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Walking Series: Folkestone

In the latest part of his series on favourite mini walks, Norman Wright revisits an old stamping ground on the English Channel

The last time I was on the promenade between Folkestone harbour and Sandgate was 40-odd years ago; now, as I strolled on a lovely wintry afternoon, I wondered why I had left it so long.

On that occasion I was reporting on a big fishing match for Angling Times and was more concerned about not missing a winning catch than enjoying the scenery.

Now, instead of hundreds of anglers casting out into the surf, there were just a handful. They were wrapped up warm, a couple with survival tents that Bear Grylls would be happy with, ready to fish the ebbing tide that had just hit high water.

They were concentrating on their brightly coloured rod tips hoping for the sharp dip that meant a bite – and that it would be a decent cod that had avoided the attentions of the trawlers.

But it was the sound of the sea hitting the beach like a cymbal’s clash and then sucking out through the shingle with a long swish that took my attention.

That, and the low sun shimmering across the water and sparkling on the pebbles.

A few dozen others were enjoying this gentle walk as well as a few cyclists and a handful of dogs.

There’s plenty of parking down by the old harbour at Folkestone and we left our car there. A boardwalk along the top of the beach takes you to the start of the promenade or you can walk along the road past the sadly disused cliff lift. You can drive past the Victorian lifts and park closer to the wide, flat roadway.

Behind us, the protective harbour wall curved out into the English Channel with the busy ferries heading from Dover to France in the distance.

Ahead were the Leas cliffs with the promenade following at their feet. There are zig-zag paths through the wooded park that takes you up to the top. Further along were the pastel shades of beach huts and, form outside one, the wafting aroma of cooking on a gas flame, plenty of garlic and white wine, by my nose.

The most impressive series of beach huts was a bit of a trick. Painted grass green there seemed to be no doors or windows. Get closer and it has holes all over like a crazy golf course. It is 18 Holes – one of the series of art installations dotted around the town. There are several along the walk, including an ornate lamppost and some others which defied my untutored appreciation. Hard to understand but interesting to try to work out.

Further along is the Mermaid Café and a chance of a cuppa but it’s too late in the afternoon and season today. Meanwhile, looking along the coast to Sandgate Castle, built as a gun fortress by Henry VIII, a spectacular sunset was building.

The distance from the harbour to the Mermaid Café was about a mile and along to the Sandgate Castle about another mile. It is a completely flat and paved road, so a very easy walk. We turned back but you can walk up through the park to the top of the cliffs and walk back that way for a different view of this lovely spot of coast.Along the top there are more art installations to puzzle over and some of Folkestone’s stately hotel and white terraced homes.

Near and far with Langdale

Langdale Walking Holidays, the group walking specialist, has launched its 2019 collection of guided trips. There are walks as far afield as South Africa’s Drakensburg Mountains and Rajasthan as well as options slightly closer to home including the volcanic landscapes and black sand beaches of the Aeolian Islands and the cultural centre of Prague, plus Pembrokeshire’s pretty coastal path.

The company provides a wide range of walking itineraries across the world for those looking to explore with like-minded travellers who seek adventure but appreciate the comfort and service of an escorted holiday. Its portfolio of holidays combines some of the world’s best walks with relaxing cultural tours, optional daily activities (from painting to spa treatments) and the chance to explore plenty of historic sites en route, from the Municipal Houses in Prague to The Odyssey in Sicily. Langdale is owned by Celtic Trails, with its guided trips complementing Celtic Trails’ own tailor-made self-guided trips.

South Africa’s Drakensburg Mountains, Isanlwana and Rorke’s Drift

This 12-day trip departs on March 14 and offers walkers the chance to visit the heart of the UNESCO-protected Drakensburg Mountains with plenty of hiking routes to follow based at the Champagne Castle Hotel. The group will journey to the Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift sites where local guides will share stories about the Zulu Wars.

Classical Prague – Exploring the Czech Republic’s Historic Capital

This five-day trip, departing on May 13, takes in several hiking routes (rated as easy) while showcasing the cultural centre of Prague, following the Vltava river through the city centre, with stops at the Jewish Quarter, the Municipal House, Swarzenberg Palace and the ceremonial halls of Charles University, established in 1349. Walkers can also take the railway to the top of Petřín Hill to spot a copy of the Eiffel Tower, before walking down the short scenic path past the Strahov Monastery.

Explore Sicily and the UNESCO Protected Aeolian Islands

This eight-day trip, departing on October 11, allows walkers to explore the world of The Iliad and The Odyssey, where Ancient Greek theatres and temples sit tucked away among the canyons and volcanoes of this other-worldly landscape. The trip includes visits to the Crateri Silvestri where walkers can hike around the crater’s rim before journeying to the Lipari island where visitors can hike along the ridge of the volcanic Timpone towards the ancient San Calogero thermal baths.

Other trips include:
  • The Deserts and Mountains of Oman (April 5 to 13)
  • Pembrokeshire’s National Coastal Paths (April 24 to 28)
  • Walking in the Pretty Pyrenees (June 10 to 17)
  • The Edinburgh Festival and Military Tattoo (August 17 to 19)
  • Exploring Marrakech (September 30 to October 4)
  • Off the Beaten Track in Rajasthan (November 17 to 30).
Find out more
  • For further information, or to book a Langdale Walking Holiday, tel: 01291 639697, website: (
  • For information on Langdale’s sister company Celtic Trails (self-guided walking holidays), tel: 01291 689774, website: (
Early bird catches the walk

HF Holidays is offering a £50 early-bird discount on 2019 Summer European Adventures to stunning walking hotspots such as the Tatra Mountains and Pelion.

Guided Walking at Pelion

Follow in the footsteps of Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan as you enjoy unspoilt Greece at its absolute best. The ancient Greek peninsula that features heavily in the Mamma Mia! films is perfect for a sunny walking break, with the stone paths of Pelion providing fantastic routes between its untouched traditional villages.

Seven nights departing May 6 from £1099 per person on a half-board basis. Price includes return flights from London Gatwick and a full programme of daily guided walks.

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