A trio of towns full of maritime history, plus castle heritage mixed with modern, and plenty of events for all tastes.
Medway attractions, maritime history, castle heritage and modern and action-packed shopping centres make this a great destination. Whether you want to chill by the river, enjoy a jet stream boat ride, or venture inland for museums, galleries and escape rooms, Medway caters for everyone. It is easy to see why it is bidding to be the City of Culture 2025.
The three main towns of Medway include Rochester, which still has the look and feel of a Dickensian novel with its cobbled streets and architecture. Infrastructure from earlier periods can still be seen too – visit Restoration House, a unique survival of a city mansion that offers guided tours of its medieval buildings that were joined together in the late 16th or early 17th Century. At Rochester Castle’s historic ruins, with the tallest Norman keep in the country, are a backdrop to concerts which is an impressive sight. It is significant for its guarding an important crossing of the River Medway, and in itself, this imposing fortress has a complex history of destruction and rebuilding.
You can see views of Rochester Bridge, the first one built soon after the Roman conquest in 43AD. It has had two further incarnations, has been key providing free crossing across the river. The city’s Cathedral was a major place for pilgrimage in the 13th Century, and is still very popular today and where, by special appointment, visitors can see one of the oldest doors in England. A little more accessible is their café in the crypt.
Head to the High Street where you will find not one but two museums. The Guildhall Museum tells the story of Rochester and Charles Dickens who moved to the area as a child. Visit the collections at Britain’s only museum of Huguenots, which tells the important story of Britain’s first refugees. Visitors can also see the writing chalet of Charles Dickens in the gardens by the Elizabethan Eastgate House, a beautiful and uniquely styled building. Galleries and independent outlets to explore include the original Playopolis Café where you have over 600 boardgames to choose from.
Nearby Diggerland theme park is, as its name suggests, a great place for younger visitors full of rides and where they can operate a digger too. The Fenn Bell Conservation Project is the proud owner of Medway’s first zoo licence, where all the animals have come through the rescue, offering them sanctuary while they educate visitors on the work of the project and the many animals too.
Gillingham is one of the trio of Medway towns and is home to country parks and nature reserves, such as the Riverside Country Park, a 100-hectare park that offers a visitor centre, trails and play areas. Adventure hunters will not be disappointed at the Chatham Snowsports Centre, where you can enjoy thrilling toboggan and tube rides. The Planet Ice rink and the Mythologic Escape Room are just a few activities to help you burn off that lockdown lethargy. The Royal Engineers Museum is Kent’s largest military museum, charting the history of the Royal Engineers and their involvement with helping the British Army. Its collection is vast and includes Wellington’s map of Waterloo, tanks, a Harrier Jump Jet and 25 Victoria Crosses.
Whether you want to chill by the river, enjoy a jet stream boat ride, or venture inland for museums, galleries and escape rooms, Medway caters for everyone.
Chatham with its naval history is the third, but not lesser, town in Medway. Visit the Medway Queen for a part of sailing history and even more can be found nearby at Chatham’s Historic Dockyard. Naval heritage in all its glory, where you can test your sea legs when you board a submarine and a World War II destroyer, to name just two vessels there. Lots of activities and things to do too, luckily you pay once and your ticket lasts for a year.
At Fort Amherst and Fort Luton, you can find out about the defences of the area, and at the former even take a ghostly tour to uncover more of its history. Flip Out literally at the trampoline park, shop at the Dockside Outlet Centre and check out what’s on at not one but two theatres, the Brook and The Central – home to a range of productions from comedy to local theatre.
The area is host to a wide range of things to do, as well as events, festivals, concerts at castles, all of which makes Medway a magnificent place to explore.
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Picture credits top to bottom: © The Historic Dockyard Chatham © Royal Engineers Museum © Fenn Bell Conservation Project.