15 MAY 2019: Royal Tunbridge Wells is a town founded by aristocracy, with a prestigious prefix awarded by Edward VII in 1909, which gives it an enviable reputation. It’s also renowned for its shopping because it offers a truly unique experience! The old town centre is crammed with independently owned boutiques selling items just as desirable as those found in Harrods.

Whether it's a hand-picked gift, something marvellous for the kitchen, oriental art, memorabilia, or a bespoke item of clothing, you're certain to find it here.

In the historic heart of the old town is the vibrant Pantiles, a beautiful open-air promenade with shops housed inside original stylish Georgian buildings, one of the places which most merit exploring.

Here you’ll find the finest at Any Occasion, a Premier Stockist for the leading designer Linea Raffaelli Mother of the Bride dresses; YiJu Gallery which specialises in Chinese furniture; the cool and ultra-modern Beumee abstract art gallery; collectables and limited editions at Artique Gallery; a small contemporary art dealer at Spa Galleries; designer jeweller Peter Jenner Jewellers; and international award-winning Catherine Hill Jewellers, famed for the jewellery used in the Harry Potter films. Hattons is an eat-in deli owned by Michelin starred chef, Daniel Hatton; nearby is Collared, a dog accessory and dog owners’ gift shop; Trevor Mottram’s is a cook’s shop that is home to everything a kitchen needs. Then there’s Polkadot Lane for unique handmade Polish pottery; Thurwells bespoke jewellers and two historic pubs in the Duke of York and Sussex Arms. The Pantiles Café serves a great crab and avo breakfast -- be sure to order a pot of Rooibos tea.

Farmers' Markets: A market takes place on The Pantiles in Royal Tunbridge Wells on the first and third weekends of each month from 10am to 4pm. Local stallholders sell flavoursome local produce, artisan crafts and gifts. Arrive early before they sell out!

Just a five-minute stroll away is the High Street and Sahara – an ethical, independent ladies’ boutique which stands for everything opposite to fast fashion. Nearby is infamous fashion designer Caroline Charles whose customers include some of the biggest names in royalty and show business; and G Collins & Sons - Crown jeweller and personal jeweller to the Queen.

Build up momentum with a stop for coffee and lemon feather cake at Juliet’s Coffee Shop, or if you’re a coffee geeks head to Fine Grind espresso bar, or Javabean, a long-established independent coffee shop. Refreshed, seek out Bod & Ted for one-off unusual fashion finds; Goldsmith George Farrer; and Castle Fine Art -- one of our newest art spaces in town. You’ll also find Gray Webster who exhibits work of top British artists; Mark Maynard Antiques & Collectables; Danish fashion design studio Ilse Jacobsen; timeless fashions at Oska; Pure Collection for the finest cashmere; Pour les Femmes for designer lingerie; and for bespoke kids clothes, there’s Childrensalon.

Just off the High Street, on the pedestrian-only Castle Street is The Italian Wardrobe, a designer boutique and Chapter Two, a vintage and country furniture shop where you’ll snap up some great homewares. The Redleaf Gallery specialises in 19th and 20th century contemporary art and to rest your weary shoppers’ feet head to Casa Da Claudia, a unique, rustic café. Be sure to order a coffee and an obligatory Pastéis de Nata.

Monson Road (which becomes one long street when changes to Camden Road) is a series of regal-looking balconied shops with one particular stand-out -- Jeremy’s Home Store, purveyors of practical homewares and unusual gifts.

On the ever-changing face of Camden Road, which is a goldmine of foodie delicatessens, preloved designer attire at D’Occasion, contemporary art at C&G Gallery and eclectic shops like Camden Retro Centre. You’ll be amazed at the wonderful finds at Ian Relf Antiques; designer kids’ shoes at Stampede; and at the Bicycle Bakery - a heaven sent independent little gem with lots of goodies to take home or eat in, you’ll find the best sourdough ever!

Royal Tunbridge Wells has a lovely vibey old town centre which is not just for shops, it’s become a social space too.

On Mount Pleasant Road, which is a wide avenue with large plane trees, there’s a specialist beer retailer at the Beer Boutique; and Bailey’s the longest running gentleman’s clothes shop in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Equally historic is Hoopers, a grand old-fashioned shopping experience where several celebs are known to shop.

The best traffic-free shopping street must be Chapel Place with its plethora of independent interior shops. Then there’s restaurant Seventeen, who has a waiter outside enticing guests with handmade chocolates; on the opposite corner is Adrian Harrington Rare Books and Halls Bookshop - stockists of prints, maps and original film and music posters, as well as first editions of Ian Fleming, JK Rowling, Sir Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie.

Next door is Chapel Place, a trendy gin and wine bar; and across the road is Speaight, an organic, free-range, specialist butcher. Then there’s Arte Bianca, a family run Italian delicatessen; Gabriella’s for fine jewellery and watches; Gray & Co are an on-trend designer menswear and lifestyle shop; and the Silver Sheep, an artistic haven of crafty gifts, specializing in designer knitwear and jewellery created on site.

Folded in between the independent boutiques, coffee shops, cobbled streets and historic settings of Royal Tunbridge Wells are hidden gems - shops which have stood the test of time, where service remains key and make shopping the pleasurable experience it once was, especially those looking to make a day of it.

www.visittunbridgewells.com

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Cindy-Lou Dale

Cindy-Lou Dale is a professional editor, writer and photographer, specializing in high-end travel, luxury motoring and affluent lifestyles. She also writes compellingly of current affairs, African politics and introduces her readers to new-age philanthropy.

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