Centuries of intrigue …
The City of Canterbury is a great size and easily walkable in a day. However, you’ll struggle to pull yourselves away from the charming boutiques, quaint tea shops and the alluring old English pubs (it has something for everyone).
Only around an hour from London by train and you’ll be immersing yourselves in all that is quintessentially English, in the picturesque south-east county of Kent.
Our home county
Gary and I live in Kent and are only about 30 miles (50 km) away from Canterbury, so may appear slightly biased, but there is good reason.
We have put together a stroll around the city, which encompasses it’s historical and quirky points en route. It’s a circular tour so you can pick it up wherever you wish.
We started at the medieval Westgate Tower, now the largest surviving city gate in England. Canterbury once was encircled by a wall and seven medieval gates, Westgate is the only one that now remains.
Head along the Great Stour river walk through Westgate Gardens, passing by the Guildhall and the Tower House. You may even want to enjoy a punt on the river
Strolling through the park which covers part of the original Roman wall, you’ll be heading towards the ruins of Canterbury Castle.
Meeting the Old Roman Road
You’ll also meet a section of the old Roman Road, later known as Watling Street, laid over the pathway the early Britons used which connected London to Dover (and many other places too!)
William I – The Conqueror
Canterbury Castle, built originally of wood by William the Conqueror in motte-and-bailey style. Then later rebuilt in the early 12th-century of stone, Canterbury Castle was one of three Royal Castles built in Kent (the other two are Rochester and Dover).
The ruins of the castle are currently inaccessible to the public.
Stroll through the gardens
From here we headed up Castle Street and right down Castle Row. Passing by some lovely old terraced houses, until we came to Don Jon House and where another of Canterbury’s gates would have once stood ‘Wincheap Gate’.
Directly opposite are Dane John gardens, take time to wander around, up along the city walls passing the mound, which was once a former Roman cemetery.
Passing over Watling Street again
Exiting right into ancient Watling Street, which has seen centuries of people passing through on their way up to London & beyond.
Head left at Kingsgate up along the city walls and keep wandering along until you reach Burgate (more of those missing gates).
Step outside the city walls and walk towards St Augustine’s Abbey, part of Canterbury’s UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here you’ll also find the ornate, Abbot Fyndon’s Great Gate, which overlooks Lady Wootton’s Green & the statues of King Ethelbert & Queen Bertha of Kent.
This is a pleasant little square a calming break before heading into the delightful hustle and bustle of the City centre.
Buttermarket here we come
Retrace your steps and stroll down Burgate, this is where you’ll find the start of the quaint little shops, half-timbered homes and charming cobbled lanes, nestled within some fantastic architecture.
Passing by Tower of St Magdalene, stroll along until you reach delightful square of The Buttermarket, which opens out to reveal the stunning Christchurch Gate to Canterbury Cathedral.
The Buttermarket, renamed around 200-years ago, used to be called the Bull Stake.
Not to go into too much detail, however, bulls and baiting were involved.
Today its centrepiece is a Canterbury’s war memorial.
Murder within the walls
Now it’s time to head into Canterbury Cathedral, and probably the most famous Christian building in England, and the diocese of Church of England leader, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Founded in 597, although rebuilt in 1077, the Cathedral is renowned for pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket.
He 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.
In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his Canterbury Tales, which were stories of pilgrim’s journeys to Becket’s shrine.
Also within the beautiful Cathedral is a peaceful cloister, the tomb of King Henry IV & the Black Prince and some eye-catching stained glass windows.
Back to school
Gary and I wandered around the back of the cathedral, strolling through the old arches and then headed into the grounds of King’s School. Which is known to be the oldest continuously operated school in the world since 597AD.
Within the school are some wonderful old buildings including the schoolhouse dating from 1860 and the Norman staircase dating from the 12th century.
The King’s Mile
Continuing out the school gate and left towards King Street, you are now in the heart of The King’s Mile. A collection of streets and lanes within eyeshot of the ancient cathedral.
There are some interesting shops and restaurants around here, but what may catch your eye is the quaint 17th-century half-timbered, bookshop (on the corner of King St & Palace St) yes, it really is tilting.
No time for shopping
Now back at the Buttermarket turn right onto Mercery Lane, passing once again half-timbered houses and some little boutiques. Turn right and head along the High Street.
Some of the architecture along the High Street is delightful, particularly Beaney House opened in 1899 and is home to a free museum, art gallery and library.
You then pass the bronze statue of Geoffrey Chaucer, and onto the final stop of your journey.
The Huguenot weavers’ houses, by the bridge over the Great Stour river.
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.
Inspired to visit Canterbury?
Although this walk will only take a few hours, there’s plenty to see and do in Canterbury.
You could even pick up a show at the Marlowe Theatre.
It also makes a great base to explore other parts of Kent.
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