Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh
Artistic enclaves, stunning shores, unique histories and expansive wildlife escapes make Folkestone, Hythe & Romney Marsh in Kent well worth a visit.
In the quaint regenerated streets of Folkestone, you'll discover cutting-edge art in its unique Creative Quarter, which houses over 100 artistic enterprises within its cobbled centre. Explore pastel-painted studio-galleries, and indulge in quirky stores, laid-back bars and chic eateries. The mile-long cliff-top promenade of The Leas is just a short stroll away, offering sea views to France, and a ride to the Lower Leas Coastal Park where you can enjoy a picnicor BBQ on the beach; or head to the Folkestone Harbour Arm for an eclectic mix of food, drink and enterntainment. Be sure to try Rocksalt for super-fresh fish and al-fresco dining with superb harbour views. Eurotunnel Le Shuttle also brings France closer too, with Folkestone just 35 minutes away from Calais.
The south Kent coast has long protected the realm. Hythe, New Romney, Sandwich, Dover and Hastings united in the 11th-century as the original Cinque Ports. Henry VIII built diminutive Sandgate Castle in 1539. A chain of sturdy Martello Towers, stretching from Folkestone to Sussex, went up during the Napoleonic wars, while the planes, hangars and artefacts of Folkestone's Kent Battle of Britain Museum, and the heroic story re-told at the Battle of Britain Memorial speak eloquently of the aircrews that defended the skies.
History is tangible too in Hythe Kent, from 10th century St Leonard's Church with its skull-packed ossuary, to the family-run stores and antiques shops all over town. While the Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant can always be relied upon for just-caught fish and spectacular sea views.
The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway offers a scenic, marsh-side, steam-powered puff from Hythe, through New Romney, to Dungeness. The Napoleonic-era Royal Military Canal stretches for 28 miles, with shorter towpath cycle and walking routes fanning out from Hythe. It can also be cruised by electric or hired row-boat too.
Nearby Port Lympne Reserve and Howletts Wild Animal Park are alive with lions, tigers, gorillas and meerkats to provide a truly wild day out. You can even bed down (almost) beside the beasts at Livingstone Lodge, Britain's only overnight safari-park-stay.
With huge skies and clear air, Romney Marsh offers freedom, space and a place to think. Its 100 square miles of unspoilt countryside takes in woodland, wetlands and sand and shingle shores. Pay a visit to the Romney Marsh Visitor Centre for information about the history and wildlife of this unique landscape, as well as tips on other things to see and do. Cinque Port towns New Romney and Lydd supply compelling stories and smugglers' tales, while the huge RSPB nature reserve at Dungeness delivers birdlife at its most magnificent. Prospect Cottage - the home of outspoken author and film-maker Derek Jarman - provides a unique insight into writing, living and gardening - ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.
Be sure to visit Elham Valley, nestled midway between Canterbury and Folkestone, within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, providing a multitude of woodland walks and country pubs.
Getting here is very simple, if you live near a motorway, head for the M20, turn off at any junction between 10 and 13 and follow the signs; or if travelling via the M2 turn off at junction 7 for Canterbury, then via the B2068 to join the M20 or A20.
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