Spotlight on Folkestone
If you want culture, the arts, great food, exciting and unique shopping experiences, plus the beach thrown in for good measure, where are you going to head? For both visitors and locals, it’s Folkestone that fits the bill and offers much more on top of all that. It’s a surprising and beautiful place, full of fascinating things to see, do and learn about. Folkestone has it all.
History in Brief
People have been living in what’s now known as Folkestone for around 12,000 years, making it one of the oldest occupied spots in the country. Archaeological digs have shown us that early Britons as well as the Romans and the Saxons all enjoyed Folkestone and chose it as a place to settle. The place was once just a small fishing village, important not because of its size but because of its location and the fact that people living there were easily able to sustain themselves from what was around them. That meant they could not only live there comfortably, but create an industry too, and over time the small village grew into a large town.
That fame came at a cost, however. By the time World War II came about, Folkestone was a major target due to its proximity to the coast and its importance in trade and industry – it was to become the most bombed area in the country outside of London.
Now, rebuilt and thriving, Folkestone continues to benefit from investment, including the Southeastern high-speed rail link that takes commuters and passengers from the seaside to London’s St Pancras International in just under an hour.
Things to Do
- Elham Valley Line Trust Countryside Centre & Railway Museum
The history of the Elham Valley Railway Line is one that will interest young, old and everyone in between. The line ran between Folkestone and Canterbury from 1884 until 1947, and now you can find out all about it in this lovely little museum. What really makes this place special is that the 300-year-old barn that it’s housed in was carefully moved piece by piece from its original location as it was due to be demolished to make way for the Channel Tunnel terminal to be built.
- East Cliff and Warren Country Park
For wildlife lovers and those who enjoy the fresh air, the East Cliff and Warren Country Park is the place to go. Take your time and enjoy a leisurely stroll, or try something a little more energetic and go for a jog or a run around the park. On your way round you’ll find all kinds of wildlife and plant life. The park is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and makes for a great day out. There is a small café in the park and well signposted walking routes too.
- Kent Battle of Britain Museum
Folkestone had more than its share of casualties and fatalities during World War II, and this nostalgia and memorabilia packed museum in Hawkinge, just outside of Folkestone itself, is a testament to that fact. It is by turns heartbreaking and fascinating, and contains items such as a Doodlebug, pieces of over 600 different planes, weapons, and battle plans. Snacks and drinks can be purchased on site.
- Sunny Sands Beach
There are, as you might expect, a number of gorgeous beaches in Folkestone, and any one of them would make for a great day out that won’t cost the earth and that will keep everyone happy for hours upon hours. Sunny Sands is a fine example of the kind of traditional beachside enjoyment that can be had in Folkestone. Being the only sandy beach that is less than an hour from London makes this place a special one and the annual sandcastle competition is always well attended. There are shops, cafes and restaurants nearby, so you can bask in the warm weather for as long as you want to.
- Leas Cliff Hall
This large entertainment venue is well loved by locals and visitors alike. With concerts, plays, ballets, and even wrestling, the events here are varied and change often enough that you will always find something to suit your own tastes. A great coffee shop on the ground floor is an excellent way to wind down and relax when you’ve been out and about, and the bar and restaurant are a fabulous way to begin or end your night out in Folkestone at the Leas Cliff Hall.
- Lower Leas Coastal Park
With adventure playgrounds, impressive sea views, lovely picnic areas, beautiful flower beds, and the Mermaid Café to ease any hunger pangs and keep you topped up with refreshments, the Lower Leas Coastal Park is a one-stop shop for a great day out. Follow the route to enjoy a lovely coastal walk, and pop to the beach as there is easy access from this great park to the sand itself.
There are restaurants that say they are on the coast – even on the beach – and then there’s Rocksalt, which is so close you can hear the waves and smell the sea. It’s no wonder that the food here is as fresh as it can be since most of it is local and much of it is seafood. Not only is the food exceptional, but this gem of a restaurant is a joy to sit in thanks to its modern design with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that give you an unparalleled view of the Kent coast. Dishes here include soused herring, cucumber and red onion salad and basil mayonnaise; baked mussels, smoked bacon and Kentish Gala cider; and spiced roast huss, sesame pak choi and satay sauce.
- Copper & Spices
This Indian restaurant is out of the ordinary and thrives on its reputation as an excellent place to try something new. The imaginative dishes, which include salmon and cod fishcakes with cilantro and ginger; boti rogan josh; and salli murg, are not only tasty, but they are presented beautifully too – this is modern Indian cuisine at its finest.
As Turkish cuisine goes, the food at Aspendos is some of the finest in the area. Authentic and tasty, there is nothing that is forgotten when it comes to the ingredients – fresh and local wherever possible – and the service, which is friendly and professional. Aspendos is all about giving diners the best flavours of Turkey, so that whether you are a first-time guest or someone who has returned a number of times, you will always have the same great experience. Try the yaprak sarma – stuffed vine leaves with rice, mint, parsley, onion and pine kernels; the imam bayildi – baby aubergine stuffed with fried onions, peppers and tomatoes, all baked in a light tomato sauce; or the sea bream with salad and chips.
- The Chambers
A pub, an entertainment spot, a great coffee shop and a cosy, intimate restaurant all rolled into one lovely venue with excellent food. Marinated salmon steak with Mediterranean vegetables and rice; the meatball sandwich with rich tomato sauce and grilled cheese in a sub served with fries and dip; and butternut squash, pine nut and spinach risotto are among the highlights on a delicious and diverse menu.
- Folkestone Harbour Music Festival // Aug
This is a free two-day music festival held each year in August to raise funds for the RNLI. This is a chance to see up-and-coming bands as they begin their music careers, and to spot those who have been in the business a while as they do their bit for the local area and charity.
- Folkestone Triennial // Sep-Nov
This eagerly anticipated art festival allows the town of Folkestone to become an artistic hub for two exciting, fun-filled months. It is thanks to the Folkestone Triennial that there are now 27 permanent new artworks in the town, and both new and established artists are always keen to get involved. The Triennial is your chance to see this art, speak to the artists involved and find out more about Folkestone itself.
- Folkestone Book Festival // Nov
This November event has taken place every year since 1980 and is set to continue into the foreseeable future. At this event, visitors are invited to enjoy talks by literary greats, take part in writing workshops, and follow a town tour to the most important spots when it comes to literature. Be inspired to write, to read, and to find out more about the town of Folkestone itself through its literary roots.
The Quarterhouse – a Creative Foundation project – is an exceptional venue for enjoying a show during your time in Folkestone. This award-winning building seats 250 and is where new talent and new ideas are showcased. With a well-stocked bar, exciting performances that change on a regular basis, and fantastic after-show parties, The Quarterhouse is an ideal way to spend an exciting and different evening in Folkestone.
Did You Know?
Folkestone is where you can find the highest brick-built arched viaduct in the world. It was built in 1843 by Sir William Cubitt.