Main walk: 11.1km (6.9 miles)
a) Extension to Folkestone harbour: 13.7km (8.5 miles)
b) Folkestone figure of nine walk: 22.5km (13.9 miles) or 24.3km (15.1 miles)
5 out of 10: two steep hill climbs: otherwise flat or gentle gradients
The walk starts at Sandling station, which is a minor stop between Ashford and Folkestone. Journey times are 1.5 hours from Charing Cross, but just one hour if you take the high speed train from St Pancras and change at Ashford. It takes two hours to walk to Sandgate, so to get there in time for lunch aim to start the walk at around 11.00.
OS Landranger 179, OS Explorer 138
This walk was designed as a swimming walk – that is, to give you a pleasant morning walk of 7.3km (4.4 miles) and then get you to the beach for an afternoon sea swim (the sea is warm enough from July to September). However, it also makes a pleasant short outing at any time of the year – for example as a late start walk in spring or summer, or a brisk excursion in winter. There are one or two bluebell woods near the start of the walk in late April or early May
The walk starts along the track of an old branch line which chugged down the hill to Hythe and Sandgate until its closure in 1951. Then there is a pleasant section of orchards and fields which brings you to the village of Saltwood, with its church and castle (the home of Alan Clarke MP: he of the famous diaries), before you suddenly find yourself on a fine section of open downland. The first steep (but not very long) hill climb is here, which takes you up to a ridge with fine views of the sea.
After a slightly awkward (but also very short) road section, you pass by Sene Farm and over more downland territory, before descending into the Seabrook Valley and on up the second steep hill, which brings you out by a military cemetery with even better sea views. Finally, there is an unexpected and quite dramatic descent down through luxury houses to the coast at Sandgate for a pub lunch and a swim. The walk ends with a pleasant 2.4km (1.5 mile) stroll along the (largely traffic-free) sea-front promenade into Folkestone, finally climbing up to the The Leas, the town's clifftop promenade.
a) Extension to Folkestone harbour: This 2.6km (1.6 mile) extension takes you to Folkestone's harbour, with more refreshment options, and then back through the old streets of the town and along its attractive clifftop esplanade. Directions for this are on page 7.
b) Folkestone figure of nine walk: This links this walk with option b) Folkestone Circular of SWC Walk 13 Folkestone to Dover to give you a grand tour of the coast on either side of Folkestone. Depending on which of the two versions of the Folkestone Circular you choose to do, this gives a total walk (from Sandling) of 22.5km (13.9 miles) or 24.3km (15.1 miles). To do this option follow the main walk and then option a) above as far as Folkestone harbour and you will be told when and how to switch to the SWC Walk 13 directions.
The beach from Sandgate to Folkestone is a popular place for swimming in late summer. It is a shingle beach, so some form of plastic sandals, diving shoes or flip flops can be useful. There is some sand at very low tide. Most places along this stretch of coast can be swum at all states of the tide, but at very low tide there are sometimes rocky sections. Just take a bit of care at low tide is the best advice.
One very nice beach is just opposite the Mermaids Cafe Bar, the point on the walk when you start to climb the cliff to Folkestone station. The beaches here were reconstructed a few years ago and the beach just beyond the cafe has a gentle slope and a sandy(ish) bottom. Finally, just beyond the harbour, about 1km further along the coast from the Mermaids (and thus not on this walk), there is a flat sandy beach that is well sheltered from westerly winds and which has in the past received top marks from the Marine Conservation Society for cleanliness.
|Lunch and Tea||
The Earl of Clarendon (01303 248 684) in Sandgate, 7.3km (4.6 miles) into the walk, is situated up a steep side alley tantalisingly close to the sea, and in summer puts some tables in the alley giving it the air of a Greek taverna. It serves basic meals all afternoon daily. It can struggle to deal with large groups, however.
An even better choice is The Ship Inn (01303 248 525) in Sandgate High Street, which has a deck overlooking the sea and has good reports from walkers.See walk document ("Download Walk" button above) for other options in Sandgate
At the end of the walk the Mermaids Cafe Bar on the promenade is a nice spot for tea. Option a) Extension to Folkestone Harbour brings other refreshment options into range.
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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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Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.
This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk