Kent's Heritage Coast - Lonely Planet's Best in Travel

We’ve always known that Kent’s stunning heritage coastline is an incredibly special destination delivering unforgettable experiences for tourists from all over the globe - but now you don’t just have to take our word for it!

Global travel authority Lonely Planet have placed Kent at number four on their highly anticipated and revered list of the world’s best regions to visit - Best in Travel 2022’. The list defines the top 10 hottest countries, cities, and regions to visit next year, for the ultimate in must-have travel experiences.

Recognising Kent’s Heritage Coast’s unique combination of history, heritage and iconic natural landscapes, Lonely Planet have given our glorious coastline their official stamp of approval as the only UK destination to feature within this year’s illustrious round-up. Already recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Kent’s Heritage Coast is home to stunning sandy beaches, iconic chalk faces, a thriving cultural and creative scene, heritage hotspots, and an exciting, rolling programme of events.

Citing Dover Castle as a “historic highlight,” Folkestone’s “contemporary artistic appeal” and the Kent Downs’ “quintessential English landscape of rolling hills,” Lonely Planet have recognised the best that this seriously stunning stretch of coastline has to offer, and we couldn’t be prouder! Also highlighting the county’s commitment to sustainable tourism initiatives such as the regeneration of the historic town of Dover, Creative Folkestone, plans to establish a Biosphere Reserve, and securing the Strait of Dover as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they have really given tourists a reason to visit this year.

So, now you’ve heard it from the experts – here’s what we think makes Kent’s coastline so special, and why you shouldn’t miss out on visiting this internationally acclaimed hotspot over the coming months…

CREATIVITY IS CALLING…

The Kent art scene is absolutely thriving, making it a truly exciting time to visit the area. Browse around independent galleries, immerse yourself in creative culture, discover inspiring local talent, and let your imagination run wild…Kent is ready and waiting to spark your creativity…

Seaside town Folkestone is having a real ‘moment’ with its beautiful beaches, foodie revolution and artistic explosion. Don’t miss the Folkestone Artworks, a collection of outstanding works by Creative Folkestone for the Folkestone Triennial or the popular Creative Quarter in the pretty old town bustling with cafés, galleries and independent shops. When you’re ready to refuel, check out the trending food outlets at the Harbour Arm for delicious street food and local delicacies, all served up with a side of spectacular sea views.

Another huge driver of the burst in Kent’s artistic culture is the Turner Contemporary in Margate, just along the coast – head to this internationally-renowned gallery for exhibitions and displays of contemporary and historical art in a striking, sea-front building. The Isle of Thanet is sprinkled with exciting galleries, quaint independent shops, cosy cafés and innovative artists with Broadstairs, Margate and Ramsgate proudly standing as some of the most exciting
creative hubs in the UK.

A STEP BACK IN TIME…

Travel back to the past at one of Kent’s coastal castles, steeped in history and real sights to behold. Known as the Key to England, Dover Castle has always been in our nation's first line of defence, guarding our shores from invasion for 20 centuries. Always an action-packed family day out, Dover Castle comes complete with secret passageways, winding tunnels, ghost stories, exhibitions and lots of great on-site facilities. Dedicated to those who fought in the skies to protect England from being invaded during World War II, the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne near Folkestone offers a fascinating look into life during the 1940s.

Originally a Tudor fortress, nearby Walmer Castle became the residence of many famous names from the Duke of Wellington to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. In the castle grounds, discover eight acres of award-winning gardens and woodland and a brand-new natural play trail. After unravelling the wonderful history of Deal, only a short drive away lies Richborough Roman Fort in Sandwich. This Saxon shore fortress is perhaps one of the most significant Roman sites in the whole of the UK as it witnessed the beginning to almost the end of Roman rule here. Catch a boat to reach the fort, explore the huge stone walls, and take a look around the fascinating museum, a brilliant day out to experience life as a Roman soldier. 

Not to be missed whilst you’re in the area, head inland just a little to discover the jewel in Kent’s crown - the ancient and beautiful city of Canterbury.  The perfect city for anyone in the mood for gorgeous medieval streets, great food and drink, and heaps of heritage, Canterbury is a city-breakers dream.  At the heart of the walled city is the iconic Canterbury Cathedral, dating back to the 11th century. The stunning structure dominates the skyline of the area and visitors flock all year round to gaze at the remarkable architecture and visit the very spot where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170. Along with the Cathedral, nearby St Augustine's Abbey and St Martin's Church form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so take advantage of one of the many walking trails and guided tours with Canterbury Guided Walking Tours to fully appreciate the city's extraordinary architecture. Those looking for more things to do in Canterbury can visit the Norman Canterbury Castle or delve into the past at Canterbury Roman Museum. The recently refurbished Beaney House of Art and Knowledge hosts numerous exhibitions, and you won't want to miss a chance to see Canterbury’s hidden gems by boat with the award winning Canterbury Historic River Tours.

SWING INTO ACTION…

Kent is home to some of the finest golf courses in the UK, each nestled among the stunning countryside, boasting world-class courses and facilities and in some cases, incredible sea views. If you fancy putting a hole in one overlooking panoramic views of Deal's seafront then try Walmer & Kingsdown Golf Club, if you prefer to watch the sunset meet Sandwich's shores then Princes Golf Club is definitely worth a visit. Also home to Royal St. George's Golf Club in Sandwich, (one of several courses in the south east to host The Open Championship), Royal Cinque Ports which is regarded as one of the finest in the world, and Littlestone Golf Club, a unique course in Romney Marsh, there's plenty of first-rate courses to choose from in this area. 

ROLLING HILLS AND STUNNING SEASCAPES…

Delivering that rare combination of spectacular sea views and rolling quintessential English countryside, Kent’s landscapes are a seriously special sight to behold.  The Kent Downs Way takes the traveller through Kent’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and past a rich tapestry of heritage and history, the routes passing cathedrals, castles, stately homes, and a whole host of fascinating ancient sites along the way. Alternating between rich woodland and rare chalk grasslands, there are nature reserves, rare plants, beautiful bird life and butterflies waiting to be discovered, set against a breath-taking backdrop, just waiting to be admired.

The extraordinary nature reserve of Samphire Hoe is the perfect place for a stroll with an invigorating sea breeze - not to mention a great vantage point for marvelling at the world-famous White Cliffs of Dover. With a rich array of animals and plants to spot on your walk, make sure to #RespectProtectEnjoy this special environment so it can be enjoyed through the winter and beyond. Take the Saxon Shore Way through Romney Marsh and Folkestone, through two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and several nature reserves along the way. Bird watchers, keep a look out for waders, grebes and peregrines, and wine lovers, keep a look out for signs for beautiful Gusbourne. Running right through the vineyard, your trail will lead you to the winery, where a glass of their finest in The Nest makes for the perfect welcoming pit-stop.

 

THE TOP TABLES

Michelin-starred restaurants, rustic farmers markets bursting with fresh goods, world-class wineries, tangy cider and classically brewed beer - Kent is literally overflowing with fine things to eat and drink. Fresh from vine and hop, sea and land, our food and drink produce rival the best in the world when it comes to freshness and flavour.

Dover Sole is a firm favourite with foodies for its exquisite, delicate taste, Romney Marsh lamb is renowned for its tender texture and taste, and Whitstable native oysters deliver a succulent, tangy taste-of-the-sea. Kent, the Garden of England, is also justly renowned for orchards ripe with apples, pears and cherries. Fertile soil, a benign climate and centuries-old expertise create prime growing conditions - no wonder the county boasts Brogdale, Home to the National Fruit Collection. Dotted with oast houses and studded with hop gardens, Kent is renowned for its rich beer-making heritage - it's also home to Shepherd Neame Brewery, Britain's oldest brewer; visit for tutored tastings and tours.

Boasting some of the finest restaurants and mouth-watering cuisines, Kent foodie highlights include the work of Mark Sargent, a chef casting culinary spells in Folkestone by serving up superb seafood and harbour views at Rocksalt, classy twists on fish n' chips at The Smokehouse and contemporary pub classics at the Radnor Arms. For timeless French and English classics, sensational steaks and views across the Channel, be sure to check out Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill at the Clifton Hotel - a must-visit for foodies in Folkestone. 

Wash down your dinner with one of Kent’s award-winning sparkling wines from one of the wine producers from the Wine Garden of England or sip the perfect pint of Shepherd Neame’s finest ale at one of their traditional Kentish pub venues.

HAZY, LAZY BEACH DAYS…

Kent’s sweeping coast is blessed with not one, not two, but ten Blue Flag beaches! When it comes to beaches, the Blue Flag award is another internationally recognised ultimate seal of approval when it comes to cleanliness, water quality and all-round wonderful-ness - so we’re delighted to be flying so many flags high along Kent’s sweeping coastline. From secluded spots to sandy bays to family-friendly beaches, beach days never looked so good…

Why not head to St Mildred’s Bay, a pristine cliff-lined beach just perfect for a full day at the coast - especially if you're planning to explore little Westgate On Sea or nearby Margate once the sun sets. Dust off your tennis skills, try your hand at putting, and cool off with a dip in the deep blue, before drying off and taking a jaunt into the heart of Westgate for dinner. A gentle sweep of sandy bay resting on the edge of everyone's favourite seaside town, it's no surprise Margate Main Sands makes the Blue Flag list. Relax on the beach, build sandcastles or spend your afternoon taking in the views from a quirky little coastal café – perfect for combining with a trip to Turner Contemporary too for a spot of coastal culture. Folkestone’s Sunny Sands is a perfect stop off after an arty tour of the town with local ice cream on hand and stunning sculptures forming part of the seascapes.

EXPERIENCE SOMETHING UNIQUE…

From foraging to fact-finding, cooking to creating, exploring to enjoying, Kent’s coastal destinations deliver a huge range of experiences to really enhance your stay. Whether you’re keen to live a local, flex your creative muscles, learn a new skill or try something truly unique, Kent offers experiences to suit every visitor. 

Journey back in time as you discover Deal’s fascinating history on a fun and informative walking tour with The History Project – an award- winning tour company run by Deal locals. With fun, family-friendly tours such as Castles on the Coast, The Smugglers Trail or Piers Over the Years, there’s a range of topics to choose from to inspire, educate and entertain the whole family. Linking landscapes to the dining table, roll up your sleeves and head out on a gourmet foraging adventure with The Wild Kitchen in Deal along East Kent’s salty shores and shady woodland. Uncover unique delights such as edible seaweed, fresh shellfish, field plants and herbal cordials, ready to indulge in a tantalising foraged feast back at the Wild Kitchen’s charming Georgian restaurant.

Why not opt for an experience in the great outdoors that allows you to put your feet up and simply enjoy the ride? Hop aboard The Dover Land Train to enjoy a picturesque journey in White Cliffs Country. The perfect way to get around, Dover Land Train’s guided tours link Dover town, the seafront, marina, museums, and Dover’s iconic castle, meaning you’ll be certain not to leave any ‘must visit’ itinerary item left unchecked. Block printing, mosaic making, pottery, tile making, beekeeping...the list of experiences on offer through Kent Craft Hive is extensive. Held in a dedicated barn within a beautiful garden, Kent Craft Hive is all about learning new skills, crafting, and getting creative whilst outside in nature.

TRAVEL SAFELY, TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY…

Whether you prefer bus, train, bicycle and or your own legs, getting around Kent couldn’t be easier. A great network of sustainable trails, paths and train lines run from town to town, leaving you with more time to experience the sheer beauty of Kent’s countryside, and a clear conscious about your carbon footprint.

Visiting the Garden of England couldn’t be easier by train – just sit back, relax and enjoy the Kent countryside as you travel with Southeastern, the train service between London and Kent, including the UK’s first domestic high speed service from St Pancras International. The service calls at stations such as Ashford International and Stratford International, and goes on to call at numerous Kent locations including Canterbury, Folkestone, towns in Medway, Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Dover. As a quick mode of transport and with great value fares, it’s the perfect way to explore the county without a car. If you’re a fan of sightseeing from the top deck of the bus, jump aboard an Arriva bus and enjoy the delights of West and North Kent by public transport. Comfortable and regular bus services, with great-value fares leave you feeling confident that you can reach your destination on time and with ease. In the South and East of the county, Stagecoach makes it easy to get to and from main towns and attractions including the iconic Canterbury Cathedral, blue flag beaches in Thanet, several nature reserves and the historical Dover Castle on the White Cliffs of Dover.

If you want to spend less time travelling and more time on holiday then how about taking Eurotunnel Le Shuttle? A trip on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle will take you just 35 minutes between Folkestone and Calais. The ease of accessing motorway to motorway links means you too can be enjoying the beautiful county of Kent in no time at all. As the fastest Channel crossing provider, it’s no wonder that Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is so popular. Bring your car and jump on one of the 4 departures per hour to experience the simple and efficient service.!

Phew! If that’s enough to whet your appetite to discover what makes Kent’s Heritage Coast truly the ‘Best in Travel’ for 2022, why not take a closer look at some of our coastal hotspots…