Sandling to Folkestone via the Sea walk

A swimming walk. Starts with a disused railway line, Saltwood Castle, and downland. Finishes along the coast to Folkestone.


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Option Post # Weather
Wed, 13-Sep-23 Ancient and modern - Sandling to Folkestone 16 cloudy am sunny pm bit of a breeze
Sun, 07-Jul-19 Sunday Walk: Sandling to Folkestone and a cliff climb 7 overcast morning sun in the afternoon
Sat, 14-Jul-18 Saturday walk - Folkestone figure of nine [swimming walk] 22 another day of sun
Sat, 27-Aug-16 Saturday Second Walk - Swimming/coastal walk (another attempt!) 20 hot sunshine
Sat, 04-Jul-15 Saturday Second Walk: A little downland walk and then a nice swim 20 glorious sun
Wed, 21-May-14 Sandling to Folkestone, via Saltwood
Sat, 18-Jan-14 Sandling to Folkestone, via Saltwood 17
Sun, 28-Jul-13 Sandling to Folkestone, via Saltwood 7
Sat, 30-Jul-11 Sandling to Folkestone, via Saltwood
Sat, 24-Jul-10 Sandling to Folkestone, via Saltwood
Sat, 15-Aug-09 Sandling to Folkestone via the Sea
Sat, 02-Aug-08 Sandling to Folkestone via the Sea
Length: 13.4 km (8.3 miles) including visit to Folkestone Harbour. 7 miles without this extra bit.

Rated as 5/10 but I think this is too much

This is a great walk with amazing contrasts between woodland, downland and a castle in the morning and the shoreline walk from Sandgate to Folkstone and its interesting* developments round the harbour in the afternoon. There's also quite a lot of urban artwork to see if you fancy exploring the town a bit more. And there are three beaches so who knows, it might even still be possible to have a swim.

* but see this article about future plans - best get down there before they spoil it all!

Travel: As it's a short walk I think we can get away with the 1037 High Speed from St Pancras (changing at Ashford 1114-19 for Sandling) arriving 1130 OR 1001 direct from Charing Cross - this is the train you would change on to at Ashford. I'm posting the walk a bit early in case anyone wants to try and get an Advance ticket. Otherwise make sure you get a super off-peak return to Folkestone - it's 20% less than a standard off-peak ticket.

Return trains at 54 (High Speed), 08 and 34.

Lunch: the Earl of Clarendon (01303 248 684) in Sandgate, 7km (4.3 miles) into the walk, is a pub situated up a steep side alley tantalisingly close to the sea. It serves basic meals all afternoon daily and walkers have good reports of the food. According to the walk walk web page it has difficulty coping with groups, but the page lists a lot of other possibilities nearby.

Tea: The Harbour area has various pubs, including the quayside Ship Inn and a smart fish and chip shop, as well as a kiosk cafe with a deck jutting out over the harbour. The newly refurbished Harbour Arm (the former ferry port) has even more bars and restaurants, with good sea views. In the Old High Street on the walk back to the station there is the Steep Street Coffee House, open to 6pm Monday to Saturday and 5pm on Sunday. I like Kipp's Ale House (corner of Old High Street and Bayle Street) but it doesn't open till 4.30. For all these options, NOTE THAT FOLKESTONE STATION IS ABOUT A MILE'S WALK FROM THE HARBOUR.

Shortening the walk: missing out the harbour and going straight to the station cuts the walk down to 11.2 km/7 miles. If you fancy a longer outing having come all this way, the walk directions suggest adding the Folkestone circular option from walk SWC 13 giving a total walk of about 22 km/14 miles.

For walk directions, map and GPX click here


  • 12-Sep-23

    I'm planning to catch the Charing Cross train from Waterloo East

  • 12-Sep-23

    While I am going to take the Train from London Bridge. Save me a bit more money.

  • 13-Sep-23

    16 people. Weather was cloudy am sunny pm bit of a breeze

    A walk of two halves The first inland with one or two climbs, three actually, one hellish, up what must be Kent’s Kilimanjaro, an earlier one, not quite as hellish. Nice views though, with sheep and cows and woods and stuff.. But we got there wherever that was. (Sandgate). Some stopped at the Clarendon (who weren’t doing food and only took cards over £10) others went in the sea (gasp).

    Then on, the second half being more flatter. Coastal, even. This was more arty with arty beach huts and artworks..

    A winding boardwalk took us past the new ‘smartarsitecture’ (looks good) to the old harbour rail station (restored and eerily empty). Here the group, who had displayed 100% cohesion so far, fragmented. Mr Tiger fell in with a bad crowd. They dragged him into a Weshrthpons, (the Samuel Pepyth Peto) and plied him with alclohoo, moshtly cider.

    Then through twisty streets, across town to catch the 17 whatever to wherever.

    Grand day out. Good choice.

  • 14-Sep-23

    When we all separated, about 6 of us went to find the Antony Gormley sculpture, which was looking good in the sunshine, while others were more interested in ice cream or beer. A large group then headed for tea at Steep Street, but there weren’t many tables and so two of us opted for a second swim instead at a near- deserted sunny sands beach. On our return we met two pubgoers, and one stayed with them to explore Folkestone further while I headed for the station and regrouped with the remaining pubgoers on the 1734. The tea group had got the train ahead of us.

Chris L
Sandling to Folkestone, plus Folkestone Circular
Length: 11.2km (7 miles) or 21.7km (13.5 miles) Toughness: 5/10 or 8/10

As the summer warms up and sea temperatures start to rise, swimming walks become more attractive, so this walk offers various opportunities to take a dip along the coast between Sandgate and Folkestone. Indeed, if you’re just wanting a short walk, you could relax on the beach for the afternoon after lunch at Sandgate. For those seeking a more testing walk, switch to the Folkestone Circular walk when you reach Folkestone Harbour. This will take you further along the coast at sea level and then steeply up the cliff to return to Folkestone along the cliff top. In both cases the walk starts out through orchards, fields and downland, passing Saltwood Castle (formerly the home of Alan Clark MP).

The recommended lunchtime pubs in Sandgate are the Earl of Clarendon (01303 248684) or the Ship Inn (01303 248525). As always on a Sunday, it’s advisable to ring ahead to reserve a table.

09:43 Dover Priory train from Victoris (Bromley South 10:00, Orpington 10:08) arriving at Sandgate at 11:16.
Or 10:09 Margate train from St Pancras, changing at Ashford International (arr 10:47; dep 11:09) to arrive at Sandgate at 11:16.

Fast return trains direct from Folkestone Central to St Pancras leave on the hour (journey time 54 minutes). Direct trains to Victoria are at xx:09 (journey time 1hr 44 mins).

Cheapest fares are Advance tickets, £10 or £11 each way from Victoria, £13.60 each way from St Pancras. Usual rail card discounts apply. Buy before Sunday. Otherwise you’ll need a Super Off-Peak Day Return (£27.20 or £33.90) if buying on the day.

You’ll need to download the walk directions for Sandling to Folkestone.
If doing the circular extension, you’ll also need the walk directions for Folkestone Circular

  • 08-Jul-19

    It's hard to believe that I was the only person on this walk but didn't see anyone else. Only very short shower in the overcast morning but the sun came out in the afternoon. I had a most enjoyable day, rewarded for some energetic climbs getting to Sandgate by a leisurely afternoon exploring the interesting changes in the Folkestone Harbour area, and the interesting art works on the way.

  • Anonymous

    overcast morning sun in the afternoon 1

  • 09-Jul-19

    Six of us got off the train as listed at 11.16 at Sandling, two starting from St P and four already on the Victoria train. We met on the platform, exchanged names and set off, didn't see anyone else so am somewhat puzzled by MG's commentsof being the only walker. We didn't have any rain at all so also puzzled by the mention of a very wet shower! Did you get an earlier train, walk a different route? There was a rain in the distance to the west. It was a lovely walk, ups and downs and a ridge with views of the coast including across to France. Two had sandwiches at Shorncliffe, three had lunch on the balcony at the Ship in Sandgate, very good Sunday roast apparently, one had sandwiches on the beach I think. The tide was high but some of us had planned to swim and after some dithering went in for a dip just past the harbour at Folkestone where it's sandy if perhaps not quite as fresh as at Sunny Sands which the sea had covered and was quite choppy. Tea at the very special Steep Street Cafe where you can browse second books as you sip, homeward on th 6pm St P train for some of us. 6 weather=sunny and breezy

  • 09-Jul-19

    sorry meant to say very short shower!

    And one person did the extension.

  • 09-Jul-19

    7 including MG

SWC walk 51 + 13c - Sandling to Folkestone T=3.51

Length: - Sandling to Folkestone only: 11.1km (6.9 miles)
- Including Follkestone Harbour: 13.7km (8.5 miles)
- Including loop around Warren: 22.5km (13.9 miles)

Toughness: 5 out of 10: two or three steep climbs, otherwise level

9.10 train from Charing Cross (9.19 London Bridge) to Ashford International (arrive 10.31, depart 10.37: the timetable shows this as two trains but I have a suspicion it is the same train which just splits at Ashford), arriving Sandling at 10.48

Or catch the 9.34 Southeastern high speed train from St Pancras to Ashford, arriving 10.11, to connect with above train.

Buy a day return to Folkestone

The morning of this walk - walk directions here, GPX here - is a very pleasant 7.3km (4.4 miles) down to the sea, passing through varied territory - the track of an old railway line, some woodland and farmland, a little bit of downland, all with some distant sea views thrown in. Then, unexpectedly, you find yourself descending to the seafront of Sandgate, a quiet little seaside town which now has a range of nice places to have lunch.

Sandgate's shingle beach is a good place for a swim (high tide today is at 12.21pm) and indeed, if you wanted to you could spend the rest of the afternoon lounging on the beach, as it is only 2.4km (1.5 miles) along the promenade to Folkestone. Or you can explore the newly redeveloped harbour area of Folkestone - the Harbour Arm with its cafes and sea views, and the former harbour station and its cross-harbour bridge, now turned into a pedestrian walkway. Directions to reach this are included in the walk document: this increases the walk to 13.7km/8.5 miles. Folkestone also has nice beaches including the sandy Sunny Sands beyond the harbour.

Alternatively, you could add an afternoon loop to the walk by doing either the shorter or longer version of the Folkestone Circular - option c) of SWC walk 13 - walk directions here, GPX here. The Sandling to Folkestone pdf has directions on page 7 that tell you how to link in with this walk. The shorter version of the loop - turning left after the footbridge over the railway in paragraph 31 - takes you up through woodland to the Cliff Top Cafe and makes a total walk from Sandling of 22.5km (13.9 miles): the longer version (turning right after the footbridge) is the classic Folkestone Circular route, making a walk of 24.3km (15.1 miles) from Sandling.

Trains back from Folkestone are on the hour (00 past) to St Pancras (high speed, 54 mins: last train 23.00), or at 37 past to London Bridge and Charing Cross (1hr 45: last train 21.37).
  • 15-Jul-18

    22 on this walk on another day of sun . Hot inland but on the coast a cooling (even at times slightly TOO cool) breeze. I - and two newbies - soon got left behind due to everyone else whizzing off, but we then indulged in lots of butterfly spotting. Good to see so many still in these drought conditions.

    In places the path is getting a bit overgrown and could do with the attentions of the SWC’s legendary (not to say mythical) strimmer squad. On the illegal golf course route around the awkward road section the main group got told off and told to go back to the road: I think this option had better be dropped from the directions.

    At least five swam at Sandgate. The sea seemed noticeably nippier than on the Isle of Wight, but was still nice. Quite a few of us then lunched in the very nice seafront restaurant of the Ship - open windows and cool breezes.

    After lunch the centre would not hold and things flew apart. Or to put it another way, several repaired to a comfy room in the Ship to watch the tennis, two of us strolled on and I have no idea what happened to everyone else. Three of had a very nice second swim at Folkestone’s Mermaid beach and then explored the revamped Harbour Arm, having “refreshies” at the lighthouse bar at its end. By the time we were done my phone showed 7.30, but only because it had logged itself on to a French mobile network. But 6.30 was still too late to be doing extensions, so we walked back along the top of the Arm and walked out the harbour entrance at low tide and then had chips. Did anyone do one of the longer walk options? If so please post a comment.

    Going home the normally reliable high speed trains went into meltdown. We arrived for the 9pm to find it cancelled. A train then thundered through without stopping at 9.01 which the train tracker showed to be the also cancelled 8.00 running an hour late due to a signal problem in Margate. So why couldn’t they have just made it the 9.00? One of us got the last Charing X train and two of us ended up on the 10.00. This apart, a super day out.

  • 15-Jul-18

    In response to Walker's request I did do an extension of sorts, not the full figure of 9 as in the directions but what I thought would be both shorter and a less demanding climb to the top by following the cliff route instructions from walk 13. It did seem to be shorter and the climb following the cliff route not as steep - but not by that much on either score (though this is impressionistic) and it involved a huge amount of backtracking to then return to Folkestone Harbour. Perhaps some intermediate extension could be devised that would extend the walking and get one on at least the intermediate hill with the first Martello tower if not further up for those who don't swim.

SWC Walk 51 Sandling to Folkestone
Length 11.1km (6.7 miles)
Toughness: 5 out of 10


SWC Walk 51 + 13b Folkestone figure of nine
Length: 21km (13 miles)

9.31 Folkestone-bound train from Victoria (9.56 Bromley South, 10.03 Orpington) to Sandling, arrive 11.11


10.08 Southeastern highspeed train from St Pancras to Ashford International, arriving 10.46, connecting to the above train to Sandling, depart 11.00. You need to pay about extra for this - about £3 with a Network Card - and tickets from LT boundary zones are not valid: your reward is a much quicker journey home, though: see end of post.

Buy a day return to Folkestone. At St Pancras use the Southeastern machines just before the high speed ticket barriers to get a super off-peak return (£20 with a Network Card).

Links to walk directions: walk 51, walk 13

I have been saving this coastal/swimming walk for the August bank holiday because in the event that the weather is fine, trains to Folkestone will be a lot less crowded than those to other coastal resorts (even more so since the line currently terminates there due to storm damage on the section to Dover, which is taking a year to fix).

The morning is a normal, pleasant country walk from a quiet rural station, with some downland and woodland and a castle (not open to the public). You then come down to the sea at Sandgate, where there are lots of lunch options.

After lunch you have a choice:

1) Spend the afternoon swimming from the very pleasant shingle beaches of Sandgate or Folkestone and/or exploring Folkestone. The town also has popular sandy beach - "Sunny Sands": to get to this follow the link to the afternoon extension, and the beach is just beyond the harbour.

2) Do a grand "Folkestone figure of nine walk" by doing walk 13b Folkestone Circular. To do this, stay on the seafront beyond the Mermaid Cafe (paragraph 49 in the Walk 51 directions). In about 1km you come to Folkestone harbour: follow the road around the edge of this until you cross a seafront square and pass under the arches of the former Folkestone harbour railway line: in another 100 metres or so you pass The Ship Inn on your left: then see paragraph 15 of the Walk 13 directions on page 4.

*** Three special notes about walk 13b:

a) In mid July work was being done on the esplanade past the harbour beach - "Sunny Sands" at Folkestone - blocking the route described in paragraph 16 of walk 13 on page 4 of the directions. To get round this, look out for a path up steps a little way beyond the Ship Inn (paragraph 15), which is signposted as the coast path. This takes you up onto a road, where you turn right. This brings you in a few hundred metres to the "gable-roofed building" mentioned in paragraph 17 on page 4, with the white Martello Tower visible beyond.

b) Folkestone to Dover has now been made the "main" option for this walk. To do walk 13b Folkestone Circular, switch to the special directions as explained in paragraph 19 of the main walk directions, on page 4.

c) There has been a change to the route up the cliff in the middle of this walk. The original path had become (or was in mid July this year) so overgrown as to be impassable - see paragaph 9 of the option a) and b) directions on page 8. Fortunately there is an alternative, which is indicated in the text. This is less dramatic, and also shortens the walk a bit, but it has an exciting finish and brings you directly up to the Clifftop Cafe, a gloriously-sited tea stop. You then continue the walk as before.

If you want to have dinner in Folkestone, the "posh" fish and chip shop on the harbour is recommended, and I have heard good things about the seafood restaurant opposite. In the main high street, slightly off the route described, is a good Oriental buffet (all you can eat: Google "Oriental Buffet Folkestone).

Trains back from Folkestone:

- 00 past (ie on the hour) to St Pancras - 54 minutes journey time, last train 23.00

- 13 past to Victoria - 1hr 54 mins journey time: last train 22.13

  • 23-Aug-16

    I may go to this but I agree with you about the trains. Trying to get from St Pancras to Rye on the HST service last year on a hot Saturday, we found the company had only put on a train with four (maybe five?) carriages. The fare is high as we all know. Lots and lots of people were standing, and the train was packed. Folkestone is not Ashford/Rye, of course, but it is worth considering whether the potential hell of getting there is something you want to go through. I nearly wrote to the company afterwards but didn't quite get round to it. Short trains on hot days are a scandal given the fares we pay.

  • 23-Aug-16

    Sounds like a bad experience, Poppy, but your train to Ashford might have been one that went on to Margate or Broadstairs. The trains to Folkestone this year go only to Folkestone, since the line is suspended beyond there, so hopefully - hopefully - will be less crowded. But we will have to see. August Bank Holday is after all August Bank Holiday....

    Just incidentally, the rail companies do not keep lots of extra stock lying idle just to be deployed on hot days in summer. What carriage sets they have are utilised to the maximum on a day to day basis: none are kept in reserve. So frustrating though it may be, they often don't have extra sets to add. High speed trains are in units of six carriages, if I remember correctly. Trains thus have 6 or 12 carriages.

  • Anonymous

    Its worth writing a complaint if you are subjected to such poor travel conditions and also worth asking for compensation.

  • Anonymous

    how come the comments don't always show up even if you press F5 ?

    Can you please tell me how far it is from Sandgate station to the sea at Sandling ? half way through?


  • 25-Aug-16

    Four to five miles? It is in the walk document.

  • 28-Aug-16

    20 on this walk on a day of hot sunshine (sorry, Third Walkers!). No problems on the trains and the partial shade in the morning of the walk was welcome. In two places - just at the start and climbing on the downland ridge - overgrown vegetation was a minor hassle. Hopefully 20 walkers tramping through it will effect some improvement, though not for the first time I reflect that maybe we need to form an SWC path clearing team...

    I think at least half of us swam in the sea at some point, some twice. Most of us lunched at the King's Arms in Sandgate which has a lovely upstairs deck overlooking the sea and good seafood options. If anyone went on to do the Folkestone Circular walk I do not know. The bunch I was with got increasingly lazy as the afternoon wore on, exploring Folkestone Harbour, having tea, going out onto the amazing Harbour Arm (the former port area which now has bars and restaurants) and having a late afternoon swim and sunbathe.

SWC Walk 51 - Sandling to Folkestone T=3.51
Length: 11.1km (6.7 miles) - for longer options see below
Toughness: 5 out of 10

9.40 train from Charing Cross (9.43 Waterloo East), arriving Sandling 11.11


10.08 Southeastern High Speed train from St Pancras International to Ashford, arriving 10.46, changing there for the above train, departing 11.00

Buy a day return to Folkestone.

For walk directions click here.

"PLEASE PLEASE can we have some swimming / seaside walks ? Deal, Folkestone, Sandling…", sayeth the Requests section. Step forth little Sandling to Folkestone, plucky terrier of a SWC walk, which so rarely gets an outing.

This was designed as a sea swimming walk, though does just as well as a gentle walk to the sea, because to begin with you have 7.3km (4.4 miles) of varied countryside - a little lost corner of England with a walk along an old railway line, some shady bits, a castle and a downland ridge with fine views, plus a couple of bracing climbs before unexpectedly you descend to the sea at Sandgate

Will you rush straight for a swim or have lunch first? Either is possible, since the Earl of Clarendon pub, tucked up a side alley like a Greek Island taverna, was serving its very good value food all afternoon when I last passed in February. If not, Sandgate town centre is dripping with alternatives - see the walk directions.

For swims Sandgate offers a pleasant, pebbly beach (bring flip flops or beach shoes). High tide is at 1pm, falling to a low at 8.50pm. Sea temperatures will be about 16 degrees.

After Sandgate there is just a couple of tranquil miles on the seafront to Folkestone, where there are slightly less pebbly beaches below the Leas, or if you go off the walk route to Folkestone harbour and just beyond, a pleasant sandy beach that despite its post-industrial surroundings achieves top water quality scores. For more swimming info for this walk click here.

For a LONGER WALK try dovetailing this walk with SWC walk 13, Folkestone Circular. Those who count it a shame to finish the day without doing at least 14 miles might like to note that the two walks have never been done tail to tail, as far as I am aware. Lesser mortals might like to do an out and back exploration beyond Folkestone to the Warren using the walk 13 route.

Trains back are at 14 past for the Charing Cross-ites, taking 1hr 38. St Pancras types can also take this train and change at Ashford (taking 1hr 07 mins), but the direct St Pancras service is on the hour, so 17.00, 18.00 etc, taking 54 minutes.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much Walker! remember this walk from couple of years ago..yes a walk through cooling greenery and then seeing an enticing blue sea on coming out at Sandling just exciting! can't wait to dive in ..

  • Anonymous

    coming out at Sandgate..

  • Anonymous

    How do I join this walk?

  • 02-Jul-15

    You get on one or other of the specified trains, and look for the group on the platform on arrival at Sandling (it is a very quiet station, so other walkers will be obvious).

    You need to bring a copy of the walk directions (click not he link in the walk post).

    For more information on how our walks work see

  • Anonymous

    really annoyed that as the requester of this walk am now not able to go due to illness. Hope people enjoy swimming in the cooling sea, it's going to be hot weather !

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for Walker.

  • Anonymous

    20 I think Most of them came on the High Speed Train route

    glorious sun &_strong_cooling_breeze

    An excellent walk through shady woods and over hills giving lovely views and the wind made the heat most of the time very acceptable. Stinging nettles were no fun, all walkers should carry strimmers and use them

    Someone phoned the Earl of Clarendon pub to warn then of our impending arrival but the barman said – I will do my best but I am on my own.

    Something like 6 were well fed at the Earl and the other 10 or so of us went to the Ship which is a great pub with a raised deck and good food and very friendly service. The wind now was a bit annoying with one lass putting on her waterproof and putting the hood up and the rest of us shivering

    Down to the beach for a swim but the waves were too rough so a few paddled then ice cream on the prom in Folkestone and apparently one very brave lad went for a swim.

    The funicular railway is fun going both up and down

    Good walk and though it was only 11 K it seemed a lot longer – a few steep ups and downs probably meant that we did a lot more.

  • 05-Jul-15

    We fragmented into several groups, and one early group of about 3 swam in the sea outside the Mermaid Cafe where it was a bit calmer. 4 of us walked on to the sandy beach just beyond Folkestone Harbour and enjoyed a lovely dip in calm though freezing water. We'd had lunch at the Ship Inn at Sandgate on the upper outside deck, a great place on this sunny day, and I think it's a good idea to make it the recommended pub stop rather than the Earl of Clarendon which is a bit too small to cope with serving food to more than two people.Sylvia C.

  • 05-Jul-15

    For the record, as Walker says in his post that he hasn't known Sandling to Folkestone & the Folkestone Circular being done together I did this yesterday & it worked very well. Continuing on the promenade from Sandgate, instead of leaving it at Mermaids Beach just continue ahead to eventually reach Folkestone Harbour & go under the railway bridge, picking up the Folkestone Circular directions at para 13. An exhilarating day out!

  • J

    Definitely concur with Sylvia re. the Ship Inn as a preferred lunch stop if you have more than a brace of walkers. [The Earl of Clarendon, though the food and beer (we hear) very respectable, is tiny and was staffed by the lone landlord - who when he is pulling pints is not preparing food and vice versa.] The Ship Inn has a restaurant at the back and a more informal dining area on the deck, the food was delicious and reasonably priced, plus a selection of pilsener and ales (Greene King).