More commonly associated with the “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” tag than anything else these days, Royal (yes, Royal) Tunbridge Wells is actually pretty dapper.
More commonly associated with the “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” tag than anything else these days, Royal (yes, Royal) Tunbridge Wells is actually pretty dapper. Residents are rumoured to include Davina McCall and Natasha Kaplinsky, and Princess Diana opened the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre back in 1992. Still not good enough for you? Read on.
1. It’s close to London, with a commute time of less than an hour. Great for those who want the London career but not the smoke-filled lungs of London life. Also great for day trips from London, so if you’re spending some time in the capital and want to give your lungs and elbows a break, have a day in Sunny Tunny. Not so great when it snows, sleets, hails, rains, doesn’t rain, or National Rail decides to have a duvet day and the trains pack up.
2. It’s close to both Brighton and Hastings, which is handy because British seaside resorts are, like, so retro right now (well, not right now, you’d freeze your protrusions off if you went within 20ft of the Channel right now. Maybe give it until March or April).
3. People have heard of it. OK, confession time. I don’t actually live in Tunbridge Wells, I live in a little village about 8 miles outside of Tunbridge Wells. But if any non-locals ask where I’m from, I say Tunbridge Wells, purely because people have heard of it . It’s kind of like that Fresher’s Week moment where someone tells you that they study Biochemical Geometry – you know nothing about it, but it gives you a chance to nod your head enthusiastically and lengthen the awkward conversation by two seconds, before finally realising that your initial instinct was right and you have nothing in common with your interlocutor.
4. One word; Bean. It’s a great milkshake and sweet cafe on the hip Camden Road (as hip as Tunbridge Wells gets, anyway). Not only is the loft-style cafe a great place to meet a friend for a catch-up, or have a mid retail-therapy break, it also allows you to use the phrase “Have you been to Bean?”, which, quite frankly, never fails to amuse.
5. It’s great for shopping. Not so much mainstream shopping, as it lacks a Primark, H&M, Zara etc, but for independent shopping, it’s a veritable feast. The area around the High Street and the Pantiles is chock-full of independent clothing, jewellery and bookstores. Although pricier than your average high-street store, what’s the point in visiting a new town if you’re shopping in the same old shops?
6. Christmas is something that Tunbridge Wells does very well. From the temporary ice rink and Christmas market, to the switching on of the lights and the pantomime (cue soap stars not seen on TV since cerca 1990), Tunbridge Wells is also over Christmas like Rita Ora is all over, er, anyone. Fireworks night is also done quite spectacularly by Tunbridge Wells, thanks to the well-known Dunorlan Park display. We also love a bit of patriotism, as shown by the Jubilee street parties this year. Basically, if it’s a special day, Tunbridge Wells is a good place to be.
7. The Forum. Tunbridge Wells’ best live music venue is converted from, er, a public toilet block. Worth a trip for the novelty value alone, but they have some pretty decent signed and unsigned bands too, as well as cabaret events and comedy nights. Did I mention that the building used to be a public toilet block? Just what every town needs.
So next time you’re having a toss up between two weeks in Florida and a break closer to home, might I suggest throwing Tunbridge Wells into the mix? It may result in similar confusion and chaos as throwing your keys into a bowl at a dinner party would, but with a tad more refinement and sophistication, dahling. Just take advice from a local, and don’t drink from the famous Chalybeate Spring – you don’t want to know what goes into it when the pubs kick out on a Friday night.
image: Association of Pantiles Traders