2023, Year of the Coast

Coastal path, along cliff edge with Sound Mirror. Sea on the right.

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29th August 2023

2023 is Year of the Coast, a celebration of England’s incredible coastline. It marks the creation of the King Charles III England Coast Path. This new national trail, named in honour of Great Britain’s monarch, will be the longest managed coastal footpath in the world at over 2,700km long (when it’s finished!).

The King Charles III England Coast Path runs through the Kent Downs National Landscape between Kingsdown and Folkestone. This section lies within the Kent Heritage Coast, recognised for both its natural and cultural importance. In fact, the Kent Heritage Coast was ranked as the 4th best destination to visit in the world in 2022 by Lonely Planet – the only UK spot to make the listing!

Our top coastal experiences

To celebrate Year of the Coast 2023, we’ve rounded up our favourite things to do and top places to visit for you to experience our section of the coastal path.

1). Visit Samphire Hoe

Samphire Hoe is a 30-hectare nature reserve that sits beneath the iconic White Cliffs of Dover. It was created in 1997 from 4.9 million cubic metres of chalk marl that was dug out during the building of the Channel Tunnel. Today, the nature reserve is a haven for wildlife and the site supports a rich biodiversity all year round.

Samphire Hoe is great for birdwatching, with many birds stopping to feed and rest here during migration to and from Britain. Look out for whinchats, stonechats, rock pipits in autumn, plus peregrine falcons hunting on the cliffs above. It’s also an ideal spot for a gentle walk, with a circular easy access trail suitable for wheelchairs, buggies, and those with limited mobility.

Couple walk towards radio tower beneath white cliffs of Dover

2). Discover Folkestone Warren

If you’re curious about rocks, fossils, and nature’s mysteries, Folkestone Warren is the place to be! Situated on the outskirts of Folkestone, the Warren is the ultimate destination in the Kent Downs for those intrigued by geology and the outdoors. The coastline here undergoes ongoing erosion, revealing fossils from different geological eras. Why not try your hand at fossil hunting at the cliff base? It’s an educational and fascinating experience that lets you connect with the area’s ancient past. Ammonites, crabs, echinoids, brachiopods, bivalves, and more are often found here – just remember to keep an eye on the tide times for safety!

Folkestone Warren

3). Explore St Margarets Bay

St Margaret’s Bay is a picturesque coastal village in the southeast of the Kent Downs National Landscape, known for its stunning natural beauty and rich historical significance. This charming bay boasts incredible views across the English Channel, making it a popular spot for scenic walks and relaxation.

Don’t miss the whitewashed house at the end of the beach where Ian Fleming, writer of the James Bond novels, once lived and is said to have written ‘Moonraker’.  You’ll also find the Coastguard pub here; it is claimed to be the nearest pub to France!

White buildings beneath the white cliffs, and a shingle beach

4). Walk the White Cliffs of Dover

A walk along the iconic White Cliffs of Dover is a bucket-list experience. Walking to South Foreland Lighthouse is an unforgettable experience. Starting from the National Trust visitor centre, this 4-mile walk It leads around Langdon Hole and Fan Point, both an important part of England’s defences in the Second World War. At the end of the walk, you’ll reach South Foreland Lighthouse, open to the public between April and October and complete with 1950’s tearoom!

Three people walking on the cliff top to South Foreland Lighthouse

5). Get Geo-curious at the Salt+Earth Festival

Join us from 8th-10th September for an unforgettable weekend as we celebrate the seascape, landscape and geology of the Kent Downs and Cross-Channel Geopark at the annual SALT+EARTH Festival!

This September, Folkestone FringeCreative Folkestone and Kent Downs National Landscape will present a programme of events and activities to help you to connect with the incredible natural environment on Folkestone’s doorstep. For a weekend of more than 20 events and activities, from walks, talks and exhibitions, to performances, workshops and sea swims, there will be something for everyone to enjoy!

SALT + EARTH is co-produced by @folkestonefringe, @creativefstone, and Kent Downs National Landscape, in support of the Cross-Channel Geopark. SALT + EARTH explores the way the natural environments around us shape who we are, and asks what the future might hold for those living on the edge.

6). Hike from Folkestone to Dover

Spectacular views lie in wait for you along the North Downs Way National Trail between Folkestone and Dover. The trail takes you along the top of the iconic White Cliffs, above the Warren Country Park and Samphire Hoe, where there are brilliant views across the France on a clear day.

In the summer, the chalk grassland is alive with butterflies and wildflowers, including several orchid species. Plus, look out for the frequent concrete remnants from WWII. From Western Heights you can soak up the views across Dover, including the bustling harbour and the imposing stronghold of Dover Castle.

View across Folkestone coastline. With wild meadow in foreground, sea on left and coastline on right. Sunny day.

7). Get snappy with Capture Kent

Join Capture Kent on a relaxed 2-hour photography walking experience, taking in the iconic coastline and natural beauty of Dover Cliffs. On this day at the coast, you’ll photograph the iconic English landmark of the white cliffs, under the guidance of our professional photographer, while also learning about the impact the Second World War had on the cliffs, with our local historian and tour guide. The Deep Fan Bay underground war shelter, the First World War concrete sound mirrors, and the breath-taking views across the Channel to France, are standouts of this experience. You’ll also be treated to a Kentish cream tea at one of the two National Trust cafes on the cliffs.

Grassland with the English Channel and Dover Harbour in the distance

8). Seek out a hidden beach

Set at the foot of Shakespeare Cliff and just along the coast from busy Dover Harbour, Shakespeare beach is a bit of a hidden gem. Its secluded location nestled in the bay makes it relaxing and peaceful spot to visit year-round. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year too, so bring along your furry friends to play in the sea.

The shingle beach is not the most accessible spot, with over 100 steps to get down to the beach from the most direct route. You can park in Aycliffe and follow the footpath under the underpass to reach the beach. There also aren’t any rubbish bins on the beach, so please remember to take all your litter away with you.

9). Journey from the coast to the Downs

A new series of walks and rides has been launched this summer, each linking the atmospheric coast of Swale to the rolling hills of the Kent Downs National Landscape. Discover the four new Linking Coast to Downs trails:

Route 1 takes you on a hilly adventure from Faversham to Perry Wood by bike, with the option to explore the network of cycle paths around Faversham as well.

Route 2 is a 10.7-mile walk linking two of the UK’s National Trails: the King Charles III England Coast Path at Teynham and the North Downs Way above Hollingbourne.

Route 3 explores the ancient woodland and apple orchards of North Kent’s fruit belt, on a 9.1-mile walk from Milton Creek to the Hucking Estate.

Route 4 is a shorter, 5-mile circular walk through fruit orchards and arable land, linking some of Kent’s quaintest heritage villages.

Close up of blossoming cherry orchard trees with dandelions covering the ground

10). Make a relaxing day of it

Spend a day in the Downs and experience the calming effect of the sea on a ready-made, 1-day itinerary. Breathe in the salty sea air as you walk a dramatic section of the King Charles III England Coast Path, take in the panoramic views over the English Channel, and explore Dover’s hidden medieval gems. This self-guided itinerary includes a circular walk at St Margaret’s Bay and an exploration of Dover’s pilgrim history, as well as recommendations for places to eat and stay.

Two people sat on pebble and sand beach, looking out to sea on a sunny day.

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