What To Do around Folkestone – Days Out Exploring
Folkestone is a wonderful place to spend time being so close to the countryside, whilst being on the coast. There are beaches to enjoy, walks in the forest and Downs to explore and cultural activities to do. Venturing a little further out from the town you will find many more adventures. Folkelife wanted to highlight some rather special experiences for your list.
garden house orchards and the american garden
Situated in Saltwood, just 6 miles from Folkestone Harbour, this beautiful house and gardens are open for many months of the year. From June to October it’s Pick Your Own season with fresh fruit available including cherries, apples and pears. From late November you can come and choose your own Christmas Tree and see the landscape change throughout the seasons. In May, the American Garden is open at weekends and on bank holidays for everyone to enjoy a slice of cake and the amazing display of garden flowers. It’s a hidden gem and one you will be pleased to have found.
This coastal wilderness was created from the spoil heap from the Channel Tunnel. It stretches for 30 hectares and hosts a huge diversity of native plants, animals and insects. The site is managed by the White Cliffs Countryside Partnership who put on events, walks and talks. As well as organised sessions, the site is great to enjoy with friends or solo on walks at the feet of the White Cliffs of Dover. There are views back towards Folkestone Harbour, and across to France on a good day.
Royal military canal
The Royal Military Canal stretches from Seabrook, just along the coast from Folkestone, to East Sussex. It’s 28 miles long and can be walked alongside, cycled by, SUPed or kayaked on (although you need to lift your vessel on and off the water in certain places, and other areas need a license to cross. The canal was built in the early 1800s as a defence against Napoleonic invasion. Now it’s a hub for wildlife that loves water with dragonflies and Marsh frogs; there are water birds such as gliding swans, kingfishers and herons and plenty of flora to admire. Parts of the route follow the boundary of Port Lympne Wild Animal Park and you can glimpse giraffe from behind the trees.
pick a castle, any castle
Folkestone is surrounded by many different castles. The closest is the impressively situated Dover Castle looking over the White Cliffs to France. It’s been on this site since Norman times and played an important part in every period in history up to the Second World War. You will never see everything in one day, so English Heritage offer an annual ticket for easy return visits. Take a picnic and some comfortable shoes, the site is vast.
Henry VIII built a few castles in the area, and this is one of the ones you can visit. Walmer’s role was to help defend the southern shores of the Cinque Ports. These are a series of port towns along the south coast ranging from Essex to Sussex. There are many more than 5 towns in the Cinque Port collection – including Folkestone, but Walmer Castle became the home of the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports, one of whom was the Duke of Wellington. The castle has an original pair of Wellington Boots on display and there are wonderful gardens to discover too.
Another one of Henry VIII’s protective castles is Deal Castle, a short walk from Walmer. It is one of the finest Tudor artillery castles in the country. Deal Castle has underground tunnels, overhead battlements and stunning views out to sea. This was rather important in order to see any incoming approaches from France and the Holy Roman Empire.
Yet another castle, but this one is a little further away. It can be reached in under an hour’s drive from Folkestone and again has a ticket that lasts all year round. This castle is over 900 years’ old and again, was a favourite of Henry VIII but then the wonderful vista as you approach the castle really is rather stunning. There’s plenty to do inside and outside of the castle with bird displays, a maze to run, a medieval inspired climbing and play area, Culpepper kitchen gardens to explore and a dog collar museum to witness.
cathedral city of canterbury
Just over half an hour’s drive from Folkestone is the cathedral city of Canterbury. This is the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion and receives many visitors from around the world. Tucked in the centre of the town, behind its medieval walls, the cathedral is open to visitors when services are not on. The city walls extend around the shopping area and have incorporated various restaurants and bars within. You can enjoy an experience as if you were a character from Geoffery Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
The battle of Britain
The triangle of Folkestone, Hawkinge and Dover made up Hellfire Corner in the Battle of Britain during WW2. Hawkinge had the closest airfield to France so many of the Spitfires and Hurricanes took off from their on their sorties with the German Airforce. There is the Memorial to The Few at The Battle Of Britain Memorial at Capel. There is also the Kent Battle of Britain Museum situated on parts of the Hawkinge Airfield.
Port lympne wild animal park
This hotel and reserve showcases many of the conservation projects the Aspinall Foundation runs across the world. Their collection of gorillas, rhinos and large cats are helping to repopulate reserves in Africa and Asia where there is decline. There are many other animals to see, either as you walk around the huge area, or if you travel on their safari truck to reach the far corners of the park. There’s also the opportunity to stay overnight and wake up to wild animals calling for breakfast! H G Wells set his book The First Men In The Moon not far from here; the entrepid duo who reached for the moon were working from a house in Lympne at the turn of the 1900s.
Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
The country’s smallest railway runs from Hythe to Dungeness and is a fun day out. There are steam and diesel locomotives that trundle through the countryside of the Marsh stopping at various stations along the way. The final destination is at the foot of Dungeness Power Station and runs along the back of the wilderness of the shingle beach where Derek Jarman’s home still stands. This is now under the custodianship of Creative Folkestone and well worth a visit.