk Notes

  1. Pilgrims Way is a fanciful name which was added to OS maps by a 19thC surveyor. There is no real evidence that this 192 km route between Winchester and Canterbury was used by medieval pilgrims to the shrine of Thomas Becket, but the legend was embellished by Hilaire Belloc and other writers. Much of the route actually follows an ancient trackway on the southern slopes of the North Downs, linking the narrowest part of the English Channel to the sacred sites of Stonehenge and Avebury.
  2. The North Downs Way runs for 246 km along the length of the North Downs (with two sections at its eastern end), from Farnham in Surrey to Dover in Kent.
  3. The Hucking Estate was bought by the Woodland Trust in 1997. They have gradually been reversing the changes to the landscape brought about by modern farming practices, restoring large areas of woodland and chalk grassland.
  4. The Shepherd, The Wild Boar Family, The Tranchet Axe and The Living Log were designed and carved in 2012 by two local artists, Nick Speakman and Rob Dyer. They were commissioned by the Woodland Trust to illustrate the Hucking Estate's habitat and heritage.
  5. St Margaret, Hucking dates from the 12thC, but it was substantially rebuilt in 1878 and there are few traces of the medieval church.
  6. Hollingbourne is made up of three settlements, with the main part (around the church) being called Upper Street to distinguish it from Eyhorne Street (near the station) and Broad Street (on Pilgrims Way). The village is a conservation area and contains many historic properties.
  7. Hollingbourne Manor is an Elizabethan manor house dating from the late 16thC.
  8. All Saints, Hollingbourne dates from the 14thC, with several later extensions. It contains numerous monuments to the Culpeper family (at one time owners of Leeds Castle and Hollingbourne Manor), notably a fine marble sculpture (1638) by Edward Marshall in the Culpeper Chapel of Lady Elizabeth on her tomb chest; the mythological creature at her feet is a theow, her maternal family's heraldic beast.
  9. Hollingbourne Meadows were bought by a local trust in 2004 to protect the village from “inappropriate or insensitive use”. A large area to the east of Eyhorne Street is managed as a wildlife haven with broad grassy paths to encourage use by walkers.

» Last updated: February 25, 2018

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