Take a walk around Knole Park
Covering 1000 acres of trees, woodland, undulating valleys and open parkland, Knole Park is a haven of wildlife and tranquillity in the middle of Sevenoaks. The Sackville family's Knole Estate owns and manages the vast majority of Knole Park. Its wild deer herd have roamed the parkland since their introduction in the 1400s. The National Trust owns and looks after the parkland from the front of the house up to the main entrance.
Visiting Knole – practical information
You can visit Knole Park free of charge by walking in through one of the many open pedestrian gates from dawn to dusk. If you are just planning on visiting Knole Park then car parking is available at nearby Sevenoaks Town Car Park (TN13 1LW) free of charge on Sundays and bank holidays. There is a direct footpath from this car park into the parkland, but please note the path is steep and not suitable for wheelchairs. All visitors to the park are welcome to visit the Brewhouse Café and the shops inside Green Court.
The National Trust car park at Knole is available only for National Trust members and paying visitors to Knole House. Knole is a busy, popular property and is often fully booked at weekends and school holidays. To guarantee entry pre-book your tickets for everyone in your party. We check tickets and membership cards for everyone in your vehicle at the Gatebox when you arrive. Non-members will need to pay an additional car parking charge on arrival. Blue badge holders can also book tickets free of charge.
The deer at Knole
No matter how you arrive at Knole, by car, on foot or on a bicycle, it won’t be long before you spot some of Knole’s famous deer. These wild animals might well be inquisitive and appear tame but please don’t encourage them to approach you or interact with them. They can be aggressive, carry ticks and diseases and are best observed from a safe distance. Feeding them makes them more likely to attack. They get all the natural food they need from the park, supplemented by the Deer Keeper when needed. The herd consists of two species of deer that roam the park –sika deer and fallow deer.
Dog walking at Knole
Due to the wild deer herd at Knole, we can only welcome dogs kept on a lead in the park. There are water bowls outside the Brewhouse Café and in front of the house and dog treats for sale in the shop. If you wish to visit the Brewhouse Café, there are places to tie your dog up outside as dogs are not permitted in the café. You can read more about bringing your dog to Knole below.
Walks around Knole Park
There are many areas of Knole Park to explore, from its wooded uplands, dry river valleys, tree-lined avenues and majestic Gallops to far-flung corners of secluded woodland.
If you’re not sure where to start exploring or don’t know Knole Park very well, why not try one of our suggested walking routes? These colour coded routes start from the front of the house and range from 4-5km each. They are sign-posted and take 50-75 minutes to complete. They are mainly across rough, undulating ground, so not suited to those with mobility issues. The red walk is best suited for visitors with sturdy pushchairs. These routes have been agreed with the park’s landowner, Knole Estate, and follow routes safely away from the golf course.
For those looking for a route on hard-standing paths in the park, there are a few options but many of these cross the golf course so please take care if using them. Take a look at the maps displayed outside the Brewhouse Café and by the picnic area before you set off to choose a path that suits you. Alternatively, call in to the Visitor Centre to ask for advice.
Cycling at Knole
If you choose to cycle here please take care around other visitors, vehicles, horses and wildlife that also use the paths and tracks. Some of the pathways also cross the golf course and we ask that you keep your bike on the paths in this area. If you’re in need of refreshments, there is a cycle rack by the picnic area, close to the Brewhouse Café.
Knole House sits in the centre of the park with Lord Sackville’s private walled garden enclosed within the boundary walls. The immense sprawling house rises up as you approach with sweeping views over the surrounding landscape. It has been many things to many people: an archbishop’s palace, a royal residence, a Renaissance show house, a statement of wealth and taste, a family legacy, the romantic embodiment of a bygone age and a comfortable country retreat.
Inside, the showrooms are ornate thanks to the Sackville family’s high-ranking connections that gave them access to the finest craftsmen from the Department of the King’s Works. The Jacobean interiors have intricate ceilings, detailed panelling and grand fireplaces, providing the backdrop to furniture, tapestries and royal Stuart furniture.
A tour of Knole is like stepping back 400 years and following in the footsteps of hundreds of visitors.
The history of Knole Park
The first mention of Knole in any official records was in 1281. It wasn’t until 1481 when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bouchier, acquired Knole and built a new palace suitable for a man of his standing, that Knole really became a place on the map. Ideally located between Canterbury and London, Bouchier turned an old hunting lodge into a grand palace, parts of which still stand today, including the Great Hall.
Thomas Bouchier was also responsible for creating the deer park. To do this, he needed a licence from the King, another sign of his high-ranking status. Deer hunting was the sport of kings after all, and anyone else with money and power. The deer have remained at Knole ever since.
Over the centuries, further changes took place around the park. In the early 18th century, the first Duke of Dorset undertook a major planting programme and further woodland was added in the 1760s. As recently as the early 1960s, two new plantations were added to the south-west corner of the estate.
Tree-lined avenues dissect the park and provide today’s grand walkways. Chestnut Walk has many original trees as well as some planted as recently as the 1990s. Dating of the oldest trees goes back to the early 1700s. The Broad Walk was first planted in the early 1700s and Duchess Walk, having been replanted over the years, has a few original trees from this era too. The golf course was laid out in 1923.
In 1538 when Henry VIII acquired Knole, he extended the park and planted more trees. It wasn’t until October 1987 when the Great Storm tore through Kent, that the landscape fundamentally changed overnight.
The 130mph winds uprooted trees and wreaked devastation throughout the park. Sweet chestnuts and other traditional trees were lost. As a Site of Special Scientific Interest, most of the trees that fell were left as deadwood, which has had significant benefits for fungi, plants and wildlife over the following years, as well as the trees that grew to replace them. You can still see remnants of the devastation in areas of the park today.
A Site of Special Scientific Interest
We’re proud that Knole Park is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. It means that we must work hard to ensure the park remains a thriving habitat for the diverse wildlife on the 100 acres that we manage. Across the park there’s acidic grassland, parkland, woodland and ponds, each home to a range of flora and fungi, as well as a variety of rare invertebrates.
The hilly central area of the park is mostly acidic grassland. The Common bent grass Agrostis capillaris dominates the turf. There’s also Sheep’s Fescue Festuca ovina, Sheep’s-Sorrel Rumex acetosella and Sweet Vernal-Grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, among others.
The sward (a large area of short grass) is dotted with hundreds of anthills. These were made by the intrepid Yellow Meadow Ant. Each hill contains between 8,000 and 14,000 ants. This species of ant has been resident at Knole for centuries and these “ant villages” are park institutions.
Both nationally rare and nationally scarce invertebrates make their home at Knole. They live in parkland and woodland habitats.
A nationally rare beetle, the Oak Pinhole Borer (Platypus cylindrus), is found in Knole’s ancient forest. As its name suggests, it spends its days boring into thick oak bark.
The park also supports several nationally scarce dung beetles local to Kent. Aphodius zenkeri and Aphodius borealis feed on the dung of Knole’s deer herd.
The Cerylon fagi beetle lives in the dead wood from fallen trees. Bolitochara mulsanti and Dienerella elongata are both beetles attracted to fungus. Lucky for them, there’s a lot of it around.
Nationally scarce species of fungi can be found living on and under trees, and growing on dead wood. Some even grow on the wooden parts of walls and buildings.
The earth star Geastrum fornicatum and the tube-gilled toadstool Boletus pruinatus both live under trees.
Dead wood species include Fomes fomentarius, which only grows on beech trees. It’s a rare sight in the south east. Schizophyllus, a gilled bracket fungus, grows on recently fallen timber.
Some of Knole’s fungi is history making. The first discovery of the lichen Parmelia elegantula in Britain was made on the sycamore which stands by the entrance to the Brewhouse Café. This sycamore has over 50 species of lichen living on its bark. Not bad for a little tree.