What’s on in and around Tunbridge Wells

LOCAL AND LIVE (pic: Nigel Martin)

With the summer holidays upon us, the Times has compiled an essential guide to going out in the area for everyone from festival-goers and staycationers, to nature lovers, families with children, and connoisseurs of culture…



The Hever Festival at Hever Castle continues until August 30, with music, theatre, comedy, dance and history.

Highlights include comedy with the ‘Grinstock’ Comedy Club on August 23 and the Last Night of the Hever Proms on August 27, featuring the traditional crowd-pleasers of Pomp and Circumstance and Rule, Britannia! – without traipsing up to the Royal Albert Hall.

Children are well-catered to, with the ‘Wizard of Oz’ on July 25, the ‘Wimpy Kid Show’ on August 2, ‘Peter Pan’ on August 12, Horrible Histories’ ‘Barmy Britain’  on August 14, ‘The Jungle Book’ on August 20 and David Walliams’ ‘Bad Dad’ onstage on August 30.

Programme at: heverfestival.co.uk. Tickets from 07379 488 477 or boxoffice@heverfestival.co.uk


July 23 (Sunday) from 12 noon to 6pm in Calverley Grounds – Tunbridge Wells Mela celebrates music, visual arts, food and dance from around the world while showcasing cultural diversity. Free entry.

The event will run from 12.30pm to 6pm.  Tunbridge Wells Mela is organised in partnership with Cohesion Plus and Kent Equality Cohesion Council, supported by Arts Council England, Royal Tunbridge Wells Together and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Highlights include local groups: a Ukrainian Choir made up of those of who have fled the war-torn country, local favourite The Paul Dunton Orchestra and community group the Kent Keralites, who will be showcasing Keralan culture.  They will be joined by Baja Beats, a fusion brass band act who perform pop classics and Bollywood hits, and the UK’s finest Dhol Drumming ensemble, Kings of Dhol. DJ Amit will also be bringing his signature summer sound. To add to the atmosphere, spectacular street acts will be performing off-stage. The headline act, Midnight Soul Sisters will then bring the house down with their blend of Motown, Pop and Soca.


July 23 (Sunday) Tour the countryside with other classic car drivers in the Tonbridge Lions Club Classic Car Tour. Entry forms at tonbridgelions.org/classic-car-tour


July 29 (Saturday) Denny’s Fest charity musical festival at Denny’s Barbers (55-57 Grosvenor Rd). Local bands, acoustic acts and DJs create the atmosphere while St John’s Fish Bar bring the food. Denny’s Barbers offer haircuts at £10 while 14 Arrows offer tattoo designs at £40. This 10th-anniversary event marks the passing of Denny Rowe by cancer. Funds raised go to the Pickering Cancer Drop-In Centre. Details at dennysplace.co.uk/dennys-fest-2023 or on Facebook.


August 5 (Saturday) Tonbridge Pride takes place at Tonbridge Castle (12 noon to 11pm). Entertainment ranges from DJs to choirs, singers, bands, dance troupes and a drag show. Stalls include food, drink, arts, crafts, glitter makeup, kids’ activities, LGBTQIA+ merchandise, education and charity information. Entry free. Please note, the event is not family-friendly after 7pm. tonbridgepride.com


August 11-13 (Friday-Sunday) Hawkfest at King George V Playing Fields. Friday night is 80s/90s club night, hosted by a former Ministry of Sound DJ. Saturday is local, with The Dualers headlining. Sunday is family day (activities and games for children and adults). Arts and crafts, laser quest, competitions, bingo, bouncy castle (including  sandpit beach area). Tickets: Eventbrite.


August 20 (Saturday) Tunbridge Wells Pride returns to The Forum, for a day of music and performances with local DJs and artists, alongside stalls and with food and drink available.

The 18+ Pride Late Afterparty at The Forum is hosted by Miss Luna Lestrange, with performers and local DJ talent. Entry free. Please note the age restrictions on the Late Afterparty. Follow Tunbridge Wells Pride on Facebook or Instagram for programme details.


August 25-28Local & Live at Calverley Grounds, The Forum and The Sussex Arms. This free four-day live music festival features the best of local music, from established bands to the up-and-coming performers who are only just starting to make a name for themselves. Find the programme at localandlive.org. Free entry.



July 25 (Tonbridge Castle) Illyria presents Twelfth Night. Bring a picnic and seating for the performance, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets through tonbridgecastle.org/events

July 27 (Tonbridge Castle) Heartbreak Productions presents David Walliams’ Bad Dad. Bring a picnic for this performance, starting at 6.30. Tickets available through tonbridgecastle.org/events

August 8 (Hemsted Park, Benenden School) Chapterhouse Theatre Company presents Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an open-air performance in the Rose Garden at 7pm. Bring a picnic. Tickets through hemstedpark.com

August 23 (Tonbridge Castle) Heartbreak Productions presents MacHamLear, which sees Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear battling to persuade the audience that their tragedy should be performed that evening, in this farce by award-winning playwright Michael Davies. Bring a folding chair or blanket for this open-air production (7-9pm). Suitable for ages 9+. Tickets through tonbridgecastle.org/events



Bright Sparks forest summer camp for 7 to 12-year-olds, run by Kent High Weald Partnership at Bedgebury Pinetum. Every Tuesday in August at 9.30am-3.30pm. Promised are den building, fire lighting, whittling, woodland crafts and more. Prices range from £48-£50/day. More information and booking at forestryengland.uk/bedgebury/events


Southeast Kids’ Camps at Pembury Primary School for 4 to 11-year-olds. Prices from
£36/day. Hours available up to 8am-6pm.

More information and booking at southeastkidscamps.co.uk/holidayclubs/tunbridge-wells Please book through this portal. Contact your sports clubs for their summer programmes for members.


Weald Gymnastics (Tonbridge)

Full-day gymnastic sessions for school children of all different ages throughout the holidays. Full day: £40. Half-day: £21 Preschool gymnastics also available. Contact info@wealdgymnastics.com



Bewl Water (Lamberhurst)

Camping at Bewl Water

Includes 24-hour shower and toilet access, fresh cold water taps in all camping fields, and hot-water washing stations. Booking through bewlwater.co.uk/

Glamping is also available, in one of two Mongolian Yurts. Features wood-burning stove and tea- and coffee-making facilities and a stargazing viewing point. Each yurt sleeps up to four people (1 double, 2 singles). Minimum two-night stay.

Both camping and glamping guests receive a unique 20% discount code for all activities booked directly through bewlwater.co.uk


Caracol Camping (Groombridge)

Glamping in fully-furnished bell tents in Caracol’s wildflower meadow. Midweek prices start at £95/tent per night, weekends at £105. More details and booking at caracolcamping.co.uk


Hever Castle (Hever village)

Stay in the castle in five-star accommodation, in the Astor or Anne Boleyn wings. Or try the five-star gold-rated Medley Court holiday cottage. Tickets to Hever Castle and Gardens included with all bookings. Visit hevercastle.co.uk/stay


One Warwick Park (Tunbridge Wells)

Families and staycationers get 20% off booking directly. Adjoining bedrooms and suites available.

Book online at onewarwickpark.co.uk or call 01892 520 587, quoting code BOOK20.

All guests have access to the Brasserie for lunch and dinner. Kids eat for free until the end of August when purchasing one adult meal. Afternoon tea is served in the atrium, Thursday to Sunday.

Salomons Estate (Tunbridge Wells)

Family staycations are 20% off when booked directly with code BOOK20.

The Old Gate House (from £695/night) sleeps up to 12 in five double bedrooms (three bathrooms with shower/bath). Fully-equipped kitchen, separate dining room, lounge and snug. Private garden.

The Cottage (from £385/night) sleeps up to six in three bedrooms (two bathrooms with shower/roll-top bath). Fully-equipped kitchen, lounge. Private courtyard with outdoor dining.

The Garden Cottages (from £150/night). These four self-catering cottages sleep from four to six guests. Open-plan living room and fully-equipped kitchen. Book online at salomons-estate.com or call 0189 251 5152 quoting the code BOOK20. Evening dining at the Bistro in the main manor house.



Batemans (National Trust) (July 22-September 3, 10am-4.30pm)

Follow Rudyard Kipling’s classic story The Jungle Book through Kipling’s garden this summer. Trail sponsored by Starling Bank. Trail is £3, with a prize.


Bewl Water (open daily in July-September)

Aqua Park Sessions at £23/person for a 50-minute session. Laser tag sessions at £15/player for a 50-minute session.

Bike hire (open from 10am, last hire at 1pm, return bikes by 3pm). Adults £20, children £10. Helmets included.

Watersports: day passes available for sailing, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing until the end of September. (£20/adult, £10/ under-18, free for 5-10 years)

All tickets through bewlwater.co.uk/activities (EXCEPT TriSwim)  Open-water swimming through TriSwim (July-August on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday). Visit triswim.org.uk/product/bewl-water-swim


Hever Castle (open daily). All activities free with ticket to the gardens or castle

Annual Summer jousting tournaments (1pm-3.30pm every weekend July 15-August 29 except August 5-6). Picnic for free or sit in the spectator stands for £2.

Heroes & Villains ‘school’ (daily July 22-September 3 at 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm). Meet on the Winter Lawn to test your heroism with these fun activities.

Falconry displays from Willows Birds of Prey at 11.30am and 3.45pm on July 22, 23, 27-30 and August 3, 4, 10-13, 17-20, 24-28


Penshurst Place (July 22-September 2). Summer Saturday Crafts in the Craft Barn every Saturday at 11.30am-3.30pm

Falconry shows every Saturday at 11am, 2pm and 4pm. Garden stories every Sunday, with shows at 11.15am, 12.15pm, 2.15pm and 4.15pm. Join characters in the Stage Garden, to go on an interactive story adventure through the garden rooms.

All shows and activities included with entrance ticket to Penshurst Place.


Spa Valley Railway (Tickets from: spavalleyrailway.co.uk)

Steam & Heritage Diesel Train Rides (every weekend July-October, plus some midweek days)

Jolly Roger’s Swashbuckling’ Train Ride (Thursdays in August, 2-3 sessions each) Join Jolly Roger’s crew and help him find the treasure before Captain Crook!


TN card Teddy Trail (Tonbridge) (July 28-August 25) Details from thetncard.com/the-tn-teddy-trail

Children can pick up a free trail guide to the teddy bear trail in Tonbridge, finding out facts about these independent shops. Ten or more answers on your sheet wins a certificate and sticker. Free entry. Children who colour in the teddy can enter a prize draw.



July 26-August 30 Wilderness Wednesdays for 8+ years (at parents’ discretion) at Penshurst Place. From 10am. Try axe-throwing, archery and smores making.

July 27 (Thursday) Kent Bat Group bat walk at Dunorlan Park. Meet at Hall’s Hole Road car park for 8.30pm start. Contact dunorlanfriends@gmail.com to book. Tickets £3/person (free to Friends). Donations gratefully received.

August 1-September 3 Free tree safari at Bedgebury Pinetum (9.30am-3.30pm). Learn how to read a tree label and identify which country a tree is from, then colour in your tree safari explorer’s map. Free with entry to Bedgebury.

Tuesdays in August at Bedgebury Pinetum (Tuesdays, 11am-3pm) ‘Hands on Cones’ – exploring these natural treasures at the Shipwreck area on the play trail. Free with entry to Bedgebury.

August 29 (Tuesday) Bat walk at Grosvenor & Hilbert Park (6.45pm-8pm).
Meet at The Hub for crafts and activities. Then join the walk around the Park on the lookout for our resident bats. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets £2/person, available from: fogh.org.uk/tickets

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