Dover, Deal & Sandwich
England's most charismatic chunks of chalk, chic eateries, boutique sleep spots, history-rich ports and prime golf courses, make this a must-see stretch of Kent coast.
The White Cliffs of Dover are iconic. Immortalised in song and film for decades, this spectacular wall of crumbly, creamy chalk stretches for 20 miles. Drink in its craggy beauty on a ferry to Dover or a high speed RIB; on a cliff-backed beach or a cliff-top trail to the South Foreland Lighthouse; the National Trust Visitor Centre and Samphire Hoe make great places to start.
The history is so vivid at Dover Castle the past feels more like the present. This magnificent fortification is alive with vibrant furnishings, every-day artefacts and costumed actors. The audio-visual displays of the castle's Secret Wartime Tunnels evoke an underground hospital and the retreat from Dunkirk. Meanwhile, the Dover Museum provides a new twist on cross-channel ferries: a 3000 year-old, sea-going Bronze Age boat.
Next, time to re-fuel and rest. For a soothing spa, fine meal and sound sleep book Walletts Court or the White Cliffs Hotel; check into The Marquis, a boutique restaurant-with-rooms; enjoy 4-star comfort at Ramada or go all nautical at the Dover Marina Hotel.
Don't miss Deal, with its award-winning high street, mazy smugglers' lanes and independent shops. Buzzing cafes and pubs sit alongside a photogenic seafront that's home to a sweeping pier and quirky maritime clock; the Timeball Tower. Prowl the battlements and captain's quarters at Deal Castle, then visit nearby Walmer Castle - this former command post to the Duke of Wellington even features an original pair of Wellington boots. At day's end sleep beside the waves at the Royal Hotel on Deal seafront.
With a feast of medieval architecture, Sandwich boasts some of the best-preserved half-timbered houses in the country. Traditions linger too: listen out for the tolling of the curfew bell every night at 8pm. The Secret Gardens of Sandwich provide fragrance, tranquillity, a Lutyens house and Gertrude Jekyll design. Where to eat and sleep? Why not check into the chic Bell Hotel or a cosy B&B - or opt for great-value camping or self-catering across the District.
And this strip of Kent is home to some truly great golf. Royal St George’s hosted the 2011 Open Golf Championships, while Kingsdown and Walmer is a challenging downland course. For two more testing links courses head to the Royal Cinque Ports or Prince's Golf Club; it also offers top-notch food at The Brasserie on the Bay and sleek rooms in The Lodge.
Discover more at www.whitecliffscountry.org.uk