Find out how royalty lived at Walmer Castle

Nearest stop: Walmer

Special offer

This summer, Southeastern is offering Off-Peak Day Return tickets to 13 destinations for £15, £20 and £25 from London stations (Zones 1-6) until Friday 24 August 2018. T&Cs apply. For more information visit southeasternrailway.co.uk

What to do: Originally a coastal artillery fort built under Henry VIII, Walmer Castle was turned into a plusher-than-plush stately home over the centuries. It's been used as a residence by the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother, and these days, you can ogle over its opulent interiors and get a taste of how the other side live as you tour the house and impeccable landscaped gardens.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge and St Pancras International and take from 1h18. From there, it's a 25-minute bus or a 27-minute walk from the station.

For more info: english-heritage.org.uk

Get up close and personal with your favourite artist at Ramsgate Music Hall

Nearest stop: Ramsgate

What to do: There's something quintessentially British about a music hall, which makes paying one a visit even more worthwhile – particularly when it's as good as Ramsgate's. The former derelict warehouse was taken over by a bunch of determined music lovers, and the result is one of the country's best small venues with absolutely brilliant acoustics. It may be tiny but it still packs a punch, pulling in names like George Ezra and Four Tet, just to name a couple, and the selection of artists is as diverse as it is excellent.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge, St Pancras International and London Victoria and take from 1h18. From there, it's a 17-minute walk.

Need to know: ramsgatemusichall.com

Watch classical  music at Chatham Historic Dockyard

Escapism's pick: Watch classical music at Chatham Historic Dockyard

Nearest stop: Chatham

What to do: As an island nation, the UK was once covered in busy dockyards that were building ships for trade or war. Today most of them have disappeared, but Chatham, Kent lays claim to the world's most complete dockyard from the Age of Sail. There, you can explore three warships, a lifeboat collection dating back to 1897, a ropery and a smithery, as well as expertly curated exhibitions – the Dockyard was recently home to Powerful Tides: 400 years of Chatham and the Sea, which featured works from the likes of Tracey Emin. But that's not all: the Dockyard also uses its space to host excellent events, like turning one of its slips into the site for a classical music concert hosted by David Starkey. 

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Victoria, Blackfriars and St Pancras International and take from 40 minutes. From there, it's a 23-minute walk. 

For more info: thedockyard.co.uk

 

Stroll through the secret gardens at Greyfriars Chapel

Nearest stop: Canterbury West

What to do: We're going to let you in on a secret: in amongst the bustle of the city of Canterbury, there's a lush oasis just waiting to be discovered – the walled gardens belonging to the Greyfriars Chapel. The building itself dates from 1267, when Franciscan monks first arrived in England – and still stands in all its medieval glory. Also on the site is Eastbridge Hospital – a place of hospitality rather than the modern definition – which is a near-perfect example of 12th-century architecture. There's not much to do here other than just look at the beautiful surroundings, but they sure are pretty.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge, St Pancras International and London Victoria and take from 56 minutes. From there, it's an eight-minute walk from the station.

For more info: eastbridgehospital.org.uk

Explore Lovelys, Kent's oldest art gallery

Nearest stop: Margate

What to do: The artistic big guns arrived in Margate in 2011 with the opening of the Turner Contemporary, but if you're looking for something a little bit different, try Lovelys Gallery. Supposedly the oldest gallery in Kent, it's still run by the fourth generation of the family that set it up. The building exhibits expertly curated originals, limited editions and prints over its two sweetly decorated floors, and is also home to an extensive art shop, so it's a great place to pick up all your artistic essentials and gifts.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge, St Pancras International and London Victoria and take from 1h30. From there, it's a 30-minute walk or 20-minute bus from the station.

For more info: lovelysgallery.co.uk

Get your cultural fix at Folkestone Quarterhouse

Nearest stop: Folkestone Central

What to do: Folkestone has been undergoing a cultural renaissance of late, in part thanks to the opening of its Creative Quarter in 2009. The jewel in the area's crown is the Folkestone Quarterhouse, a hub for the performing arts where you can catch everything from TED Talks to indie film screenings and brilliant modern dance. A trip to the British seaside with a generous dose of soul-enriching culture? Count us well and truly in.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge and St Pancras International and take from 53 minutes. From there, it's a 15-minute walk.

For more info: quarterhouse.co.uk

Marvel at Margate's mysterious Shell Grotto

Margate's mysterious Shell Grotto

Nearest stop: Margate

What to do: There's nothing quite like a mystery to get the imagination going, and that's exactly what you'll find at Margate's Shell Grotto. It was discovered in 1835, yet no one knows why or how the shell-studded underground passageway came into being, or even how old it is, but today a visit to its halls – studded with a whopping 4.6 million shells (yes, really – just think of the poor soul who had to count them all) – makes for a truly atmospheric experience. Unfortunately, the Grotto and its fragile shells are under threat from damp, which means its been listed as a 'Building at Risk', so you'll want to visit this while you can. The site also has a shop selling all kinds of curios.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge, St Pancras International and London Victoria and take from 1h30. From there, it's a six-minute walk from the station.

For more info: shellgrotto.co.uk

Uncover a murder mystery at Canterbury's Roman Museum

Nearest stop: Canterbury East

What to do: You don't have to go all the way to Rome to explore well-preserved ruins; instead, why not hop on a train down to Canterbury and visit the city's Roman Museum, home to near-perfectly preserved mosaics, pottery, glassware, jewellery and more? You might not suspect it, but the UK's South East is packed with the vestiges of Roman times, and this museum is one of the best places to learn all about them. Our favourite exhibit is the unusual preserved bodies of two Roman soldiers. It sounds straightforward, but questions around the specifics of the burial have turned it into a thousand-year-old murder mystery that's still leaving historians scratching their heads. Beats watching Midsomer Murders, anyway.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Victoria and St Pancras International and take from 1h17. From there, it's a nine-minute walk.

For more info: canterburymuseums.co.uk

Get your history fix at Bodiam Castle, Robertsbridge

Bodiam Castle, Kent

Nearest stop: Robertsbridge

What to do: With plenty of marauders arriving on English shores over the centuries, it's not surprising that the South East is home to loads of castles. One of the most impressive is the sweeping Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, a 14th-century structure that still has a proper, water-filled moat. It's thought this particular castle was built to defend the area against the French during the Hundred Years War, and it's had a rich and fascinating history since then. It also looks pretty dang majestic when mist rises over the moat. Just saying.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge and take around 1h09. From there, it's a 14-minute taxi.

For more info: nationaltrust.org.uk

Travel almost 1,000 years back in time at Battle Abbey

Nearest stop: Battle

What to do: We'd bet that 1066 is a number ingrained in just about every Brit's memory, and so it should be: it was the year of one of the most important battles in our history, when the Normans invaded and changed our history forever. An abbey was built on the site a few years later, the area remained well-preserved and a town named, er, Battle eventually grew around it. Today, you can visit the abbey ruins and see the exact spot of the momentous battle, or even try your hand at carrying a Norman shield.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge and take around 1h08. From there, it's a 13-minute walk from the station.

For more info: english-heritage.org.uk

Discover under-the-radar British art at Jerwood Gallery

Nearest stop: Hastings

What to do: The South East isn't only home to ancient history – it's also packed with contemporary culture, too. You can experience them both at the same time at the Jerwood Collection of Modern and Contemporary British Art, which sits in Hastings' historic Old Town. The award-winning gallery focuses on works from the First World War to the 1960s, is home to a brilliant book shop, and also boasts a cute café with views over the coastline.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge London Victoria and Waterloo East take from 1h23. From there, it's a 16-minute walk.

For more info: jerwoodgallery.org

Visit The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge in Canterbury

Nearest stop: Canterbury West

What to do: The Beaney House is home to art, books and collections, but it's worth going to simply check out the beautiful building that recently underwent a £14 million restoration project. It's also home to a nationally significant collection of works by animal painter Thomas Sidney Cooper.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains runs from London Bridge, St Pancras International and London Victoria and take from 56 minutes. From there, it's a nine-minute walk from the station.

For more info: canterburymuseums.co.uk

Hang out with butterflies at Hall Place, Bexley

Nearest stop: Bexley

What to do: Hall Place has more dramatic Tudor architecture than you can shake a stick at, not to mention some impressive topiary. The buildings and grounds themselves might be pretty incredible, but what you really want to come for are the gardens and the butterfly jungle. The historic site also runs exhibitions and fairs.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge and take around 30 minutes. From there, it's a 20-minute walk from the station.

For more info: hallplace.org.uk

Find a hidden gem without leaving London at Eltham Palace

Nearest stop: Eltham

What to do: You don't have to leave London to find a hidden gem. Just half an hour from the city, this beaut of a building was originally a medieval palace that was revamped in the 1930s for Stephen and Virginia Courtauld. It's a gothic palace-meets-Art Deco stunner, and its gardens won the London in Bloom Awards last year.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains run from London Bridge and London Victoria and take from 19 minutes. From there, it's a 15-minute walk from the station.

For more info: english-heritage.org.uk

See brand-new theatre at The Marlowe, Canterbury

Nearest stop: Canterbury West

What to do: The Marlowe might only have been around since 2011, but it's become one of the UK's best regional theatres, with a truly impressive roster of musicals, panto, comedy, opera and more. The Studio hosts theatre and gigs, while The Kit is part live museum and part playhouse.

How to get there: Southeastern Off-Peak trains runs from London Bridge, St Pancras International and London Victoria and take from 56 minutes. From there, it's an eight-minute walk from the station.

For more info: marlowetheatre.com