Folkestone and Sandgate

SWC Walk 13 Folkestone Circular or Folkestone to Dover
SWC Walk 51 Sandling to Folkestone

Folkestone was a popular resort in the Victorian era and is currently trying hard to smarten up its act again. The ghastly funfair by the harbour has gone and the former cross-channel ferry port has been turned into an area of bars and restaurants - the "Harbour Arm". The town has also spent a considerable sum on a combination flood defence and new beach below The Leas, its clifftop promenade, which is definitely the nicest part of town.

  • Though shingle (with a bit of sand at lower tides), the new beaches at the foot of The Leas are good places to swim, and offer both steeply and more gently shelving beaches. The one at the foot of the dramatic zigzag path which descends from near the bandstand on The Leas is particularly well constructed as a curve between rocky breakwaters. The zigzag path is also well worth ascending or descending for its own sake

  • For a sandy beach, go beyond the harbour (ie to the east of it) to find a pleasant expanse of pure flat sand (entirely covered by the sea at high tide). The proximity of the harbour would normally put one off from swimming here on hygiene grounds, but this beach was actually one of the few in the south east to get top scores for cleanliness from the Marine Conservation's Good Beach Guide in 2009.

  • The coast going west from Folkestone towards Sandgate can seem surprisingly Mediterranean on a bright sunny day, though rather drab under cloud. The beaches are the usual moderately shelving shingle with rather more sand at low tide. Sections of the beach expose jagged rocks at low tides, so if the tide is half way down pick your swimming spot carefully.

  • The wild seafront of The Warren to the east of Folkestone is a very scenic spot, but there are underwater rocks and rusting posts of old groynes which make it a potentially hazardous place for a dip. One place relatively free of obstructions is the beach about 400 metres along the promenade, just before it is blocked by a large area of concrete esplanade that juts out into the sea. The section of beach 80-130 metres before this point is almost (but not entirely) free of underwater rocks. But even here it is probably not a good idea to swim until you have seen the shoreline at low tide and checked out where the clear section is. 

  • Food and drink options are numerous. There is a cafe on the Leas, just east of the bandstand, and the road that leads inland from it to the station has a useful Tesco Metro for buying picnic lunches. Just to the west of the bottom of the zigzag path is the Mermaid Cafe on the seafront, and there is a seasonal cafe behind the sandy harbour beach. There are a number of bars and eateries on the Harbour Arm, the redeveloped former ferry port. On the clifftop above the Warren is the well-named Cliff Top Cafe.

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