8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Folkestone
The Kentish seaside resort of Folkestone overlooks the English Channel and is just seven miles west of Dover. Still one of England's busiest ports, its development as an important holiday destination began in the mid-19th century with the building of the railroad from London, hence the town's characteristic architecture dates mainly from Victorian times. Tourist attractions and things to do in Folkestone are plentiful and include spending time in seafront amusement arcades and pavilions, taking a refreshing stroll along the wide promenade, or dining in a restaurant or café in the town's trendy Creative Quarter. And be sure to take a walk through the well-tended parkland extending along the coast, in particular the popular East Cliff and Warren Country Park with fine views across to France in clear weather.
1 Folkestone Town Center and Creative Quarter
Folkestone is the quintessentially English coastal town, complete with everything a trip to the seaside should entail: arcades, funfairs, and pebble beaches, as well as pleasant promenades and a quaint fishing harbor. Much of the old downtown core has been transformed into the Creative Quarter populated by artists, trendy shops and boutiques, art galleries, cafés, and restaurants.
The Church of St. Mary and St. Eanswythe, around Old High Street, is worth visiting for its stained glass window showing William Harvey, who discovered the body's circulatory system and was born here in 1578. The real historic gem of the town, however, is the elegant residential area known as The Leas with its attractive squares and gardens dating from 1843.
2 Channel Tunnel
Nearly 250 years in the making (the first plans to establish a fixed link between Britain and the continent were made as early as 1751) the super-fast Eurotunnel transportation service that uses the Channel Tunnel began operation in 1994. Today, this remarkable feat of engineering moves in excess of 10 million passengers a year between London and cities such as Paris and Brussels. The tunnel crosses under the English Channel between Calais and Folkestone and includes 31 miles of doubletrack in the main tunnels, plus extensive surface-level terminal facilities. In addition to its passenger services, Le Shuttle trains convey cars, coaches, and heavy goods vehicles.
A notable nearby landmark is the Folkestone White Horse. Continuing a centuries-long tradition that has seen similar giant artworks created on other chalk hills across England, this magnificent horse was created in 2003 and seems to literally leap out of the hillside overlooking the Channel Tunnel terminal.
Address: Ashford Road, Folkestone
3 Samphire Hoe
Wondering where all that chalk dug up during construction of the Channel Tunnel went? Well, wonder no more. Samphire Hoe is a 74-acre nature reserve at the foot of famous Shakespeare Cliff mid-way between Dover and Folkestone that was constructed using the many tons of dirt excavated during the building of the tunnel. It's also one of the best places from which to truly appreciate the drama of the magnificent White Cliffs as they tower above you. Samphire Hoe is also popular for its birdwatching and sea angling.
Address: Samphire Road, Dover
4 National Memorial to the Few
The National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne is maintained by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and is dedicated to Churchill's famous "Few" - the pilots who fought in the skies above this part of England to keep the country free from invasion. The memorial itself includes the names of the 3,000 men who flew, fought, and died in what is widely considered Britain's most crucial battle of the 20th century.
Address: New Dover Road, Capel-le-Ferne, Folkestone
5 Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway
The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway (RH&DR) - the "world's biggest smallest railway" - runs on tracks just 15 inches apart and is set against a backdrop of some of Kent's most picturesque countryside. Consisting of the world's largest collection of ⅓-scale steam locos, this remarkable, fully functioning steam railway operates along 13.5 miles of track stretching across Romney Marsh from Hythe all the way to Dungeness, a National Nature Reserve consisting of one of the world's largest expanses of shingle (it's also home to the Old Lighthouse, opened in 1904).
Built in the 1920s and famously opened by Laurel and Hardy, the RH&DR saw action during WWII, both as an armored train and as part of the oil-pipeline network for D-Day. These days, a return trip takes just over an hour, though you'll want to break up your journey by stopping at one or more of the railway's six stations in order to visit the nearby beaches, amusement arcades, shops, nature walks, and cycling paths. (Hot Tip: Check the RH&DR's website for the year-round operating schedule, as well as for news of fun themed events, charters, and programs such as learning to drive a steam engine.)
Location: New Romney Station, New Romney
6 Lower Leas Coastal Park
The Lower Leas Coastal Park is split into three recreational zones. Beginning at Leas Lift, the town's 125-year-old funicular railway, the formal zone consists of attractive pine avenues, gardens, and flowers that bloom year-round. Other highlights include the fun zone, home to one of the largest free adventure play areas in England, as well as a popular amphitheater. Finally, the park's wild zone is dedicated to conservation and local wildlife.
Location: Lower Sandgate Rd, Folkestone
A short journey south of Folkestone, the charming coastal village of Sandgate is a great side trip for sightseeing thanks to its beaches and wonderful views of the English Channel. The village High Street is famous for its antiques and collectables, plus has a wonderful selection of small independent shops and restaurants, including traditional fish and chips. Sandgate has a rich history and was once a hangout for smugglers, not to mention having also faced the threat of invasion twice: once during Napoleonic times and again in WWII.
Address: High Street, Sandgate
8 Kent Battle of Britain Museum
The Kent Battle of Britain Museum is in an old armory and features the RAF Room, the Luftwaffe Room, the Aircraft Armaments Room, and an art gallery. A number of highly informative displays have been set up, complete with maps, documents, photos, and artifacts from fighting aircraft that crashed in the area.
Address: Aerodrome Road, Hawkinge