Discover why Sevenoaks was chosen as one of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2022 in their words.
Best Places to Live without Sevenoaks is like a scone without jam and cream, Aperol without prosecco or a cockapoo without a silly name. It just doesn’t feel right. This safe, dependable Kent town has appeared in our lists almost every year for a decade thanks to its powerful triumvirate of convenient commutability (the fastest train to London Bridge takes 22 minutes), excellent schools and abundance of greenery.
Sevenoaks isn’t sexy but it knows it — there’s a running joke that its high street is full of estate agents, coffee shops, charity shops and opticians (and, since the pandemic, this is more true than ever).
Sevenoaks’ appeal lies in the fact it is surrounded by stunning countryside — it is encircled by the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty — but you’re no more than five minutes from an avocado. Or a Starbucks or a Gail’s Bakery, both of which opened during the pandemic to support all the families decamping from the capital. Indeed, Sevenoaks was the top destination in 2020 for Londoners to move to, according to Hamptons estate agency.
What the place lacks in a fine dining scene or high-octane nightlife (there’s always the last train back from London) it makes up for with a chatty community and an exhausting array of sports for all ages, including bootcamps, yoga classes, hockey, cricket, golf, football and rugby (Sevenoaks RFC — the Oaks — has a thriving youth academy with close links to the Saracens). The Sencio leisure centre has state-of-the-art facilities thanks to a £1 million investment in 2018.
Cultural clout is offered by the Stag, a charity-run arts centre with a 450-seat theatre and two cinema screens. Sevenoaks also has a literary festival, a summer arts and music festival and a well-used library, which hosts crafting sessions and photography exhibitions.
Locals such as Roxanne Foster, who lives here with her husband and toddler son, also love having the 1,000-acre Knole deer park in the town centre. “It’s such a great place to go for a walk or a run,” says Foster, who co-runs Floral Findings, an eco-friendly floristry business. “The park was such an asset during lockdowns and every time I go I am so grateful that it’s here.”
Although pedestrians can walk into Knole Park for free, it’s worth getting National Trust membership to visit Knole House. This Jacobean pile was the ancestral home of Vita Sackville-West and inspired her lover, Virginia Woolf, to write Orlando — you can see the original, fragile manuscript of the novel here, as well as sumptuous paintings by Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Reynolds. NT members certainly get their money’s worth round here with Ightham Mote, Quebec House, Chartwell and Chiddingstone village all within a half-hour drive.
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Prices are correct as of April 2022.
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