We all know that London’s shopping scene is the best in the country.
From the multi-storeys of both Westfield centres, to the seemingly never-ending unravelling of shops down Oxford Street, you are almost spoilt for choice.
Even away from central London, there’s ample choice, from St. George’s Shopping Centre in Harrow, to The Glades in Bromley.
Sometimes, though, London’s shopping streets can feel a bit much. The busyness can be overwhelming, and the prices are frequently eye-watering.
A shopping trip outside of the capital is sometimes needed.
Down in Ashford, Kent, you’ll find the Ashford Designer Outlet – a mammoth outdoor shopping centre that looks somewhat like the 02 Arena and the Syndey Opera House had an architectural baby.
That makes sense, considering the outlet was designed by Lord Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, who designed the 02 Arena’s past-self, the Millenium Dome.
The engineering firm behind the outlet was also responsible for building the Sydney Opera House.
Ashford’s outlet is home to 90 designer shops, including All Saints, Kate Spade New York and Coach, all of which offer massive discounts of up to 60 per cent – even at Christmas.
That makes up for the train fare, then.
Even though it’s out of the Greater London county, it’s accessible via a pretty swift journey.
It’s only 30 minutes by train from Stratford to Ashford International, via the high speed service.
Once you’re in Ashford, the designer outlet is practically tacked on to the station. It’s a ten minute walk from the station exit to the outlet entrance.
It can get pretty busy at the outlet, but we have a feeling that most Londoners, who would otherwise be faced with Oxford Street, can hack it.
You might even bump into a celebrity or two while you’re there.
In the 21 years since the shopping centre opened, there has been more than the occasional famous face show up.
Peter Andre turned on the outlet’s Christmas lights ten years ago, in 2011, while in 2006, children’s TV legend and former Art Attack presenter Neil Buchanan showed up with a mural of a sailing boat.
And in 2014, TOWIE star Sam Fairers arrived at the outlet to hordes of fans as she launched her perfume.
It’s clearly worth the distance, with some TripAdvisor reviewers claiming to travel overseas just to grab a bargain or two.
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One reviewer wrote: “I travel once a year from France to go shopping here. It is just great! All the brands I like are here. And, soooo cheap!”
Another said that they have travelled up from Devon, while one said that it is “by far the best retail outlet in the UK”.
The award-winning outlet opened originally in 2000, but gained an extension in 2019.
The extension saw new shops open, including Armani, Hugo Boss and Karl Lagerfeld, while eateries Yo! Sushi, Five Guys and Starbucks also arrived.
Getting to Ashford
Take the high speed train from Stratford International or St Pancras International to Ashford International.
If you’d rather a more leisurely journey, head down from Waterloo East in one hour and twenty minutes.
By car, you can get down from London in roughly an hour and a half.
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