Folkestone might be best known for its close proximity to the Channel Tunnel/Eurotunnel shuttle link situated just to the north west of this Kent town, however as a holiday base Folkestone has much to offer. Folkestone has a history as a popular seaside holiday resort. Located within the Shepway southern region of Kent which incorporates the Hythe and Romney Marsh area stretching down to Dungeness. Direct railway links from London in the mid-1800s made it an accessible Victorian seaside holiday destination.
Today it has rediscovering those roots with its attractive one mile long Leas Promenade and Leas Valley Park restoration, its outstanding town centre, particularly the old town area and harbour which has long been a favourite for fine fresh fish. The choice of local attractions includes the nearby Battle of Britain Museum to the north at the RAF Station Hawkinge, the nearest Royal Airforce Station to occupied France during the war. Other family attractions nearby include the popular Port Lymne Animal Conservation Park northwest of Folkestone.
Folkestone Racecourse is Kent's only horse racing course, site for 20 racedays annually, both flat and turf. With great value accommodation in the town, a host of scenic cliff top walking close to hand particularly north to Samphire Hoe and fast transport links to Canterbury, Dover, the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway and the RSPB nature reserve to the west at Romney Marsh, there's ample excuse to linger in Folkestone and spend a few days of your holiday here before pushing across the Channel via Eurotunnel, the fastest cross-channel route to France in just 35 minutes! Folkestone Local History Society holds a number of talks and events throughout the year for visitors who want to learn more about the area.
Sitting within the context of the UK's revival of its Victorian and Edwardian seaside heritage, Folkestone's coastline has seen restoration particularly with the Lower Leas Coastal Park. Situated between the cliff top and Marine Parade, the Lower Leas Coastal Park during the Victorian era was a Mediterranean styled haven here on the Folkestone coast. Restoration in recent times has included the building of an amphitheatre which comes alive with various open air performances during the summer months. Public art has arrived in the seaside resorts around Britain with Folkestone's seeing numerous work by contemporary artists dotted about the town.
The Sustrans Kent coast National Cycle Route two runs all the way from Dover along the Folkestone coast on to Hythe (see the Sustrans webguide right for details). Folkestone Harbour is also undergoing some major restoration, and promises to be a tourist hub in the near future boosted by Folkestone's annual Harbour Festival in July. The harbour is a busy place usually with many drawn to the long established local fresh fish and seafood outlets here where you can enjoy the best of Kent seafood in an informal atmosphere with Folkestone harbour views.
The Folkestone Harbour masterplan includes linking a cultural centre in Folkestone's old town heart to the harbour, and on the harbour itself the development of restaurants, bars, leisure facilities, an arts centre, retail outlets, sculpture projects and more. Read on via the Folkestone Harbour and Triennial webguides right. Both daily and annual harbour mooring is available at a very reasonable price! Folkestone Harbour Master Tel. 01303 254597.
Folkestone Tourist Information Centre, Harbour Street, Folkestone, Kent. CT20 1QN. Tel. 01303 258594.
With direct access off the M20 motorway, Folkestone Racecourse sits west of the town and offers a fun pack 20 racedays annually. The racecourse is renowned for its excellent conference and banqueting facilities, and therefore is a popular choice for corporate events. Themed raceday choice is excellent, including Ladies Day (June), Builder's Day (also June), Easter Race Day and more.
A busy and popular racecourse in the Souh East, Folkestone Racecourse has teamed up with the new Stop 24 Kent Motorway Services (the largest in the UK) situated off the M20 at Junction 11 to offer the new Stop24 Kent National Race every February. Stop24 offers a superb choice of retail outlets plus accommodation available on-site. This motorway services sit conveniently close to the racecourse making for easy dipping into race fixtures prior to Channel Tunnel crossings. The motorway services also offer comprehensive ferry and Channel Tunnel information via big plasma screen, plus has a tourist information centre on-site.
For more information on race fixtures at Folkestone Racecourse and the extensive conference and banqueting facilities on-site, check the Folkestone Racecourse webguide right.
Folkestone Racecourse, Stone Street, Westenhanger, Nr Hythe, Kent CT21 4HX. Tel. 01303 266 407.
Easily accessed to the north of Folkestone off the A260, the Kent Battle of Britain Museum is home to the UK's most comprehensive collection of Battle of Britain artefacts. Numerous aircraft, weapons, crashed aircraft artefacts and flying equipment are all on display here.
The museum sits on the historic RAF Station Hawkinge site, home to No 79 Squadron during the Battle of Britain from 2 July 1940. Once the Germans had pushed the allies to the sea and France was taken, the Battle of Britain was fought in the skies from 10 July to 31 October 1940. The museum tells the heroic story of over 2000 men (both British and Overseas pilots) who flew sorties during the Battle. Five hundred and forty four men lost their lives, and now via the official RAF Battle of Britain history website (see link right) you can read complete Fighter Command Operational Diaries online. The website also offers a comprehensive history of the Battle including Figher Airfield listings and a Roll of Honour listing those men who lost their lives. RAF Station Hawkinge, alongside other airfields in Kent played a major strategic role in the Second World War and was the closest airfield in the UK to enemy occupied France. This area and Folkestone was subject to heavy shelling during the war, an indication of the site's importance.
The Battle of Britain museum, alongside a tour of the Secret Wartime Tunnels at Dover Castle, are essential viewing. Run entirely by volunteers, the museum has an excellent shop on-site, with free parking and small cafe.
Battle of Britain Museum, Aerodrome Road, Hawkinge, Nr Folkestone Kent CT18 7AG. Tel. 01303 893140
Another iconic feature of the Kent Channel and Sussex coasts is the distinctive circular Martello Towers dating from the Napoleonic Wars. A large number of them are dotted around the East Wear Bay, Folkestone and the Sandgate coast. Built to defend the English coast against potential attack by Nepoleon, by the time they were finished in 1808 that threat had all but disappeared after British victory at Trafalgar in October 1805.
The idea to contruct the towers had first emerged earlier in 1798, and despite seeing no service during the Napoleonic Wars the idea was that they would remain dormant until needed for the next potential attack. Ironically during the first half of the 19th century they served more as lookout points for catching smugglers. The towers were rearmed however during the 1830s, such was the fear around attack on Britain during the French Revolution.
Into the 20th century some of the Martello towers ended up as private homes (today there's even one with a swimming pool on the roof!). One of the most famous of these historic 74 towers near Folkestone is Tower 3 at Copt Point which was open to the public until 2004. You can still view it externally, and read a comprehensive history of all 74 towers via the definitive South Coast Martello Towers history webguide linked right.
Well worth a look too along the Folkestone coastal path towards Sandgate is the earlier Sandgate circular castle built in 1539 by Henry VIII. Sandgate Castle formed part of Henry's coastal defence strategy - the second wave of coastal defences built along this coastline. The first was the Roman Saxon shore forts whilst the Marcello Towers were the third coastal defensive scheme.