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.
Parked up on the Kent coast
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
An interesting read
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
It’s good to talk!
The famous Ham Sandwich road sign
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 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.
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 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.
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.
The walls of Dover Castle
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
A bit more info?
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.
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 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.
Point to Note
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.
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.
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.
Take a Ride
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