Car-free adventures aroundRochesterKent

book trains

A huge historic dockyard, a Norman castle, England's second oldest cathedral, and connections with the novelist Charles Dickens... and all this just 30 minutes from London by train. You can get to Rochester, on the banks of the River Medway, on fast trains from London St Pancras International, also from London Victoria, Luton or the Kent Coast. Once you've arrived, there's a picturesque and compact town centre to explore and a mind-blowing sprawl of boat-related history in neighbouring Chatham. WIth so much to see, you might want to make it a mini-break. Scroll to the end for more information on buses, trains, places to eat and stay.

  • County: Kent
  • Great for: churches | history | literary connections | maritime heritage | museums |
  • Refreshments: pubs, cafes and more
  • Please note: researched/updated in January 2024. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 3. Further afield

    Rochester is close to several long distance paths, including the ‘Saxon Shore‘ and the epic North Downs Way, which covers 150 miles of rolling wooded countryside from Farnham in Surrey to the white cliffs of Dover. The stretch that runs close to Rochester has some lovely old farms and flowering meadows.

    • Stroll over Rochester Bridge to Strood for great views across the river to the castle and catch the train from Strood to Cuxton. It’s a mile from the station to Ranscombe Farm Country Park (see map below). You can simply have a wander through the countryside here or hike along the North Downs Way, through woods and valleys to Halling, about six miles away, or all the way to Otford – 15 miles distant with a station right by the route.
    • The North Downs Way has recently produced an Ale Trail with some of Kent and Surrey’s breweries – perfect for car-free travel.
    • To explore the wild marshy coast of the Thames with a newly-signed stretch of England Coast path, head off on bus 191, which calls at several villages on the atmospheric Hoo peninsula. From High Halstow, you can get off near the friendly Red Dog pub and explore the nearby RSPB reserve, which includes the UK’s largest heronry.
  1. Trains and buses. Where to eat and where to stay

    • Rochester railway station is just 32 minutes from London’s St Pancras International by high speed train or 26 minutes from Stratford. There are trains from Victoria too that take around 45 minutes.
    • If you’re planning several bus rides around Rochester, there are rover tickets for one or more days on Arriva buses giving unlimited trips across a wide area, or the Arrive Twilight Ticket for evening journeys.
    • If the bus journeys are on the same day that you arrive by train, get a bargain PlusBus ticket for unlimited bus rides around the whole urban area. The add-on ticket covers Chatham, Gillingham, Rochester, Rainham and Strood.
    • Just five minutes’ walk from the station, the Deaf Cat does great coffee and cake in an arty setting.
    • On weekdays in term time, don’t miss Jasper’s Community Café, upstairs in the Medway Adult Ed Centre at Eastgate House, just off Rochester High Street. It’s in the same building as the library and does bargain homemade food on weekdays daytime.
    • Kent’s only grain to glass distillery, Copper Rivet is located in a 19th century repurposed pumphouse at The Dockyard. You can book a tour, or eat at the restaurant and cocktail lounge.
    • The most obvious place to stay in Rochester is the smart new Travelodge right by the railway station. For something a little quirkier, there are some good airbnbs. The Havisham Flat on Union Street is a self-contained studio in a neo-Georgian townhouse; guests get the top floor with a bathroom and kitchen. The Old Tuck Shop is a whole cottage on St Margaret’s Street, a handsome former shopping street not far from the river.
    • Visit Chatham for a spa experience at Bridgewood Manor hotel, which is near the 101 Sapphire bus route.
  • High Birch house in Upper Bush - car-free adventures around Rochester.