Strolling the ancient lanes of Canterbury, England

In Canterbury, Cities, Counties, Days Out, Kent, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel, Unesco by JanisLeave a Comment

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.

Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shop, Canterbury, Kent, England

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.

West Gate

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.

The West Gate, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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

The Great Stour, Canterbury, Kent, England

Strolling through the park which covers part of the original Roman wall, you’ll be heading towards the ruins of Canterbury Castle.

Strolling through the gardens, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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!) 

The Roman Watling Street, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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).

Canterbury Castle, Kent, England, UK

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’.

Dane John Gardens, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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.

Canterbury's City Walls, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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.

Along City Walls, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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.

Abbot Fyndon's Great Gate, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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.

A statue to King Ethelbert, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK
A statue to Queen Bertha of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

This is a pleasant little square a calming break before heading into the delightful hustle and bustle of the City centre.

English Heritage

St Augustine’s Abbey is one of over 400 historic places with free access to English Heritage members.

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.

Strolling along Burgate, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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 Butter Market, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK
The Christchurch Gate, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK
The War Memorial, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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.

Entrance Fee

There is a charge to enter the grounds, including the Cathedral unless attending a service. More information can be found here.

If you wish to skip this part of the walk we recommend you carry on up Sun Street towards Palace Street and you’ve entered the King’s Mile, alternatively head down Mercery Lane to pick up the High Street.

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.

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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.

The spot where Thomas Becket was put to death in Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his Canterbury Tales, which were stories of pilgrim’s journeys to Becket’s shrine.

Standing Inside the Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK
A candle burns for St Thomas, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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.

Did you know?

That the Canterbury Cathedral been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1988

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.

In the King's school grounds, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK
King's school grounds, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

Why not?

Also include a trip to the historic town of Rochester in Kent, where you can visit one of the other Royal Castles?

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.

Sir John Boys House, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

We continue along colourful Palace Street, heading back up towards the Cathedral and picking up the cobbled lane of Sun Street.

Here you’ll find the Sun Hotel, formerly The Little Inn, which was built in 1503 and made famous by Charles Dickens.

The Sun Hotel, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

Refreshments en-route

Our walk is about 2.7miles or 4.4kms, so you may fancy a refreshment or two on the way. Worry not there are plenty of cafés, tea rooms, pubs and restaurants en-route.

For something more substantial, and a fine plate of British food why not try Deeson’s on Sun Street?

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.

High Street and Mercery Lane, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK
Butchery Lane, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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.

Beaney House, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

For More Information

While visiting Beaney House, pop into the Canterbury Tourist Office which is within the same building.

The Huguenots

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.

The Canterbury Tales monument, Canterbury, Kent, England, UK

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.

The Old Weavers House, Canterbury, Kent, England

You’ve made it, if you look further down the High Street you will see Westgate Tower, where you started.

The High Street, Canterbury, Kent, England

Tempted to go?

You can catch a train from London St Pancras to Canterbury West Station which only takes around 1 hour. Or if you are driving, consider the Park & Ride options.

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.

Why not check out the latest deals on Booking.Com?
Strolling the ancient lanes of Canterbury, England

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Have You?

Walked the streets of Canterbury’s old city centre? Or are you inspired to visit this Kentish city?

About the Author


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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