Yes, we know London has it all. But sometimes, we don’t want any of it. We crave something totally different… seaside air, country walks, panoramic cliff-side views. We need to escape, to get away, to hop on a train and have an adventure. And we don’t want to spend a fortune to do it.
Happily, exciting destinations to run off to are close at hand – and only an hour-and-a-bit away by high-speed train from St Pancras International. We’re talking about the Kent coast, which has plenty to tempt anyone: beaches, culture, nature at its most majestic, stunning views, tasty food. All tight-budget friendly, we’d hasten to add.
Here are some fab Kent-based activities you won’t want to miss…
Alan Tunnicliffe Photography via Getty Images
The port town of Folkestone is a buzzing creative hub with a thriving artistic community; you can discover plenty of artists, designers and quirky cafes while exploring the town’s cobbled streets (we’d also recommend checking out the dreamy pastel-hued beach huts when you visit). It’s also the place to take a trip back in time thanks to the ever-popular Silver Screen Cinema
, a 1940s-style indie theatre with red velvet seats. Bonus: you’ll find discount weekday movie tickets for £5.50 (before 5pm and on Tuesday evenings). Stretch your feet out after the cinema with a stroll along the Leas, Folkestone’s famed clifftop promenade. The views? Unbeatable – and you might even get a glimpse of France.
Flickr CC-BY Paul Pitman
A firm favourite with artists and hipsters, Margate has been lauded as the best seaside town, best town beach in the country and one of the best places to live, ever (the recent multi-million pound regeneration the town is benefiting from is only helping!). Make it a gallery day with a trip to the Turner Contemporary, where you can enjoy a range of works from modern provocateurs. Did we mention entrance is free? And while you’re in town, go back a bit further in time with a visit to the Shell Grotto
– a striking subterranean passageway believed to be from the 1700s, filled with mosaics of millions of shells (entrance is £4).
Dave Carr via Getty Images
Just an hour and a quarter from London is one of England’s most majestic sights and iconic symbols: Dover’s White Cliffs. With the bracing, breezy sea air, breathtaking (and ever-changing) views and exciting flora and fauna (the cliffs are home to an array of exotic wildflowers and butterflies) - this National Trust destination is well worth the day trip. And don’t forget to go underground and explore the war tunnels at the Fan Bay Deep Shelter for a fascinating history lesson.
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The charming coastal town of Broadstairs is full of quaint pubs, sandy beaches and fisherman’s cottages. No wonder it captivated Charles Dickens – it was his summer holiday spot of choice for nearly two decades. Indulge in some literary history with a day trip to the Dickens House Museum
. The cottage is the inspiration for the home of Dickens’ Betsey Trotwood of David Copperfield
fame and is packed with fun Dickensian memorabilia. Plus, entry is less than a fiver. True obsessives can also check out Broadstairs’ Bleak House
, the author’s former residence, where he wrote David Copperfield
Flickr CC-BY Whitstable Oyster Company
Fancy some cloisters? And then some oysters? Take a lovely walk along the Crab and Winkle way – a picturesque 8.2 mile trail from Canterbury through woods and rolling fields to the seaside town of Whitstable with glorious views of the town’s seafront and its famed weatherboard cottages. Before you head back to London, reward yourself with some of Whitstable’s famous oysters – head to Whitstable Oyster Company
any day of the week, where the pearls of the sea start at £3.50 apiece.
© Locations Photography/Paul Isles via Getty Images
Sometimes we need to get to temper the hustle and bustle of city life with a bit of soul-soothing nature. The medieval town of Sandwich is unspoilt and worth visiting for the Salutation Gardens alone (the gloriously colourful gardens were originally designed by Edward Lutyens in 1912). Or you can go a bit further afield to the tranquil nature reserve of Sandwich & Pegwell Bay, known for its diverse habitats and impressive array of birds.
Flickr CC-BY Richard Matthews
Just over an hour and 20 minutes away from London on the high speed train service, is a coastal town steeped in history: Deal. Formerly a smuggler’s hub in the 18th century, the English Heritage site of Deal Castle
makes for a fascinating day trip. Built by Henry VIII, it’s part of a string of artillery forts he designed. There’s plenty of opportunity for visitors to explore across several levels, and the seafront beneath makes for a lovely walk afterwards (or cycle to nearby Walmer Castle
for an extra dose of history). Fun fact: Deal Castle is shaped like a Tudor rose. And entry is less than £7.
Travel to the Kent coast in speed and style with Southeastern, with the UK’s first and only domestic high speed service. You can get to the seaside in just over an hour from St Pancras International and thanks to its Off-Peak ticket offers, you can get up to 34% off with GroupSave by booking with friends. Book your train tickets now.