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An Insider Guide To Kent With Victoria Aspinall

Interior designer and wife of Damian Aspinall – the man behind Gabon’s gorilla island and Kent’s luxury-safari-meets-endangered-animal-sanctuary, Port Lympne – Victoria Aspinall takes us on a journey through the so-called “Garden of England”.

As Creative Director of The Aspinall Foundation – an internationally renowned animal conservation charity that works in conjunction with Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks in Kent – and Founder of London-based interior design studio, Victoria Aspinall LTD., Victoria’s creative leanings are palpable. Take Port Lympne Safari Park, Wild Animal Reserve and Hotel as one such example of her creative pursuits – the Lion Lodge being a particularly noteworthy compilation of sumptuous velvet sofas and timber-clad walls (“think Soho Farmhouse on safari”) plus some wowing views, given the lodge’s proximity to the lions’ spacious habitat. A truly transporting spot – it feels a million miles away from is geographical anchoring.

Here, Aspinall expands on future plans for the aforementioned luxury safari in deepest Lympne (and its sister property Howletts Wild Animal Reserve), plus the must-visit spots in Whitstable,  Shoreditch-On-Sea (read: Margate), and beyond.


Essential items to pack for a trip to Kent?

Picnic blanket, wine glass, and a good book (this is Jane Austen land).

The best time to visit is…

Spring – there is a reason Kent is called the ‘Garden of England’.

Our first pitstop should be…

One of the many wineries/ cider farms. My favourites are Chapel Down (Tenterden) and Simpsons (Canterbury), where you can enjoy wine tasting and stroll around the vineyards.

Your favourite hotel to check-in at is…

Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve – the UK’s only conservation hotel, set in 600 acres of private parkland (formally Sir Philip Sassoon’s country estate). Think ‘Soho Farmhouse on safari,’ with over 900 wild animals, and a variety of accommodation including luxury lodges, treehouses, wigwams, and shepherds’ huts. Who needs to travel to Africa when you have Kenya [in Kent]?!

For an early morning workout head to…

The beach – for horse riding, kite surfing, or just a walk with the dog.

Where should we go for lunch with friends?

The Pig at Bridge Place serve up a delicious ‘25-mile menu’ and a seriously good drinks offering (all locally sourced, of course).

A pub with rooms to check out…

Duke of William, Ickham – a charming village pub.

Your favourite restaurant in town?

Budget: Babydoll’s Italian – the best wood-fired sourdough pizza in Kent.
Blow Out: Fordwich Arms – fine dining in a traditional gastropub setting.

The best place for people watching…

Whitstable – a beautiful seaside town, famous for its oyster bars and antique shops.

The culture spot to rave about…

Chartwell (Churchill’s house) and Leeds Castle are definitely worth a visit.

The best place to treat yourself is… 

Haeckels House, Margate (the brand’s first natural day spa) offers massages, reflexology, and signature seaweed treatments. Delightful relaxation by the sea.

For great shopping head to…

The Goodshed Farmshop, Canterbury. Stevie Parle’s Joy at Portobello sources all produce from here so it must be good!

The one place only locals know about… 

The Independent Pedlar, Bridge – a hidden gem of a coffee house, where you can enjoy a delicious brunch and homemade cakes in an uber-cool converted barn.

For the best views head to…

White Cliffs of Dover.

 

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A post shared by Victoria Aspinall 🐆🦓🦒 (@victoria__aspinall)

Nature-seekers should visit…

Howletts Wild Animal Reserve (the sister park to Port Lympne Reserve). An ‘anti-zoo’ establishment, breeding and releasing over 320 animals back to the wild. True conservation!

Great day trips include…

Margate. A fun and eclectic place to hang out for those seeking traditional seaside culture. There is the Turner contemporary art gallery and an abundance of vintage shops/furniture salvage yards – great for picking up a bargain. Home to the creative set, you often bump into the likes of Tracey Emin and The Libertines.

A book to read before we go (or while we’re there)?

Charmed Life by Damian Collins, a fascinating glimpse into the opulent world of Sir Philip Sassoon during his time living in Kent throughout the 1920s and 30s.

What’s your Kent secret?

Our latest design project, Giraffe Hall at Port Lympne, is going to blow everyone socks off! Opening in 2022, this 30 room boutique conservation hotel, will blend the enchanting eccentricity of English aristocracy with the serenity of African wilderness. Oh and did I mention it is home to a herd of 16 Rothschild giraffe who roam freely around the garden (and occasionally into the house)?!

In a word, Kent is…

Bountiful.

 

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