Canterbury Cathedral & the Great Stour River
20.1km (12.5 miles), 5 hours. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 10 hours 45 minutes.
4 out of 10.
Explorers 137 & 150 or Landranger 179. Chilham, map reference TR 077 535, is in Kent, 8km south-west of Canterbury.
This particular pilgrimage to Canterbury starts beside the Great Stour River and its attendant lakes, visits the church and green at Chartham and passes through hop fields and apple orchards to the suggested lunch pub in Chartham Hatch.
In the afternoon the way is through Church Wood and Blean Woods Nature Reserve to the parklands of the University of Kent, with fine views down over Canterbury Cathedral. The entrance to the city is along the River Stour, through the Norman Westgate and down the medieval high street and alleys, entering the cathedral precincts through its ornate Christ Church Gate.
Leave early to give yourself time for site seeing at the end. Also, there's not much shade on this walk on a hot day
There are buses into Canterbury, three times an hour, from Upper Harbledown. There are also buses into the city from near the Hare & Hounds pub on the A290 and from the University of Kent.
The route passes near Canterbury West Station on entering the city, for those who wish to go home without visiting the city centre and there is a suggested short cut in the walk directions (below) once within the city, to Canterbury East Station.
Attacked by marauding Picts, Scots and Saxons, the Britons could not defend the walled city of Durovernum Cantiacorum, once the Romans had abandoned it. When St Augustine and his followers arrived in 397 ‑ at the instigation of King Ethelbert and his French Christian wife, Bertha ‑ the walls were repaired and the overgrown streets cleared. The city was now called Cautwaraburg.
The Cathedral which St Augustine founded was sacked by the Danes in 1011. It was within the cathedral, on December 2nd 1170, that Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered by four of Henry II's knights. The city became a place of pilgrimage, as celebrated by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales, although these pilgrimages were interrupted in 1538, when Henry VIII had St Thomas declared a traitor and his shrine pillaged and all references to him destroyed.
Entrance to Canterbury Cathedral (tel 01227 762 862) is free if attending evensong, which normally takes place at 5.30pm Monday to Friday, 3.15pm Saturday, and 5.15pm Sunday. Otherwise admission (2017) is £12. The Cathedral is open till 5.30pm in summer, till 5pm in winter.
Huguenots fleeing France after the St Bartholomew Massacre of 1572 settled in Canterbury. The Weavers' House in the High Street is an example of one of their high‑gabled houses, with loft doors for lifts.
The Westgate is the only surviving gateway into the city, built by Archbishop Sudbury before the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. It was used as a gaol. The medieval wall around the city follows the line of the third‑century wall in Roman times.
The mainly medieval church of St Peter's, in St. Peter Street, may be of Saxon origin.
Weekdays, take the train nearest to 9.10am from Charing Cross Station to Chilham. Journey time 1 hour 35 minutes. Buy a day return to Canterbury. Weekends, trains go from Victoria to Chilham (Canterbury West service). For a premium, you can reduce the journey time to just over 1 hour by taking the High Speed Train nearest to 9.40am from St Pancras and changing at Ashford International.
Trains back from Canterbury East Station to Victoria run twice an hour. Journey time 1 hour 35 minutes. Alternatively, you can return from Canterbury West Station, where there is an hourly High Speed Train direct to St Pancras (taking less than an hour) and half-hourly services to Charing Cross, taking 1 hour 45 minutes.
You could have lunch nearer the start of the walk at the Artichoke pub (tel 01227 738 316) in Chartham, which serves food midday to 2pm every day.
The suggested lunchtime pub was the Chapter Arms pub (tel. 01227 738 340) in Chartham Hatch but this CLOSED on 30 June 2017: the pub is up for sale (July 2017) with agents Fleurets. Hopefully, a buyer will be found and the pub will re-open - as a pub.
The Plough Inn in Upper Harbledown, is now closed.
There are any number of places to have tea in Canterbury but if you like to finish your sightseeing first, the suggested tea place is five minutes from Canterbury East Station: the White Hart pub (tel 01227 765 091) in Castle Row. This is open daily till late. The pub will serve sandwiches and ploughmans if requested.
A branch of Patisserie Valerie (tel 01227 760 450) is at No 23 High Street, for those who like their gateaux and nice cakes, and directly opposite is Cafe Boho , popular with SWC walkers.
There is also a friendly station snack bar offering hot drinks and snacks, open until 7.30pm daily.
Other tea places open late include (in order of nearness to Canterbury East Station): Il Vaticano (tel 012227 765 333), mainly a pizza restaurant, at 35 St Margarets, open till 10.30pm daily; and Cafe des Amis (tel 01227 464 390) by the Westgate as you enter the city, open till 10pm daily.
[All editions] Use the online version - 2 route diversions. Main update 14 April 2017.
The Plough Inn in Upper Harbledown, mentioned in the book, is now closed, as is the Chapter Arms (as of June 2017), hopefully in the case of the latter until a new pub operator can be found.
An earlier version of this walk was published in Time Out Country Walks near London volume 1. We now recommend using this online version as the book is now dated.
After the walk, we would love to get your feedback
Out: (not a train station)
Back: (not a train station)
National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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The directions for this walk are also in a PDF (link above) which you can download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
The [numbers] refer to a sketch map which is only in the book.
-  Coming off the platform from London at Chilham Station, walk through the car park, your direction 340°, and up the tarmac road away from the station. In 50 metres you come to the A28 where you go left.
- In 110 metres fork left along a tarmac path and in 50 metres continue along the pavement to the left of the A28 signposted to Ashford, passing a new residential development on your left-hand side.
- In 140 metres, just before the Ashford Road service station, turn left, your direction 135°, on a tarmac lane to the railway crossing, signposted Stour Valley Walk.
- In 70 metres cross the railway lines and continue on the tarmac lane the other side.
- In 80 metres go on a bridge over a river and bear right with the lane on the other side. In 65 metres you pass Chilham Mill on your left-hand side. In 20 metres go over a second bridge, with Setford Lake on your right-hand side. On the other side of the bridge, go left your direction 150°, on a gravel car road. Then, just before a house gate, bear left on a path, soon going uphill, with the Great Stour River on your left-hand side.
- In 75 metres, , at the top of the incline, with a footpath post on your right, with yellow arrows pointing ahead and to the left,[!] you turn left, your direction 30°, with the river below you on your left-hand side. Walk along a grassy, car-wide track following the edge of the trees which are on your left-hand side.
- In 560 metres, ignore the farmgate ahead. Bear right, then in 20 metres left, to follow the farm hedge on your left-hand side. In 150 metres you come to the start of the sheds of Stile Farm (marked on the OS map) on your left-hand side. In a further 85 metres, go through a metal swing gate (a double metal fieldgate on its left-hand side) onto a tarmac lane  where previously you turned left, but now [!] you turn right.
- In 15 metres turn left, by a footpath marker post and pass through a metal swing gate onto a grassy path between garden fences. In 35 metres go through a metal kissing gate and keep ahead, your bearing east, into a field. In 50 metres at a corner of a hedge and fence keep ahead, with a hedge and fence on your left-hand side.
- In 100 metres cross a stile by a yellow marker post and return to the original walk directions. Follow a left-hand field boundary and in 50 metres at a hedge corner keep straight on across the field along a usually well-cleared path, your direction 70°, heading to the right of Pickelden House Farm ahead.
- In 130 metres, beside the farmhouse, exit the field through a metal fieldgate out on to a tarmac lane where you go right, gently uphill, your direction 70°.
- In 150 metres  as the lane swings right, you follow the footpath sign ahead, to go straight on,through a wooden fieldgate onto the drive of Lake House on your left-hand side, your direction 50°.
- In 15 metres ignore the gate on your left and continue straight on, through a gap with a tall fir hedge on your left and in 35 metres you start going across a vast open field along a usually well-cleared path, with lakes away to your left-hand side, your direction 50°. In 300 metres at a path crossing marked by a footpath post, keep ahead.
- In 200 metres continue in the same direction and in a further 60 metres exit the field in its far corner to continue along a farm track. In 30 metres you come to a tarmac road at a bend  where you continue straight on. In 40 metres you ignore a public footpath to the left. Continue uphill and in a further 150 metres ignore the Stour Valley Walk sign to the left.
- In a further 200 metres uphill, you come to the end of this road (Bobbin Lodge Hill) and cross Shalmsford Street to go straight on, down Bolts Hill [if you are in need of provisions turn left down Shalmsford Street to find a post office and a convenience store a short distance down this road: return to this point afterwards].
- In 240 metres ignore a public footpath sign to the right of a new development of four cottages.
- In a further 150 metres, by Rose Cottage, you ignore the public footpath to the left across the railway line and continue with the tarmac road, as it swings to the right, now Parish Road, towards the church.
- In 350 metres go over the river bridge and in 60 metres you follow the right-hand edge of Chartham village green, past a timber-framed building away to your left-hand side. At the far side of the green go into the churchyard of St Mary's, passing the church entrance (the church is open 3 to 5pm, May to September) and keeping on, along a tarmac path. In 40 metres you come to the road by a house called The Glebe where you go right, your direction 125°.
- In 40 metres, just before the bridge over the river, you follow the Great Stour Way sign to your left on a tarmac path, your direction 65°, with the river on your right-hand side. Note As of July 2017, the main lunchtime pub, the Chapter Arms in Chartham Hatch is CLOSED and up for sale . Until it (hopefully) reopens, if you want a pub lunch, we suggest you continue over the bridge instead of going left. Pass Arjo Wiggins Chartham Paper Mills on your right-hand side, coming in less than 200 metres to the part timber-framed Artichoke pub.
- In 360 metres, where the tarmac ends, by the start of a line of electricity pylons, keep ahead, now on a stone and gravel path, with the river still on your right-hand side. In 340 metres, by a derelict foot bridge on your right-hand side and with a wooden kissing gate and mini cattle grid ahead of you  [!] you detour away from the original Book’s route as the railway crossing has closed. Instead of turning left, you now go through the kissing gate and continue on the stone and gravel path with the river on your right. In 300 metres curve left with the path and go through a fence gap and in 15 metres go through a wooden kissing gate with a mini cattle grid on its right.
- In 200 metres, by a metal foot bridge on your right, [!] bear left across the grass and make for the metal swing gate in the fence line ahead. Go through this gate and turn left down this narrow, enclosed path, your direction 300°, soon with a lake on your left-hand side. In 90 metres exit the enclosed path, bear left across rough grass and make for the railway crossing 70 metres away.
- Go over a steel clad pedestrian bridge over a ditch and cross the railway lines. Go down a fenced-in alley and then along an open path within the garden of Rosedene cottage, to come out onto the main road A28. You now turn left, along the pavement and then grass verge of this busy road, crossing over the road after 120 metres at a traffic island, to continue along the pavement to pass the original (now closed) railway crossing after another 300 metres, passing car showrooms and garden centres on the way.
- [!] In 50 metres turn right by a footpath signpost and a discreet concrete public footpath marker on your right-hand side (to the right of the driveway of CarIton Lodge) along a narrow path, between hedge and fence, your initial direction 15°.
- In 50 metres go through a gap and bear right with an orchard on your left-hand side. Keep ahead along an unmarked path at the bottom of the orchard, in 30 metres bearing left then right and in 60 metres by a black post on your left-hand side, [!]turn left uphill between the rows of orchard trees, your direction 300°. At the top of the field continue in the same direction into a wood, along a narrow unmarked path.
- In 100 metres exit the wood. Keep ahead, along the right-hand edge of a field, with the wood on your right-hand side. In 150 metres, as the field edge swings to the left, keep ahead (half right) to go over a stile and up some steps to go over the railway lines. On the other side swing left and in 20 metres go over a stile on your right, to continue with the field boundary on your right-hand side, gently uphill, your direction 305°. In a further 620 metres, go through a gap in the hedge ahead, with a tall aerial mast over to your left, to carry straight on through an orchard.
- In 120 metres you exit the orchard over a stile (or through the metal fieldgate 15 metres to its left) to come out onto a tarmac road, where you go right, uphill - this is signposted the North Downs Way (on the right in a hedge).
- In 140 metres you come to the Chapter Arms in Chartham Hatch on your left-hand side, which was the suggested lunchtime stop but CLOSED as of July 2017 and up for sale.
- Keep ahead on the tarmac road (New Town Street) passing the closed pub on your left-hand side.
- In 150 metres you come to a T-junction where you go left on Howfield Lane.
- In 35 metres, as the road swings left, with Nightingale Close on your right, take the North Downs Way signposted tarmac footpath straight on, your direction 355°, between high wooden fences.
- In 100 metres cross over a tarmac road to follow the North Downs Way sign onwards, up a concrete driveway. In 15 metres you fork to the right. In 8 metres you pass a wooden barrier (a metal gate on its left-hand side) to continue on, following the North Downs Way sign, with a playground on your left-hand side and house fences on your immediate right, your direction 60° initially. Keep along the part-enclosed path by the right-hand boundary beside a fence and hedge, soon descending.
- In 145 metres go through a wooden gateway down into Petty France Wood (as marked on the OS map) (a bluebell wood in season), following the North Downs Way arrow and ignoring ways off, initially downhill.
- In 310 metres, as the wood comes to an end, and just before a “No Man’s Orchard” panel [!] take the stile on your left-hand side (at the beginning of a line of poplars, also on your left-hand side), to follow a path ahead up and over the top of a hillock, your direction 15°. In 125 metres you pass under mini-pylons. Continue ahead, now down the hill, your direction 350°. In 140 metres go over a stile and on two planks over a stream.
- In 5 metres you come to a track at the edge of a hop field, where you turn left, then right, to follow the left-hand edge of the hop field, your onwards direction 310°. In 110 metres you pass under mini-pylons to continue with the field edge on your left-hand side, gently uphill, your direction now 325°, with an orchard now to your right.
- In 270 metres you come to a grassy track to your right (there is metal fieldgate and bridleway off to the left, through a gap in the hedge between fields, marked by a very low white metal post on the left).  [!] Take the track to the right, your direction 80°, up through the orchard.
- In 220 metres, at a crossing of the ways, just over the brow of this incline, with a footpath post on your right, continue straight on, gently downhill, ignoring ways off, with a tall hedge on the left and hop fields and orchards on the right, your direction 75°.
- In 350 metres you pass industrial sheds on your right. In a further 100 metres you pass primitive staff quarters on your right. Now pass around the right-hand side of a metal gate and keep ahead, your direction 35°, onto a surfaced road. Over to your left behind a hedge are new houses/farm conversions.
- The road swings to the right and goes gently uphill and after 160 metres you pass the three-storey China Farm Barn on your right-hand side (a residential conversion), to bear left, uphill, with the tarmac road.
- In 215 metres you come to a T-junction where you turn right to cross a road bridge over the A2 road, ignoring the bridleway sign to the right on the other side.
- In 70 metres, at a T-junction take the footpath directly ahead and to the right-hand side of St Mary's Hall, Upper Hambledown, your direction 320°, into Church Wood (marked on the OS map), with a stream on your right-hand side.
- In 185 metres you fork right to keep near the edge of the wood. In 15 metres you cross a ditch on a three plank bridge with a metal handrail on its right. Keep ahead along a path, muddy in winter, through woodland. In 300 metres the field away to your right ends and you are walking though a wooded area with heather beside the path.
- In 270 metres cross over a path junction by a footpath post and in a further 90 metres you reach an earth road T-junction where you go right, your direction 75°. In 140 metres, at a major junction , turn left onto a wide earth track, your direction 30°, with Scots pine trees on your left-hand side, beyond a ditch.
- In 85 metres you ignore an unmarked path to the right.
- In 270 metres you cross a major car-wide gravel track to continue on, along a car-wide earth way into Blean Woods Nature Reserve, your direction 45°.
- In 150 metres cross a path to continue on your way, signposted short cut. In 385 metres you come to a major junction of paths.
- ! The original book route to exit Blean Woods through Lucketts Farm has become so muddy (almost impassable) in recent years that your route onwards has been diverted.
- At this path junction turn right (but not sharp right), your direction 105° on a car wide earth track, gently downhill. In 160 metres cross a ditch and the track begins to go gently uphill. In a further 280 metres, just before a bench, ignore a couple of tracks to your right and keep ahead, slightly left.
- In 35 metres, at a T-junction turn right , your direction 140°, gently downhill. In 50 metres keep to the left, main path at a fork in your way. In 150 metres go over a path crossing with a fieldgate to your left. You are now on a narrower path, and in 80 metres turn sharp right onto a house drive, swing left and in 50 metres you come out to a main road (A290) opposite Blean Primary School. Cross this busy road with care, turn left for 10 metres and then turn right down a narrow path with a hedge to your left and the school boundary on your right. The start of this narrow path can become a little overgrown in summer, so a hiking pole may come in handy to clear the way ahead.
- In 240 metres you come out onto a tarmac path cum cycle path, now on the perimeter of the grounds of the University of Kent. Turn left on this path, gently downhill, and in 200 metres cross over the bridge (described in the original Directions as having “curvaceous metal railings”) and turn right to re-connect with the original route, with a stream on your right-hand side and with a large field to your left.
- In 275 metres veer right to go over another wooden bridge, to continue on (the right-hand fork), your direction 120°, along the right-hand edge of the field with the stream still on your right-hand side.
- In 400 metres leave the field and shortly afterwards you come to a wooden bridge on your right-hand side with wooden handrails over the stream , which you cross to go left on the other side, with the stream now on your left-hand side.
- In 15 metres pass under the mini-pylons. In 10 metres ignore a left fork to go over a two-plank bridge, ignore a right fork and go straight on, gently uphill, following yellow blazes on trees, through woodland, your direction 160° forking left soon after. In 120 metres ignore a scaffold-and-wooden pole bridge on your left. In a further 40 metres, at a path T-junction, turn left, your direction 120°, still gently uphill, through woodland.
- In 130 metres you come to a tarmac road , with the University of Kent buildings opposite. Go over this road and carry straight on, signed Sports Centre, your direction 195°.
- In 50 metres you begin to pass the Jennison block on your right-hand side. Walk ahead through its car park.
- 20 metres past the end of the block, fork left to pass down the left-hand side of the Sports Centre.
- At the far end of the Sports Centre, pick up an unmarked footpath straight on into the trees, your direction 145°.
- In 110 metres you come to a tarmac road. Go straight across and in 100 metres, with the Kent Union Venue in front of you, you turn right, on University Road, following a road sign to Canterbury.
- In 150 metres you pass a bus terminus on your right-hand side. In a further 40 metres you have an unobscured view of Canterbury Cathedral visible below on your left-hand side. [!] Here you fork half left off the tarmac road to follow a clear path across the grass, heading down halfway between the Cathedral and the road you have just left, your direction 170°. In 10 metres you pass a lone oak tree immediately on your right-hand side.
- In 400 metres you cross an earth road and veer left diagonally across the grass, on a clear path, your direction 155°. In 200 metres swing right to pass through a gap in the hedges. In a further 30 metres you come on to a tarmac path where you go right, your direction 225°. In 20 metres, at a path crossing [!], go left on a tarmac path, between bollards, your direction 120°. In 150 metres, you continue straight on, now on Salisbury Road.
- In 300 metres, ignoring all ways off, you come to a T-junction (Forty Acres Road) and carry straight on through barriers, along a signposted public footpath.
- In 55 metres pass through more barriers and an info panel on the left immediately after it (for the Beverley Farm Footpath Arch, under the dismantled Crab and Winkle Line) and in a further 75 metres you come to playing fields (Beveley Meadow) on your left-hand side where you keep straight on, through barriers, with hedges on your left-hand side.
- In 100 metres, at the end of the playing fields, go through a metal barrier and follow the tarmac path to the right, your direction 175°. In 70 metres go through a tunnel under the railway.
- In 65 metres you reach a road (The Spires). If you intend to return home from Canterbury West Station and do not wish to visit the city and the Cathedral, turn right on Station Road West: the railway station is some 220 metres on the right-hand side. Otherwise, go straight on along the path opposite and in 80 metres continue in the ame direction along Station Road West, downhill.
- In 100 metres you come to a roundabout and cross the main road (North Lane) to continue on a tarmac road, to the right of Deans Mill Court and across a mill stream bridge.
- On the other side turn right, signposted Riverside Walk, with the water on your right-hand side.
- In 90 metres, ignore the lock bridge straight ahead, to go right on an arched bridge. On the other side turn left, now with the water on your left-hand side.
- In 80 metres you pass Cafe du Soleil on your left-hand side across Guys Bridge. In 100 metres you come to the Westgate, with the Guildhall just beyond and the Cafe des Amis du Mexique opposite. Go left through the Westgate and straight ahead on the pedestrianised St Peter's Street.
- In 150 metres, you pass St Peter the Apostle Church on your left-hand side. In 90 metres you pass the Old Weavers' House on your left-hand side. (To shorten the walk at this point, continue ahead following signs to Canterbury East Station and the bus station, passing the Cathedral entrance to the left-hand side.) In 30 metres you pass Patisserie Valerie, a possible tea stop, on your left-hand side, and opposite is Cafe Boho, popular with SWSC walkers.
- The main suggested route is now to turn left on Best Lane. In 80 metres you pass the Thomas à Becket pub on your right-hand side. In 15 metres you cross The Friars to continue on King Street, and then take the first tarmac road left (Blackfriars Street) to the old Blackfriars Gallery, 50 metres away.
- At the Gallery turn right between terraces of houses, through concrete bollards. In 60 metres pass through a second set of concrete bollards. In 10 metres, take the lane sharp right (Mill Lane), your direction 145°.
- In 80 metres you come to a T-junction where you go left (despite a sign to the right for the Cathedral), your direction 35°.
- In 40 metres you pass the Old Synagogue and turn right with the road (ignoring a narrow path ahead). In 20 metres ignore Knotts Lane to your left. In 40 metres, with the entrance to Kings School ahead, turn right on Palace Street.
- In 200 metres, with the Seven Stars pub away to your right-hand side, turn left on Sun Street.
- In 90 metres you reach the main entrance to Canterbury Cathedral. After visiting the Cathedral - it is also worth walking round the outside, through the cloisters - you come out of the same gate to go straight on down narrow Mercery Lane, your direction 220°(turn right if you don't visit the Cathedral).
- In 60 metres you cross the main street (The Parade) to go straight on along St Margaret's Street. [The remaining directions take you to Canterbury East Station. For Canterbury West Station, turn right along The Parade and return to the Westgate, where you cross over the road junction to keep ahead along St. Dunstan’s Street. In 130 metres turn right down Station Road West. The railway station is some 210 metres on the left-hand side].
- In 65 metres you pass CJ’s restaurant on your right-hand side. In 130 metres you pass the Three Tuns pub on your left-hand side and go straight on, walking along Castle Street.
- In 160 metres, by St Marys Street on your left-hand side, you fork left through the bollards to go through the gardens and the old churchyard, your direction due south. In 75 metres you come to the White Hart pub on your left-hand side, the last pub before the station and a suggested refreshment stop.
- Afterwards, continue on The Crescent, your direction 210°. In 90 metres, with the remains of the Norman Castle to your right, turn left opposite Don Jon House, your direction 120°, with the flint city wall on your right-hand side.
- In 35 metres, with the Dane John Mound ahead of you, go up steps to cross the bridge. Canterbury East Station, with its snack bar, is directly ahead. For the London trains, go to platform 2 (via platform 1, turning right to go under the tunnel).