Royal Tunbridge Wells is a place where history comes alive, thanks to its built heritage and fascinating stories of the past. The town offers a treasure trove of heritage waiting to be discovered. The town’s architecture was influenced by architect and town planner Decimus Burton with a number of his buildings still in use today. From the ‘healing’ springs that drew nobility to the town, to the streetscape of our Georgian and Victorian past, Royal Tunbridge Wells invites visitors on a journey through time.

Royal Connections and healing waters

Our journey begins at the very heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells — the Chalybeate Spring in the Pantiles. The historic natural spring, discovered in the early 17th century, became the catalyst for the town’s development. Believed to have medicinal properties, these iron-rich waters attracted numerous visitors, including royalty and celebrities. In the 18th century, Queen Anne graced the Chalybeate Springs, elevating Royal Tunbridge Wells to the status of a fashionable spa destination. Later, in 1835, a visit from Princess Victoria, who later ascended to the throne as Queen Victoria, further heightened interest in the town’s therapeutic waters. The Pantiles, an elegant colonnaded walkway, quickly emerged as the social centre of the town, where visitors would promenade, socialise, and take the waters. Throughout the 20th century, Tunbridge Wells continued to attract royal attention with visits marked by plaques, statues, and commemorations visible throughout the town.

Stepping into The Pantiles today is like taking a step back in time. The Georgian colonnade, upper and lower walks and attractive storefronts provide a sense of elegance and sophistication. As you wander through this car free area, you’ll discover unique shops, galleries, cafes, and restaurants. Take a moment to savour a cup of tea or indulge in an alfresco lunch while appreciating the town’s historic beauty. It is no surprise that the Pantiles is used as a filming destination.

Learn more about why Tunbridge Wells was granted the Royal prefix here.

The Amelia Scott

For a deeper dive into Tunbridge Wells’ past, a visit to the Amelia Scott is a must. Named after the Tunbridge Wells suffragist and social reformer, the Amelia Scott cultural centre is the perfect place to learn more about our local history. This newly renovated attraction is home to a remarkable collection of artefacts and artworks, as well as exhibits that chart the town’s history. From rooms highlighting the area’s natural history to those telling the story of the town’s growth as a fashionable spa resort, the museum offers a comprehensive exploration of Tunbridge Wells’ development over time.

If you’d like to know more about the history of the town, why not listen to our free audio trail which takes you to 30 heritage sites across the town.

The Spa Valley Heritage Railway

Spa Valley Adventure - photo by David Staines

For steam train enthusiasts or those seeking a unique way to experience the local scenery, a ride on the Spa Valley Railway is a must. The railway offers journeys through the picturesque Kentish countryside, passing through tunnels, over viaducts, and stopping at quaint stations along the way. The meticulously restored vintage carriages and steam locomotives will delight the nostalgic visitor and provide a glimpse into the golden age of railway travel. Keep an eye on our events calendar so that you do not miss the various experiences available on board, such as afternoon teas, murder mystery dinners, the annual beer festival and Vineyard Tours & Tastings at Wildwood Vineyard.

Dunorlan Park

Just a 15 minute walk from the town centre you will find the 78-acre Dunorlan Park. The park is a testament to the Victorian era’s appreciation for beautiful green spaces. Stroll around the lake and marvel at the ornamental gardens, landscaped in the 1860s by Richard Marnock, a prominent Victorian gardener. Discover other historic features like the Grecian Temple and the ornamental fountain. With its majestic trees, and vibrant flower beds, Dunorlan Park offers a serene retreat where visitors can relax, unwind, and connect with nature.

The Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons

As we conclude our heritage tour, we venture into the tranquility of The Commons, only a short walk from Tunbridge Wells railway station and the town centre.

The Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons are two interconnected Commons much loved by the local community, including walkers and wildlife enthusiasts. The Commons provide habitats for many wildlife species with a mix of woodland, heathland and ponds.

The Commons are also home to geological treasure – the majestic rocks, that tell the story of the Earth’s ancient past. The area in and around Tunbridge Wells is famous for its sandstone rock outcrops, including Wellington and Mount Edgcumbe Rocks on Tunbridge Wells Common and Toad Rock on Rusthall Common. Way back in time, nomadic hunter-gatherers would use the rock outcrops as a place to camp and ancient flint tools have been found on Rusthall Common, near the rocks at Happy Valley and Denny Bottom.

Now the rocks are a delight to visitors both young and old, offering a backdrop for leisurely walks and picnics or maybe even a bit of clambering.

Royal Tunbridge Wells, with its rich heritage and present-day charm, is a destination that captivates the imagination and offers a glimpse into a bygone era. From the Chalybeate Spring that shaped its development to the elegant streetscapes and cultural landmarks, this town invites visitors to embark on a journey through time. Tunbridge Wells is also the gateway to visiting some of the area’s most beautiful historic houses, castles and gardens – a short drive of 30 minutes or less and you can visit Scotney Castle, Sissinghurst Castle & Gardens, Penhurst Place and Bayham Abbey.

So, whether you’re a history enthusiast, nature lover, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, Royal Tunbridge Wells is sure to be your perfect weekend getaway.