by Janis on 19th January 2018 / 2 comments

Follow in the footsteps of Kings, Saints & Scholars

In the heart of the "Garden of England", Canterbury encases so much rich history that even the local King's School can boast of being the oldest in the world.

The historic City of Canterbury is just under a one-hour journey on a train from London and an enjoyable day out for the family.

In no time at all, you’ll be immersing yourselves in all that is quintessentially English in the picturesque county of Kent.

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Where is Canterbury

How to get there

- By Train
You can catch a train from London St Pancras to Canterbury West Station, which takes around 1 hour.

- By Car
Canterbury is around 8 miles (12.8km) off Junction 7 of the M2 motorway. Parking: there are a few car parks in and around the city; however, they can be expensive. You may wish to choose ‘Park and Ride’.

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

On pilgrimage to Thomas Becket's shrine
Throughout Canterbury, there are charming references and reminders to the incredible 14th-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.
A statue to Geoffrey Chaucer, dressed as a pilgrim, sharing his Canterbury Tales, in the High Street of Canterbury, Kent.
The Canterbury Tales
Geoffrey Chaucer created many remarkable literary works; however, one collection in particular that he is remembered for is The Canterbury Tales.

The collection comprises of 24 tales, each from an individual's perspective of their pilgrimage. Amongst the 24 were a Friar, a Shipman and a Physician.
 
Chaucer produced fascinating stories of the pilgrim’s lives and their journeys to Thomas Becket's shrine in Canterbury Cathedral.
 
Geoffrey Chaucer is interred in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey, London.

The cover to Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales
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Arriving at Canterbury Cathedral

Christchurch Gate at The Buttermarket
Chaucer’s pilgrims would have arrived at Canterbury Cathedral entrance via the 'Bull Stake'. Now I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but bulls and baiting were involved. Thankfully the charming square had a name change around 200-years ago to 'The Buttermarket.'
The cobbled pedestrian Buttermarket area of Canterbury, with the war memorial in the centre.
The Buttermarket, Canterbury
This picturesque square is encircled by delightful historic buildings, which reveal the stunning Christchurch Gate. The spectacular and ornate entrance to Canterbury Cathedral.
The ornate stone Christchurch gate entrance to the Canterbury Cathedral
The Christchurch Gate entrance to Canterbury Cathedral
The stone war memorial in the Buttermarket area of Canterbury
The War Memorial
Today the Buttermarket’s emphasis is Canterbury’s War Memorial.

Visit some of Kent’s Historic Towns, Villages & Cities

Kent is not short of picturesque historic towns & villages,  Why not check out our posts on those we've visited with tips & inspiration to get the most out of your visit?

There’s been a murder at Canterbury Cathedral

Thomas Becket was slain by King Henry II’s Knights
Strolling through Christchurch Gate, you’re are greeted by the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral. Culturally the centrepiece of the city and undoubtedly the most famous Christian building in England.
The crypt end of Canterbury Cathedral under a dusky sky.
Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral was founded in AD 597; it was unfortunately destroyed by a fire in 1067, a year after the Norman Conquest. The cathedral was rebuilt entirely by 1077 to a design based closely on that of the Abbey of Saint-Étienne in Caen.

Canterbury Cathedral is not only the seat of the leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it is also renowned for the shrine of Thomas Becket.

An interior view down the nave of Canterbury Cathedral in Kent
Inside the Cathedral
A modern art piece consisting of 3 medieval swords above the spot where Archbishop Thomas Becket was executed in Canterbury Cathedral.
Where Thomas Becket was slain
Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral by four of King Henry II’s Knights in 1170. A sculpture marks the spot where the Archbishop was killed.
A black and white image of the Tomb of the Black Prince surrounded by railings
The Tomb of the Black Prince
Wandering through the beautiful Cathedral are gorgeous stained-glass windows and a peaceful cloister. This holds the tomb of King Henry IV and also 'The Black Prince'.

Did you know?

Did you know? That the Canterbury Cathedral been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1988

The King's School, Canterbury

The oldest school in the world
The King’s School was founded in AD 597, the same year as Canterbury Cathedral. This ancient school is acknowledged to be the oldest continuously operated school in the world.
A gatehouse in King's School, Canterbury
A gatehouse in King's School, Canterbury
Within the King’s School grounds are some wonderful historic buildings. Including the schoolhouse dating from 1860 and the Norman Staircase is dating from the 12th century.
A stone cross in Memorial Court, King's School, Canterbury
Historic Canterbury
The King’s School in Canterbury was followed seven years later in AD 604 by the world’s second-oldest continuously operated school, The King’s School in Rochester, Kent.

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.

Kent's Strangest Tales Cover

The King's Mile, Canterbury

Explore the ancient picturesque lanes
Heading out of King’s School gate and you are now in the heart of The King’s Mile. A collection of intriguing streets and cobble-stoned lanes all within eyeshot of the ancient cathedral.
A shop with a red frontage in a historic building on the King's Mile in Canterbury
Crowthers in the King's Mile
A crooked 17th-century shop on the King's Mile in Canterbury
Sir John Boys House or the Crooked House
There are some fantastic independent shops and eateries around here. Although what may catch your eye is the quaint 17th-century half-timbered bookshop (on the corner of King St & Palace St). It has a bit of an odd angle about it (check out the front door).
The Sun Inn, a 15th-century Tudor building on a cobbled street in Canterbury
The Sun Hotel, Canterbury

Another notable building in the King's Mile is the unique Sun Hotel, a Grade II listed building once visited by Charles Dickens.
 
The Sun Hotel was formerly The Little Inn, built-in 1503 and featured in the novel ‘David Copperfield’ by Charles Dickens; it became Micawber's ‘Little Inn’.

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.

Then came the French Huguenots to Canterbury

Discover the Old Weavers' House by the Great Stour river
Just off the King's Mile is Canterbury High Street. Along this historic street are many notable buildings, including Beaney House, which opened in 1899. It is now home to The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. It is a free museum, art gallery and library (definitely worth a visit).
Beaney House, a late 19th-century Tudor revival building that is now home to the central museum, library and art gallery of the city of Canterbury
Beaney House of Art and Knowledge
Ambling along the High Street, you'll also notice the Old Weavers' House by the bridge over the Great Stour river.
A side shot of the Old Weavers' house alongside a branch of the River Stour running through Canterbury
The Old Weavers' House, Canterbury

During the 17th century, the French-speaking Protestant Huguenots arrived in the UK fleeing persecution. They introduced silk weaving to the City and soon made up 2,000 of Canterbury’s 5,000 population.

There is still a service, in French, held at the Huguenots chapel in Canterbury Cathedral every Sunday at 3:00pm.
 
If you look further down the High Street, you will see the Westgate

Our Kent road trips

If you’ve fallen in love with the county of Kent, we’ve created a few road trips around the “Garden of England” that we believe you will enjoy too.

Enter through Canterbury's city gatehouse

To The Tower

The medieval Westgate is the largest surviving city gatehouse in England. It is the last one of Canterbury's seven city gates remaining.

Westgate was constructed in 1380 of Kentish ragstone and still remains in use today as traffic passes through its ancient drum towers.

The stone Westgate medieval gatehouse in Canterbury
The Westgate
Canterbury was once a walled city which was erected by the Romans in the 1st-century AD.
Canterbury's City Walls around the edge of Dane John Gardens in the south-east of the city
Canterbury's City Walls

The original city wall was built around AD 300, while the remaining wall, which is in place today, dates from the 14th-century.
 
Adjacent to the Westgate Tower is Westgate Gardens, with the Guildhall, the Tower House and a 200-year-old Plane tree within it.

The Great Stour river running through Westgate Gardens towards Westgate, Canterbury, Kent, England
The Great Stour & Westgate gardens
Westgate Gardens is a really pleasant and peaceful park to stroll around. If you are visiting Canterbury at the right time of year, you may even be able to enjoy some punting on the river.

Tourist Information

Canterbury has a wide selection of places to eat & drink, from the heartwarming and traditional to the stylish and eclectic.

The Corner House – Set within a 16th Century Coach House in the heart of Canterbury, serving beautiful dishes using delicious Kent sourced produce.
Azouma Restaurant – An independent restaurant creating delectable Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes.
The Korean Cowgirl – Located just a short stroll from Canterbury Cathedral is a great smokehouse, serving delicious Texan cuisine and Korean fried chicken.

Where to stay in Canterbury

- Canterbury Cathedral Lodge – Fancy something a little different. Why not stay in the heart of the city, within the peaceful and private grounds of Canterbury Cathedral.
- The Hugo - Hotel Concept Canterbury - This central hotel in Canterbury offers room-only accommodation so that you can enjoy a delicious breakfast at a local street-side café.

Canterbury Castle Ruins

William the Conqueror's Legacy
To the south of Canterbury are the ruins of the ancient Norman Canterbury Castle, built originally of wood by William the Conqueror in motte-and-bailey style.
The stone exterior of the Norman Canterbury Castle
Canterbury Castle

Canterbury Castle was then later rebuilt in the early 12th-century of stone. Canterbury Castle was one of three Royal Castles built in Kent during the reign of Henry I. The other two famous fortresses are Rochester Castle and Dover Castle.

Unfortunately, Canterbury Castle has been closed to the public since 2018 due to deteriorating masonry.

Need a car?

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  1. Inspirational and informative post. I expect that a lot more Britons will be exploring British cities over the coming months, due to concerns about travelling abroad in the wake of the coronavirus. Your site has beautiful photos.

    1. Author

      Thanks Stuart, there’s some fascinating history in Canterbury and the countryside all around it is beautiful. I think you’re right about home tourism, it’s certainly where will be venturing to in the short term.
      The credit goes to Gary for the lovely photos.

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