An attractive village near Canterbury, Chilham is based around a square hemmed by half-timbered buildings. The wealth of historic architecture in Chilham makes it one of the most visited places in Kent.

Among the older buildings is the White Horse Inn, which dates to the 16th century. Much older is Chilham Castle, a manor house and Norman castle keep built for Henry II in 1174. The gateway to Chilham Park was built by Inigo Jones in 1616.

The parish church of St Mary dates to the 13th century, though it likely replaced a much earlier Saxon building with roots going as far back as the 7th century. The church is largely of English Perpendicular style and is well worth visiting for its large number of ornately decorated funerary monuments.

Among these are monuments to Lady Mary Digges (d. 1631), the wife of Sir Dudley Digges, builder of the current castle. This grandiose memorial is composed of four seated statues representing cardinal virtues, posed around a central column that reaches eleven feet in height.

The Mystery of St Augustine

Chilham church is at the centre of a historical mystery. When St Augustine's Abbey at Canterbury Cathedral was demolished during the Reformation, the ornate, gilded, shrine housing the saint's body was removed to Chilham. There it remained in the church until 1541 when it disappeared. No trace of the shrine has ever been found.

The village square is a treasure, bounded by beautiful medieval and Jacobean half-timbered buildings, many dating from the late 15th century. Much of the village is designated a heritage conservation area, in recognition of the historic value of the many of the buildings. Because of the beautiful old buildings, Chilham is often used as a setting for film and television productions.

Among the finest of the buildings is the half-timbered Tudor Lodge (1370-1410), Tudor Cottage, and the White Horse Inn - all in the village square - Cumberland House (1470-1510), Orions Cottage, and Burgoyne (1450-1480) - on High Street. There is a possibility that Cumberland Lodge at one time served as a royal hunting lodge.

The manor of Chilham Castle is open to visitors only for regular garden open days during the summer months. It is well worth timing a visit to coincide with an open day, as the castle gardens are quite superb. There are three garden terraces below the manor, with numerous examples of large topiary.

The view from the terraces down to a lake is excellent, and trails lead through the grounds, around the lake, and through a quiet garden and walled garden areas. The landscape gardens are the work of Capability Brown.

On the far side of the Stour valley from Chilham is the prehistoric Julieberrie's Grave long barrow.