Folkestone to Dover: 14.5km (9 miles)
a) Alternative route via the Warren: 14.5km (9 miles) or 15.5km (9.6 miles)
b) Folkestone Circular: 12.1km (7.5 miles) or 13.2km (8.2 miles)
- One steep hill climb on all walks: 7 out of 10
- Rest of Folkestone to Dover: some gentle hills towards end: 4 out of 10
- Rest of Folkestone Circular: nearly flat – 2 out of 10.
OS Landranger 179, Explorer 138
This is a highly scenic coastal walk with fine sea views throughout. It introduces you to some of the quainter sides of Folkestone, a town which like many south coast seaside towns is undergoing something of a renaissance. You then climb up past two Martello Towers (Napoleonic-era fortifications) onto a high clifftop, following the North Downs Way. This path is easy to follow, has fine Channel views, and passes the Battle of Britain Memorial and then a fascinating series of World War II installations, including a rare sound mirror (an early form of aircraft detection that was superseded by radar), and some large gun emplacements.
The only downside on this latter section of the route is noise from the A20 dual carriageway just inland, though this is muted when the wind is blowing from the sea (ie, from the south or south west). In compensation there is a dramatic approach to Dover – a narrow (but not difficult) ridge between an inland valley and the sea. The walk finishes by crossing the town’s Western Heights, passing deserted 19th century forts and with wonderful views of the town and port.
a) Alternative route via the Warren. This option takes you into an area of wild coastline to the east of Folkestone, and passes along a concrete seafront esplanade with fine views of the cliffs. It then climbs one of two hidden paths that climb perfectly safely and easily up the cliffs to rejoin the North Downs Way on the clifftop. Depending on which path you take up the cliff this is the same length or 1km (0.6 miles) longer than the standard route. The longer option here is the one that accesses the lunch options of the Clifftop Cafe and Lighthouse Inn, though if you are having sandwiches or if you are sure that the Royal Oak is open, the same length option is more attractive.
b) Folkestone Circular walk. This uses the alternative route via the Warren and then follows the cliff top back to Folkestone, reversing the start of the main walk, with magnificent views and passing both the Clifftop tea room and the Battle of Britain Memorial. There is a choice of paths up the cliff (see paragraph 9 on page 8) making a walk of either 12.1km (7.5 miles or 13.2km (8.2 miles).
Folkestone Central is now served by high speed trains out of St Pancras, journey time just under one hour. There is a small supplement for this train, which you can avoid by taking the hourly train out of Charing Cross and London Bridge, which takes 1hr 45 minutes. Aim to arrive in Folkestone by 11.00 am if you want to get to one of the pubs in time for lunch
Dover is served by the same trains as Folkestone, and so also has high speed trains to St Pancras taking just over one hour, or trains to Charing Cross or Victoria taking 1hr 50 to 2hrs.
In summer this walk also offers good swimming opportunities mainly at the start or finish in Folkestone. The most popular place with locals is the Sunny Sands beach near the harbour which despite its location was one of the few on the south coast to be awarded the highest possible cleanliness rating by the Marine Conservation Council in 2009. However, the new beaches below the Leas clifftop esplanade at the start/end of the walk are perhaps a more scenic place for a dip.
The Warren also has beaches, and in the Edwardian era was a popular seaside spot. But the problem here is scattered underwater rocks and the metal stumps of old groynes (breakwaters) which would be concealed by most states of the tide. One or two sections of the beach near the start (as approached on this walk) are almost clear of obstructions, but you would really need to have visited this beach at low tide to identify these.
This is a good walk to bring a picnic (see early in the walk for a Tesco where you can buy a picnic if you have not brought one with you). There are numerous places on the clifftop to stop and eat it, and if you are doing options a) or b), then the Warren seafront is also an option. In winter or during the week, a picnic may be your only option: see below.
The Clifftop Cafe (01303 255 588), Capel-le-Ferme, 6km (3.7 miles) into the main walk, 6.7km (4.2 miles) or 7.8km (4.8 miles) into the Folkestone Circular walk (depending on which path you take up the cliffs), is exactly what it sounds like: a cafe with a cliff edge situation and with panoramic views from its terrace of the Warren, Folkestone and the sea. It is open at weekends in the winter, and daily from March, but all of this is “weather permitting”: ie if it is pouring with rain, it may not be open.
The Lighthouse Inn (01303 254080) is 250 metres from the Clifftop Cafe. It serves food ("pub classics") from 12-2.30pm Thursday to Saturday, 12-4pm on Sunday. Note that there is no lunch service Monday to Wednesday. The pub also does food in the evenings from 6pm Wednesday to Saturday. The pub is open for drinks all afternoon Tuesday to Sunday but closed entirely on Monday.
The Royal Oak (01303 244 787), 100 metres inland from the top of the cliff path, 7.1km (4.4 miles) into the main walk, and so is a possible later lunch stop (earlier on the longer circular walk). It is a somewhat basic pub serving a caravan park but does food daily.
Tea choices in Dover include a Costa Coffee, open till 7pm Monday to Saturday and 5pm on Sunday, and a Weatherspoons pub: see the walk directions for this option for details. There is also a station buffet at Dover station open till 6pm Monday to Saturday but only 3pm Sunday
- On the Folkestone Circular walk:
The Clifftop Cafe (01303 255 588), Capel-le-Ferme, 7.7km or 4.8 miles into the walk, ie just beyond the Lighthouse Inn, is exactly what it sounds like: a cafe with a cliff edge situation and with panoramic views from its terrace of the Warren, Folkestone and the sea. It is open at weekends in the winter, and daily from March, but all of this is “weather permitting”: ie if it is pouring with rain, it may not be open
The Battle of Britain Memorial, inland about half a kilometre after the Clifftop Cafe, has a visitor’s centre with a cafe that is open 11.00am to 5pm daily from 1 April to 30 September
Folkestone itself plenty of tea options. There is a seasonal cafe on the harbour beach. There are also several cafes in the Old High Street area though these seem to come and go: one that currently looks very nice is the Steep Street Coffee House just over half way up Old High Street on the left, which is open till 6pm Monday to Saturday, and till 5pm on Sunday. A bit further on, in the main shopping street in Folkestone, there is a Costa Coffee (see directions for location) which is open until 6pm Monday to Saturday and 5pm on Sunday
If you go back to the station via the Leas clifftop esplanade, there is also a cafe in the glass-sided atrium to the Leas Cliff Hall, which is situated in the middle of the esplanade just before you turn inland to go to the station.
Lastly, at Folkestone Central station the buffet on the platform is open till 6pm Monday to Saturday (not sure about Sundays).
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Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk