For many people, Kent is known as 'The Garden of England' owing to its abundance of hop gardens and orchards. Or, it's the first part of the United Kingdom which many people see on a ferry from Calais. Few conference venues can claim to be an hour or two away from mainland Europe, by road via ferry or Le Shuttle. Or by rail on a Eurostar train from London St. Pancras or Paris.
Few counties can claim to be associated with Charles Dickens and Pocahontas, but Kent is the only one. The latter person can be seen in Gravesend, in statue form outside St. George's Church. Her stay wasn't a happy one as she arrived in Kent suffering from tuberculosis. Gravesend is part of the Thames Gateway and on the estuary of the said river. It is a short distance from Tilbury (via passenger ferry), Dartford and the Bluewater Shopping Centre.
Only a short distance from Gravesend are the Medway towns of Chatham, Gillingham, and Rochester. Rochester is known for its castle overlooking the Medway estuary. Its 12th century keep is one of the best preserved in England or France. Next to the castle is Rochester Cathedral, a Grade I Listed Building dating from Norman times.
Next door to Rochester is Chatham, famed for its Naval Dockyards. Today, The Historic Dockyard is a tourist attraction with extensive displays, merchant ships and restored buildings. Further up is Dickens World, a unique tourist attraction themed around Charles Dickens' novels with Victorian street scenes, and guided tours beginning at Peggotty's Boathouse.
As conference venues go, both places are a world away from the usual exhibition halls or conference rooms. Slightly more run of the mill is the county's quota of hotels and conference facilities off the M2, M20, A28 and A229. Kent's sole Football League representatives, Gillingham Football Club, is a handy venue off the M2 and A2. The Priestfield Stadium is a pleasant ground with conferencing and hospitality facilities.
Further down the A2 is the historic city of Canterbury. It is famed for its cathedral, has the largest city gate in England and is often one of England's most visited cities. It has a musical tradition dating from Medieval times, one which continues today with Ellie Goulding, late of the University of Kent. It is home to Kent County Cricket Club. With its wealth of musical, academic and religious history, its schools, universities and cathedral are also conference venues in their own right.
As well as beer, cross-Channel connections, cathedrals and merchant shipping, Kent is famed for its seaside resorts. North west by north along the A290 and B2205 is Whitstable. It is noted for its oysters, unspoilt streets and its multicoloured beach huts in nearby Tankerton. It has a museum and art gallery focusing on its seafaring traditions. On Marine Parade, the Marine Hotel has excellent sea venue and among the county's sought after wedding and conference venues.
Other resorts include Herne Bay, Reculver, Westgate-on-Sea, and Margate. Before overseas package holidays grew in popularity, it was one of the UK's most popular seaside resorts. In its heyday attractions included the Dreamland Amusement Park and the Shell Grotto. The latter does what it says on the tin - a show cave bedecked with shells stuck to the walls. The resort's most recent addition is the Turner Contemporary art gallery.
The Thanet resorts were a favourite place for Charles Dickens too. A short drive or bus ride away is Cliftonville, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. Broadstairs is often described as 'the jewel in Thanet's crown' with the likeness of a Cornish fishing village. It has a regular festival held in honour of Charles Dickens on the third week of June, with people wearing Victorian costume. David Copperfield was written whilst Mr. Dickens was staying in Bleak House. Ramsgate is famed for its harbour and maritime museum, as well as being one of the original Cinque Ports.
Most of the cross-Channel ferries opt for Dover, a historic harbour town famed also for its castle and its white cliffs as well as regular Dover to Calais ferries. Nearby Folkestone is for many passengers the last or the first part of Britain they see, with the Eurotunnel Terminal on its outskirts. It is a port town with a number of hotels - some of which probably the last conference venues in the UK! Other resorts include Hythe, which is home to the UK's smallest main line railway - the narrow gauge Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.
Much of Kent has direct trains to London termini; Charing Cross and London Bridge for suburban services and St. Pancras for High Speed One and Eurostar services (from Ebbsfleet and Ashford International stations). Its main roads include the M2, M20, M26, A2 and the A229. If you're attracting delegates from mainland Europe, or fans of Charles Dickens' works, Kent is a perfect place to host your event.