Canterbury Trails: Three Days, From Cathedral to Coast

Canterbury has long been a hub for hikers – pilgrims have been coming here for centuries to visit its mighty Cathedral. These days, numerous walking routes pass through, from the Pilgrim’s Way and the epic Via Francigena to the Stour Valley Way and, of course, the North Downs Way National Trail. This makes it an excellent base for a long walking weekend.

Over three days you can roam the riversides, rolling hills and Kent coast. Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims – and the Neolithic peoples who came before. Wander through orchards and ancient woodlands of oak, beech and ash. Sample locally brewed ales and wine right from the cellar door. Walk or cycle to the seaside, for platters of fresh-caught oysters and a breath of sea air. And refuel in a delicious abundance of restaurants and cafes.

 

Tour Overview

The icons below highlight the distance, difficulty and theme of this itinerary.

Days

3

Distance

Walks from 7.25km to 11.25km

Difficulty

Moderate

Landscape

Rolling Countryside / Connecting Villages & Towns / City Exploring / By Water

Theme

History / Food & Drink / Pilgrimage / Coastal

Activities & Experiences

Walking / Cycling / Water Fun / Heritage

Canterbury Trails: Three Days, From Cathedral to Coast

Here’s everything you need to help you plan your very own walking and exploring break in Canterbury and the North Downs. Click on the blue arrow tabs below for more information. To save this itinerary to view later, use the Save to My Rucksack button at the top of the page.

Tour details

This itinerary has been created by Walk Awhile, a family-run walking holiday company who specialise in self-guided walking holidays in the UK. With almost 20 years’ experience, Walk Awhile is focused on Kent and the Pilgrims’ Way, with unrivalled local knowledge of the area.

Walk Awhile will arrange your whole tour: you just need to arrange transport to your first location.

To find out more about this itinerary and make an enquiry or a booking, click on the Enquire Now button at the top of the page. The Save to My Rucksack button allows you to save itineraries to view later, or to download them as a PDF..

Included

  • Accommodation in B&Bs, inns and hotels with breakfasts.
  • Fully marked up maps and guidebooks.
  • Tracker support.
  • Phone support throughout the duration of the walk.

NOT INCLUDED: Lunches, dinners and drinks; local transport unless stated in itinerary; transport to start of itinerary. Any excursions or activites.

 

Itinerary

Spend three days exploring the North Downs, Stour Valley and the coast, from the venerable city of Canterbury – an excellent walking base. Nestled in rolling rural countryside, close to the coast, Canterbury is situated on numerous long-distance walking trails, and has plenty of inns and eateries in which to rest after an active day.

 

Day 1 Arrive in Canterbury

Explore the historic city. Visit Canterbury Cathedral, and then walk to St Augustine’s Abbey along the first section of the Via Francigena – the epic 1,700km pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome. Pass the statue of the Saxon queen Bertha, influential in the reintroduction of Christianity to England, and St Martin’s chruch, the oldest in the English speaking world. Return via the city walls.

This afternoon, consider walking out to the Iron Age fort of Bigbury. From the city’s old West Gate, follow the river path to Chartham Hatch, then join the North Downs Way to enter No Mans Orchard Nature Reserve, a beautiful old orchard, festooned with wildflowers and lichen. Continue through ancient woodland to Bigbury Camp, where Julius Caesar defeated the Britons in 54 BCE. Descend to Harbledown and the Black Princes Well, where Henry II commenced his penitent walk following the murder of Thomas Becket, returning to Canterbury.

Alternatively, spend your afternoon further exploring the city’s historic lanes – perhaps the Roman Museum or Beaney House of Art & Knowledge. Or hop on a traditional punt to see the city from river level.

Walk: 10km. Overnight in Canterbury.

Day 2 Canterbury: Charming Chilham

Take the train or bus to the chocolate-box village of Chilham, a peaceful spot with a Jacobean mansion, Norman castle and half-timbered houses clustered around the old square. From here, make a loop, following the North Down’s Way to Old Wives Lees, via traditional orchards, Chilham lake, a restored old mill, wildlife-rich chalk grassland and the Neolithic burial site of Julliberrie’s Grave.

Alternatively, trace the Stour Valley Way from Chilham to Canterbury, treading the ancient sunken road that once linked Canterbury with Wye. As well as passing Chilham Mill and Julliberrie’s Grave, you’ll see Mystole House, which Jane Austen often visited when staying with her brother, who lived nearby. Pop into Chartham Vineyard, where you can buy wine direct from the makers.

Walk: 7.25km-11.25km. Overnight in Canterbury.

 

Day 3 Canterbury to Whitstable

Today, head for the coast. The seaside-chic fishing port of Whitstable is an easy walk or cycle ride from Canterbury along the Crab & Winkle Way, a virtually traffic-free route that follows part of one of the earliest railway lines.

Whitstable is full of quirky shops, cafes, pubs and galleries. Wander its back streets, beach front and thriving harbour, grab a table at the Whitstable Oyster Company for freshly caught seafood and visit Greta, a historic Thames sailing barge and the oldest surviving active ‘little ship’ from the Dunkirk evacuation. Return to Canterbury the same way, or catch the bus.

As the Crab & Winkle Line passes through the University of Kent campus, consider stopping off at the Gulbenkian Theatre and Arts Centre, which hosts an array of shows, live music, films and exhibitions. There’s a café and bar too.

Walk: 11.25km. Overnight in Canterbury.

Accommodation

We have gone out of our way to make sure that all the inns, hotels and guesthouses we use welcome walkers. You will find them to be friendly, with comfortable bedrooms. All bookings include breakfast. In Canterbury, we use the following.

  • Falstaff Hotel – Providing hospitality to travellers for more than 600 years; located on the Pilgrim’s Way, near the Cathedral.
  • Abode Canterbury – Smart hotel within the old city walls.
  • Cathedral Lodge – Within the Cathedral precinct; views of the Cathedral from the windows.

Food & Drink

Canterbury has a range of cafes, tearooms and restaurants to suit all tastes. Most of the inns and hotels we use have restaurants where we can book you a table for the evening meal if you wish, or we can recommend somewhere locally. A few of our suggestions include the Foundry Brew Pub craft brewery, distillery, restaurant and bar in Canterbury, the well-reviewed Woolpack Inn in Chilham and the Whitstable Oyster Company and Old Neptune seaside pub in Whitstable.

Activities

The grade of this tour is moderate; the walks are suitable for all abilities.

Walks
  • Canterbury circular, via Bigbury
  • Chilham circular, 7.25km
  • Stour Valley Walk, 11.25km
  • Crab & Winkle Line walk, 11.25km

Experiences

As well as wonderful walks, there are plenty of experiences you can try around Canterbury.

  • Canterbury Punting Company – City tours on the River Stour by classic punt.
  • Hire a bike and explore one of the many cycle routes in this area, including the Crab & Winkle Way, the Great Stour Way, the Cathedral to Coast Cycle Ride (Canterbury to Dover) or the Viking Coastal trail (Reculver to Margate).
  • The Foundry Brew Pub – Home of the Canterbury Brewers and Distillers; on-site tasting tours.
  • Canterbury Baking School – Range of courses, including artisan bread-making, sourdough, pasta and vegetarian cooking; suitable for all levels.
  • Canterbury Ghost Tour – Spooky stroll; runs Friday and Saturday evenings.
  • Canoe Wild – Trips on the River Stour from Fordwich or Grove Ferry.
  • Greta 1892 – Day trips bookable in advance aboard the historic Thames sailing barge.

Cycling

Hire a bike and explore one of the many cycle routes in this area, including the Crab & Winkle Way, the Great Stour Way (between Canterbury and Chartham), the Cathedral to Coast Cycle Ride (Canterbury to Dover) or the Viking Coastal trail (Reculver to Margate).

Travel

Regular train services run from London St Pancras and London Victoria to Canterbury. National Express coaches also serve the city. It is accessible by road via M25/M2/A2.

Advice

These walks are moderate and suitable for all abilities. Walking boots are required for countryside walks as it can be muddy.

We advise that you check opening times and booking restrictions before travelling.

Please check out these links for latest advice when in the countryside

Countryside Code

COVID-19 Guidance

Interactive Map

Click here to access the interactive map

Maps, Guidebooks & Merchandise

The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.