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Published August 8th 2012
Great day out from London
One of Kent's prettiest towns, Tunbridge Wells has lots to appeal to the day visitor, whether you are a history buff, an amateur photographer, interested in architecture, or simply enjoy browsing independent shops, sitting
A 50-minute train ride from London's Charing Cross, London Bridge or Waterloo East railway stations, Tunbridge Wells is reputedly south-east England's only spa town, having come into being following the discovery of the Chalybeate Spring at the start of the 17th Century. You can still drink the waters today, although this year, due to investigations into the source of the spring, it is not possible to sample the water.
At the heart of the town and a short walk from the train station along the High Street, is The Pantiles, an 18th Century
colonnaded walkway which, in Georgian times, was the place to see and be seen by visitors. Today, having retained its historic buildings, The Pantiles is as elegant and charming as ever, and is home to a wide variety of shops, galleries, open air cafes and restaurants. You will also find the tourist information centre here.
One notable building located on the Lower Walk of The Pantiles is the Corn Exchange, originally designed as a theatre in the 18th Century, and now housing shops and a cafe in its glass-roofed Georgian interior.
The best way to explore the town is to follow the heritage walking trail which starts at the Corn Exchange and takes you past the Bath House, Calverley Grounds (the town centre park), Wellington Rocks (natural rock formations) and a host of other places of historical interest, as well as churches and homes of famous figures such as the novelists E M Forster and William Thackeray. A leaflet on the trail is available from the tourist information centre. Alternatively, you can book a one-hour guided walking tour with a Blue Badge Guide.
Although often referred to as simply Tunbridge Wells, the 'Royal' prefix used in its full name, was granted by King Edward VII in 1909 in recognition of the popularity of the town with so many royal and aristocratic visitors, including Queen Victoria.