by Janis / 2 comments - Orginally published:14th July 2020

Discover Kent’s castles, beaches, harbours and coves

Kent, which is also known as the ‘Garden of England’ is located in the southeast of the UK. The lush rolling countryside is filled with orchards, vineyards, quaint villages and oast houses, so it makes for a perfect rural road trip.

However, it’s the beautiful historic coastline that you’ve come in search of. Whether it’s the ‘bucket and spade’ traditional family-style break or the fishing harbours with ancient fortresses you’re after, Kent has so much to offer.

I love the blend of golden sandy beaches, pebbly shorelines, the bleak diverse landscapes at Dungeness. Oh, and what’s not love about promenading along the coast with a bag of piping hot chips?

Here are a few of our favourite destinations for a seaside road trip. Some of these iconic Kentish towns you may have heard of, although hopefully there are a few you haven’t.

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We’ll start at the north-eastern tip in Margate and work our way south close to the borders of East Sussex in Dungeness. The route from Margate to Dungeness is roughly 60 miles (95kms). However, there is so much to see and do you’ll be jumping in and out of your car constantly.

Our route

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Discover Margate, Kent

Stroll in the footsteps of nostalgia
If it’s a shimmering sandy beach you yearn for then, Margate is the ideal choice. It has a mixture of the ‘kiss-me-quick’ feel of candy floss, Dreamland adventure park and arcades. Along with cafés, ice-cream parlours and the old-styles theatres.
The golden sand of Margate's main beach, with a fish 'n' chip shop in the foreground. Margate's harbour arm can be seen in the distance.
Fish 'n' Chips on the beach at Margate

The seaside town of Margate is gradually being given the TLC it deserves and is tempting in more and more visitors to this traditional piece of old England.
Margate also offers the Turner Contemporary Gallery, bustling historic lanes with antique shops and tempting boutiques. However, don’t miss out on a stroll around the revived harbour arm and discover the pop-up bars and restaurants.

Boutique shops in the centre of Margate's now trendy old town
The quaint Old Town of Margate
If you fancy sampling the local shellfish, you’ll have plenty to choose from, cockles, whelks, mussels and also jellied eels. Not quite my cup of tea, I’ll stick with cod & chips, thanks.

Where to stay

- The Crescent Victoria Hotel - This charming hotel is just a 5-minute walk to Margate's Old Town and its golden sandy beach. Stylish rooms with views across the bay.

- Angela's Guest Suites - Beautiful deluxe apartments within a short stroll of the Old Town and the Turner gallery. These spacious suites enjoy incredible sea views.

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Historic Broadstairs in Kent

Home to smugglers, Dickens and golden beaches

Just a short hop south passing by the beautiful Botany Bay and Joss Bay, you arrive in the delightful English town of Broadstairs.
I’m spoiling you here as Broadstairs is another seaside spot with a golden sandy beach in Viking Bay. There are multicoloured beach huts and a quaint little harbour, where smugglers would be found in the dead of night.

At the edge of the sands of Viking Bay is a row of beach cabins built into the cliff face. The doors of the cabins alternate between Bright yellow and a French blue
Colourful beach cabins in Viking Bay, Broadstairs

Broadstairs still has the charming feel of a Victorian holiday spot and in my opinion remains quite unspoilt. I remember visiting Broadstairs as a child, and my brother and I would go crabbing off the side of the harbour wall.
Broadstairs also has strong links with the author Charles Dickens, as he regularly stayed here and gained inspiration for his characters. It was in the clifftop house where he penned ‘David Copperfield’.

Litlle sailing boats at anchor in Broadstairs harbour on a bright sunny day
Broadstairs Harbour

I loved strolling around the small town as it had plenty of independent shops and restaurants. How often do you see an ironmonger, a knitting shop and a sweetie store?

Broadstairs is a great place to visit all year-around with a delightful clifftop promenade with views stretching across the English Channel as afar as the eye could see.

Where to stay in Broadstairs

- The Crown Bar & Guesthouse - Located in the heart of Broadstairs, this characterful inn offers a comfortable, friendly stay, with the charm and vibe of an English pub.

- The Royal Albion - A beautiful Historic hotel with magnificent sea views across Viking Bay and beyond, what could be better. Oh yes, Charles Dickens was a regular visitor too.

We have a new little book on our shelves that we delve into when we're heading to the coast.

Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different counties of England.  It tells tales of the history of the shoreline that surrounds our country.

Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves the English seaside.

Explore the delights of Ramsgate, Kent

Family seaside fun at this charming Cinque Port
Ramsgate is overflowing with nautical history. From the Napoleonic Wars, the granting of Royal Harbour status in 1821 by King George IV to the Dunkirk Landings of ‘Operation Dynamo’.
Small sailing boats in Ramsgate’s Marina resting on perfectly still water under a bright blue sky.
Ramsgate Marina
This seaside town has far-reaching sandy beaches, offers charming family fun and lovely clifftop walks. It’s great just to sit and watch the world go by around the marina and the bustling working harbour.
The clear golden sands of Ramsgate's beach under a deep blue sky.
Ramsgate's golden beach

Ramsgate may have been slightly neglected over the years; however, the charming lanes and characterful squares where Vincent Van Gogh once taught are being gradually brought back to life.
This is another wonderful location to grab some fish and chips.

Where to stay in Ramsgate

- The Royal Harbour Hotel - Located within three Georgian townhouses, this hotel offers unique and charmingly decorated rooms. The views across the harbour are incredible.

- The Oak Hotel - This comfortable hotel overlooks Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour and just a short stroll to the golden sandy beach.

Escape for a few days

Are you looking for that ‘perfick’ holiday hideaway to relax in while you discover the Garden of England?

After a day exploring the Kent coast and its many historic castles enjoy one of the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

Uncover the delights of Sandwich in Kent

So much character within this ancient quayside town

Yes, you’re right, where the good old English lunchtime snack derived its name.
The 4th Earl of Sandwich was said to have ordered his valet to bring him some slices of meat, tucked in two slices of bread. Hey presto, the sandwich was born.

A yellow boat named The Sandwich Tug on the River Stour in Sandwich.
The Sandwich Tug on the River Stour

Although Sandwich is no longer on the coast, as time and tide have gradually reclaimed it. This ancient little quayside town has so much charm I really didn’t want to say goodbye.
Sandwich to me, still felt like it was in the grasp of the local residents and tourism had not taken over. Quaint half-timbered pubs and homes dating from the 15th & 16th centuries, tiny hardware stores, cake shops and independent workshops were the lifeblood of this picturesque town.

The historic Barbican tollgate over the road into Sandwich, a beautiful part of kent to visit
The Barbican - the old tollgate

Take a wander to the River Stour bridge and its 14th-century Barbican Gate and Tollgate. Tolls were collected here from 1759 until as recent as 1977. It depended on the size of your horse and cart as to how much you would be charged.
Strolling through Sandwich, you genuinely feel you’ve discovered a slice of old England.

Where to stay in Sandwich

- The Bell Hotel - The recently refurbished Bell Hotel is located on the quayside in Sandwich. The elegant rooms offer a beautiful, tasteful feel within traditional stylish surroundings.

- The Fleur De Lis Hotel - This traditional, comfortable hotel is located within the heart of Sandwich. They offer pleasant rooms, and a full English breakfast is included in the price.

It’s good to talk!

Share with us your experiences while visiting a Kent coastal town and drop us a comment below.
The famous Ham Sandwich road signed just outside the hamlet of Ham that also points towards the coastal town of Sandwich.
The famous Ham Sandwich road sign

Map, guides and more

Whether you’re planning a road trip, plotting a hiking route or cycling one of UK’s scenic trails, there’s nothing quite like using a tactile paper map.

The Ordnance Survey folk are here to help, with maps, guides, gadgets and more. Take a browse through their vast array of maps and grab your ideal companion for your adventure.

Charismatic Deal, Kent

Explore Deal's pastel-coloured lanes, promenade the pier and visit a castle
Further along the coastline and we arrive at Deal. Ok, I’ll be upfront here, do not expect a glistening sandy beach, its cobbles all the way. Nonetheless, for me, it adds to its appeal and enhances the charm of the old fishing boats lining the bay.
The Morning Haze small wooden fishing boat, flying the Union Jack, in the single beach of Deal
Morning Haze on the beach at Deal
Deal has some beautiful little lanes full of pastel-coloured homes, tiny shops and some fascinating tales to tell. Head along Middle Street, Griffin Street and Farrier Street, you’ll be transported to times gone by. If you enjoy a traditional pub, you’ll undoubtedly find a few in Deal.
The classical styled Deal Townhall on the high street of this Kentish Coastal Town.
The Deal Townhall

Take a stroll along the pier, and you’ll see fisherman patiently waiting for their catch of the day. Then wander further along Deal’s seafront, and you’ll stumble upon its castle.

Deal Castle is owned by English Heritage, and for a small fee, you can head inside of this 16th-century artillery fort and discover its ancient underground corridors and rooms.

Where to stay in Deal

- The Royal Hotel - Located on the seafront of Deal offers incredible views across the bay. The 18th-century charming hotel is a perfect base for exploring Deal and touring the Kent coast.

- The Waterfront Hotel - Overlooking Deal pier this historic family-run hotel offers a delicious breakfast ready to sustain you for a full day ahead.

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Visit Walmer Castle, Kent

Follow in the footsteps of Royalty and Dukes

During King Henry VIII’s reign, he had three defence castles built along this three-mile stretch of shoreline.
Sandown Castle just north of Deal no longer exists, it’s now a communal garden. However, Walmer Castle does, and I highly recommend a visit here.

The wooden bridge across the moat to the ivy-covered Walmer Castle
The entrance across the moat to Walmer Castle

This moated castle is also owned by English Heritage and is enchanting to stroll around. Walmer was originally built as Tudor Fortress, in 1708 the bastion was to become the official residence of the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports. This position was once held by the Duke of Wellington (who defeated Napoleon in Battle of Waterloo), Sir Winston Churchill and the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
Early in the 19th-century, the simple kitchen garden was transformed into a beautiful formal landscape garden, that can be seen today.

Head to the rooftops of Dover Castle, Kent

A palace fit for a King and hidden wartime tunnels
Heading further south into ‘White Cliffs Country’ you’ll arrive at Dover. Dover itself is not the most picturesque of towns. Nonetheless, the castle sitting high on the cliffs guarding England is an incredible place to visit.
Dover Castle's outer walls draped with the standards of Henry II, and flying the flags of English Heritage & the Union Flag.
The walls of Dover Castle
There has been a garrison on this site for over 800 years, and a Roman stone lighthouse can still be seen. During the early 12th-century, Henry II had Dover Castle rebuilt as a palace and English Heritage has maintained it as such throughout.
A stone gatehouse at Dover Castle with the Keep high on the hillside
A gatehouse at Dover Castle

Head to the rooftops for an amazing view across to the English Channel to France.
Within the castle grounds are Medieval Tunnels which were created in 1216. Also, there are wartime tunnels which were used during Operation Dynamo, you can visit them all.

Where to stay in Dover

- BEST WESTERN PLUS Dover Marina Hotel & Spa - This 4-star Georgian hotel is located on the seafront in the shadow of Dover Castle. In-house restaurants are available.

English Heritage

English Heritage maintains Dover Castle, which is one of their flagship sites. They upkeep Walmer and Deal Castles too.

Why not join to gain unlimited access with your annual membership.

Remember 'The Few' at Capel-le-Ferne, Kent

In honour of those who fell in the Battle of Britain
Nearby Dover is Capel-le-Ferne and home to the Battle of Britain Memorial. This a very touching site, particularly the memorial of a lone airman looking out to sea across the English Channel, almost waiting for his comrades to come home.
A statue of a pilot, seated on the ground, at the centre of the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne.
The pilot, in front of the Wing, Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne

The Battle of Britain Memorial site was only opened in 1993, and it was due to the persistence of Pilot Officer Geoffrey Page. Geoffrey Page fought during the battle and was shot down in 1940. He returned to battle again; however, he was seriously injured.
Geoffrey Page found out later in life that there wasn’t a monument for the unbelievably brave airman. He then set up a trust and raised funds for the memorial which was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on July 9th, 1993.

The vibrant streets of Folkestone, Kent

Enjoy Folkestone's colourful harbour arm, urban street art and of course its fish and chips
Just 3 miles south of Capel-le-Ferne is Folkestone. Folkestone has had some mixed press over the years, although if you haven’t visited recently, I urge you to. It is undergoing a rejuvenation and has come on leaps and bounds.
A Harborview of Folkestone looking towards the Old Town in the distance.
Folkestone Harbour

The old harbour railway station has been converted into a communal area which leads onto the harbour arm. This is full of restaurants, bars, cafés and plenty of places just to sit and watch the world go by.
Throughout the town is an urban art exhibition that is accessible 24 hours a day. You’ll find pieces by Antony Gormley, Yoko Ono, Cornelia Parker and Tracey Emin, to name just a few.

A quaint scene of a block of Georgian three-storey terraced homes, each individually painted in a pastel shade.
Pastel coloured homes around The Bayle area of Folkestone

Once you’ve had a stroll around the delightful harbour, take a wander up through the lanes of the Creative Quarter.

Folkestone really is making an effort to ensure the town is a welcoming place for everyone to enjoy.

Where to stay in Folkestone

- View Hotel Folkestone - This charming boutique hotel offers incredible views across the sea from the Leas promenade. Only a 5-minute walk into colourful Folkestone town.
There is some fascinating history in Folkestone too. Head up through the Bayle district to the pastel- coloured homes and where Charles Dickens used to frequent. Here you’ll find an inn dating back to the 1500s.

Visit Hythe, Kent

Discover Hythe's Military Canal, Ossuary and stroll the historic coastline
The ancient Cinque Port market town of Hythe is not your average seaside town. Whether it’s the cobbled beach that doesn’t draw in the crowds, I’m not too sure, although I believe it is full of character and charm.
The seafront alongside Marine Parade in Hythe, Kent
The seafront at Hythe

Fishing boats still head out for their daily catch, and there’s a delightful promenade, where you can see the Martello towers dotted along the shoreline. Oh yes, and the fish and chips are excellent in Hythe.
Stepping back from the seafront towards the town, you’ll cross the Royal Military Canal. The canal stretches 28 miles south from Seabrook near Folkestone to just outside Hastings. It was built as a defence against Napoleon, nowadays it has a tree-lined walkway along its edge, and you can even hire a boat to enjoy the canal at your leisure.

A family boating on the Royal Military Canal in Hythe, Kent
Boating on the Royal Military Canal in Hythe
Hythe has plenty of lovely old character buildings from Medieval and Georgian periods. Take a stroll through the High Street to see pleasant mix architecture and the independent stores that are still serving their locals after decades.
A wall made of stacked bones inside the ossuary of St. Leonard’s Church and Crypt in Hythe
A look inside the Ossuary at St Leonard's Church in Hythe

One of the unusual aspects of Hythe is its Ossuary, located in St. Leonard’s Church and Crypt. It is the largest and best-preserved collection in Britain, just within its four arched alcoves are 1,022 skulls.

Then there are hundreds of other bones in a stack which is 25 feet (7.8 metres) in length. It is believed that the total number of individuals represented is about 2,000. This place is fascinating, and only a couple of pounds to enter.

Where to stay in Hythe

- The Old Post Office Boutique Guesthouse - Located in Hythe Old Town's heart is within a few steps of historic inns and a selection of local restaurants.

- Hythe Imperial Hotel, Spa & Golf - This charming 4-star Victorian hotel nestled within 44-acres of land with views across the English Channel. It offers spacious rooms and spa facilities.

Point to Note

You will need to check the opening times of the Ossuary, as it is only open from Easter and throughout the summer.

Explore the wonders of Dungeness in Kent

An untamed landscape like no other

Dungeness is one of my favourite places in Kent as it is so extraordinary and has an unbelievably unique landscape. It is a photographers’ paradise with the scenery ever-changing.
In the winter, it can be a harsh environment; however, it is captivating. These shores are still worked by local fisherman, they must be an extremely hardy bunch. Tracks vanish into the sea where the trawlers are winched in and out.

A couple of small fishing boats on the cobbled beach of Dungeness
The shoreline at Dungeness

Scattered throughout the pebbled coast are battered and worn out old fishing vessels, that are just left to wither and decay where they last rested. It creates such an emotive and equally cruel atmosphere.
Dungeness Estate is private and a nature reserve so you must respect the environment and its surroundings.
There are some weird and wonderful homes along the shore. Prospect Cottage was home to the late Derek Jarman, who was a film director, artist & author who lived his last few years in this isolated setting.

The pretty, black and yellow trimmed, Prospect Cottage, former home to Derek Jarman, at Dungeness.
Prospect Cottage at Dungeness

You’ll be astonished at the backdrop in Dungeness as it has some quaint fishing huts, attractive lighthouses. However, what may surprise you is Dungeness Nuclear Power Station. This power station has two reactors, one of which is still in operation.

Dungeness may sound an unusual coastal place to visit, but in my opinion, it is a must.

Where to stay in Dungeness

- Coastguard Lookout - For that little indulgence and remote, tranquil overnight stay, take a look at the converted ‘Coastguard Lookout’.

Take a Ride

In Dungeness, you can catch a ride on a miniature steam railway.
The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway miniature steam locomotive Samson being given a polish by the driver as the train is waiting at the Dungeness train station.
Check out the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway website.

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