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Aylesford: Welcome to the oldest village in England; enjoy the tranquility at The Friars

Aylesford: Welcome to the oldest village in England; enjoy the tranquility at The Friars

BY Trish Clark . 29 Apr

Aylesford is a little village on the River Medway, near Maidstone in Kent and accessed via a medieval bridge. The village is said to be one of the oldest in England as there has been human settlement here since Neolithic times. Aylesford was once a stop on the ancient Pilgrims’ Way between Winchester and Canterbury Cathedral.

For centuries there has been talk that the village harbors a ‘hidden secret’ - but to this day nobody knows what it is! The village is only an hour and a half from London by train and a most scenic rail journey.

On the edge of the village lies a much-visited ceramic workshop, Aylesford Pottery, established in 1954. Visitors can see pottery being made, take part in introductory courses and explore the gallery where the works are for sale. The pottery workshops form part of the vast estate and beautiful grounds of a restored medieval monastic house of Carmelite friars that dates back to 1242.

After the Reformation, the friary was sold into private hands, and the monastic buildings were converted into a luxurious mansion. In 1949 the Carmelite order bought the site and re-founded it, restoring many original medieval features. The historic highlight is a magnificent Pilgrim's Hall, built around 1280.

The gorgeous grounds of the priory are a must to explore - maybe take a picnic lunch or have something to eat in the 17th century, Old Barn Restaurant which also includes a book and gift shop.

And if you have the urge to stay overnight the friars welcome all tourists, pilgrims and visitors to their ever popular guesthouse. All meals can be arranged, alternatively numerous pubs and restaurants can be found in the surrounding area (a car is needed).

Easy to reach by train, the scenic journey to Aylesford from London takes 1½ hrs.

And if you pack a picnic lunch make sure you bring enough for the geese.

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