A visit to the coastal town of Hythe in Kent, England

In Counties, Days Out, Kent, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel by Janis2 Comments

A little bit different from your usual seaside town

Where is Hythe? I hear you say, well, it’s a coastal market town in Kent, in the southeast of the UK. Charming location for a family day out or a lovely weekend break. On a clear day, you can even see France, but hey we’re not going there today, we're off to the English seaside.
Tiny fishing boats  on the shale beach at Hythe in Kent
Alice on the beach at Hythe

Hythe had been on my list of places to visit for quite a while, not only as it’s on the coast and I love anywhere with a shoreline.

But Hythe has an ossuary, and if you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that I have a bit of thing for visiting cemeteries and churchyards.

This was going to interesting!

Quick Links

A close up of a collection of bones from the ossuary at St. Leonard’s Church and Crypt in Hythe
Up close, inside the Ossuary
I don’t want to put you off immediately, if visiting a crypt isn’t quite for you, so, I’ll let you into a few other secrets as to why you’d enjoy a visit to Hythe, Kent.
A tourist information board on the street with a map of the old town and key points of interest in Hythe
The heritage town sign

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.


Hythe beach, what no sand?

Now, firstly as a coastal town you may be thinking, yay we’re going to the seaside; however, that’s what’s different about Hythe in Kent. It’s not candyfloss, arcades and sandy beaches, this is a coastal town with a difference.
The long shale beach at Hythe

The Pebble beach at Hythe

The Griggs of Hythe seafood stall right on the shale beach

Griggs of Hythe for seafood

The seashore is awash with pebbles and is still used by the local fisherman to haul their daily catch across.

So, definitely, a place to visit for some fresh fish.

Where have you been?

Have you visited any of Kent’s ancient historical towns, drop a comment below to tell us where you enjoyed visiting?

Hythe's Martello Towers

You can certainly sit on the beach and enjoy the sunshine and sea; I’m just saying you’ll need sandals. Take a stroll along the coastline, and you’ll see the working fishing boats and also two of Hythe’s Martello Towers.

A beach scene from Hythe with fishing boats landed on the shale, and the Martello Towers in the background

The working shoreline

Once there were 74 Martello Towers all along the coastline from Folkestone in Kent to Seaford in East Sussex. They were originally built as a defence against an invasion by Napoleon and then later used to combat smuggling, a trade that was quite prevalent along this coast.

Fishing boats on the beach at Hythe with the Martello Towers in the background

Martello Tower on the shore at Hythe

During the 12th-century Hythe, Kent became one of the five main “Cinque Ports”. This was set up by Royal Charter pre-Royal Navy to supply ships to The Crown and recruit local mariners.
A roundabout decorated with flower baskets at the entrance to Hythe displaying signs for the town, its status as a Cinque Port and one from the Small Arms School

Town signs at Hythe

Interested in the coast around England?

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.


Different from the norm

Now, what is slightly unusual about Hythe, Kent is that the town is around ½ a mile inland from the sea, so it almost doesn’t feel like a seaside town.
A view of the historic buildings on the quiet roads of Hythe in Kent
Quaint lanes of Hythe

When wandering into Hythe from the coast, you stroll through some quaint streets and lanes passing by cottages that were once home to local fishermen, traditional pubs and businesses from an era gone by. 

A tradition car repair garage in a 1920's building in Hythe
The Hythe Garage

Go Wild

If you’ve decided to visit Hythe as a mini-break, why not spend a day visiting Port Lympne Wildlife Park? Or its sister park Howletts Wild Animal Park, they specialise in breeding gorillas for reintroduction into the wild.

Row, row, row your boat

Then what also gives Hythe its unique character is the Royal Military Canal that runs through the middle. 

Boats moored up on the Military Canal in Hythe

Boats on the Military Canal in Hythe

This 28 mile (45km) stretch of canal was also built as a defence against Napoleon. It runs from Seabrook near Folkestone to just outside Hastings in the south. Nowadays it has a tree-lined walkway along its edge, and you can hire a boat to enjoy the canal first-hand. 

A lone motorboat making it's way up the Military Canal in Hythe
The Military Canal in Hythe

Strolling along the canal is really pleasant, there are some delightful statues and memorials, children’s play areas, gardens and it’s a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by.

Hythe Old Town

Crossing over the canal, we arrive at Hythe’s historic market town centre. 

The Old Post Office, now a guest house, and the Malthouse, a warehouse that was once part of a brewery

The Old Post Office & Malthouse in Hythe

There are so many delightful shops and old stores. It really does make you wonder how some of these businesses survive when there is so much competition from the “Big Boys”. It proves that local support is still thriving in some towns and villages.

A mix of building on the historic High Street of Hythe

The historic High Street of Hythe

Over the years the old town in Hythe has developed, although it has still managed to keep several of its charming Medieval and Georgian buildings. It is Interspersed with some of today’s modern stores, where possible the locals have tried to blend with the character of the town.
The King's head, a Shepherd Neame pub, next to Hendricks of Hythe a  Chocolaterie on the High Street

King Head pub & Hendricks of Hythe Chocolaterie

Along the main High Street is Hythe’s Town Hall a former Guildhall built in 1794. There are some beautiful half-timbered buildings, traditional old pubs and I certainly wouldn’t say no to the chocolaterie. 

Hythe's 18th-century town hall with its clock on brackets projecting from the building

Hythe's Town Hall

If you head up the lane to the side of the Town Hall, you’ll discover some of the lovely little streets, with beautiful cottages and manicured gardens. Also, the 12th-century ragstone building ‘Centuries House’, which was the birthplace and home of the Bishop of Rochester. In 1336 he founded St Andrew’s hospital for the poor in this same building. 

The 13th-Century 'Centuries House' in  Hythe, one of Kent's historic buildings
Centuries House

Off to Hythe Ossuary

If you keep heading up, you’ll arrive at St. Leonard’s Church and Crypt. Yes, you’ve reached the Hythe Ossuary. This place is incredible, it’s around £2 admission and so worth it.
A stack of skulls held in the Ossuary of St Leonard’s Church in Hythe
Skulls in the Ossuary

The Crypt was created as the chancel was to be extended. Therefore, graves were dug up to accommodate for this.

The earliest written evidence of this collection is from 17th-century.

It is the largest and best-preserved collection in Britain.  Just within its four arched alcoves are 1,022 skulls. Go take a look is fascinating.

Ossuary “All you need to know”

The Ossuary in the crypt of St Leonard’s Church is only open from Easter through the summer months, so check on the link for more information.

Additionally, there is a stack of bones and skulls measuring over 25 feet (7.8 metres) in length by around 6 feet (1.8 metres) in width and height. It is believed that the total number of individuals represented is about 2,000.

Bones stacked up under the vaulted roof of the Ossuary of St Leonard’s Church in Hythe

Inside the Crypt

Skulls stacked on shelves in the Ossuary of St Leonard’s Church in Hythe

Towering Skulls

The larger stack of bones was placed on a concrete base in 1910 and has never been dismantled since. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it. Although in July 2018, some nasty ‘erberts stole 21 of the skulls from Hythe Ossuary, it’s unbelievable why someone would do this.
A wall of bones in the Ossuary of St Leonard’s Church in Hythe

A look inside the Ossuary

I must confess

This is not the first time we’ve visited an Ossuary. While we were in Evora in Portugal in 2018, we visited the Chapel of Bones, which has around 5,000 bones from 500 monks.

More things to do in Hythe

Hythe has a railway and not just any old railway, it runs a route named the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RHDR).

A steam train from the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway departing Hythe station
Steam in miniature at Hythe
The departure board of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway at Hythe station
The next train departs...

The train isn’t full size though, it’s a one-third size steam & diesel locomotive.  It runs along a 13½ mile line, stopping at seven stations en-route.

Starting from Hythe and terminating at the very intriguing coastal Nature Reserve of Dungeness.  The locomotive has been chugging through the countryside since 1927, today it is run by a very friendly and enthusiastic group of volunteers.

The engine and the front carriages of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway leaving the station at Hythe.
Vintage steam on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

Save Money

You can buy your tickets online in advance and save 10%. The prices vary depending on how far along the route you want to go.

Or if you just wanted to have platform pass and take a look at the locomotive, then it is only 25p.

Would you like a little more?

We have created a little YouTube video of Hythe.

Why not subscribe to our channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

Inspired to visit Hythe?

Why not stay overnight and enjoy a full day heading to Dungeness or a day at Port Lympne & Howletts Wildlife parks?
The open roads await, pop in your location details then Rental Cars will search well-known car hire brands and discover the deals that suit you the best.
Have a peek at the latest offers from Booking.com, our preferred hotel booking website.
Booking.com
A visit to the coastal town of Hythe in Kent, England

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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