Folkestone is a member of the Cinque Ports, having been incorporated as a Corporate Limb of Dover. In 1629 the local inhabitants obtained a licence to build a port, prior to which, fishing boats were entirely reliant upon the natural protection of the natural harbour formed by the Pent Stream.
At the end of the 18th century the city became prosperous because of an increase in the fishing and shipping industries and, in the middle of the 19th century, Folkestone was one of the chief resorts of southern England, aided by the construction of the railway line from London. Numerous Victorian Hotels, including "The Grand" and "Metropole" are testament to this, together with no less than three railway stations.
Since the 1950s it has fallen into decline due in part to competition from Dover, the advent of the Channel Tunnel (with many new jobs in the area because of it convening in Ashford) and the ubiquitous package holiday. However along with Kent's other seaside towns, it has seen some cultural regeneration in the 2010s including the Triennial arts festival.
Sandgate is a village at the west end of the town which has a popular beach.
- 1 Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, Satnav: CT18 8XX (M20 motorway, junction 11), ☏ . Vehicle shuttle train from Calais. The crossing takes around 30 min. You will pass through all passport controls before you board in Calais; the same applies on the return journey. The terminal has an indoor waiting area with restaurants and cafés for departures. Vehicles arriving from France pass a filling station before exiting the terminal. For more information, see United_Kingdom#By_car.
From within the UK
2 Folkestone Central station is in the town centre and is served by trains from London St Pancras and London Bridge, as well as other towns in Kent. Fare and timetable information is available from Southeastern, tel. +44 8457 484950.
Stagecoach is the bus company that operates in Folkestone. Timetables and fares are available from Stagecoach Buy your ticket from the driver when you board the bus. A £9.50 Mega rider plus ticket gives you unlimited travel within the Folkestone area for a week
- Folkestone taxi, ☏ .
- 1 Battle of Britain Memorial, New Dover Road, Capel-le-Ferne, CT18 7JJ, ☏ , email@example.com. Daily 10AM-4PM (autumn-winter), 10AM-5PM (spring-summer). A very touching memorial dedicated to the men who fought and died in Britain's most desperate hour. Vintage aeroplanes are also on display. Free.
- 2 Channel Tunnel Entrance. Observe from the hills to the northwest of Folkestone - 3 Caesar's Camp or Castle Hill and 4 Crete Road West are good spots - the shuttle trains loading cars and lorries before their undersea trip to France. The Channel Tunnel is described as one of the "Seven Wonders of the Modern World". On clear days, you also have a fine view over the English Channel and nearby parts of the French coast. Free.
- 5 Elham Valley Line Trust - Railway Museum and Countryside Centre, Peene, CT18 8AZ (Take A20 westbound from M20 junction 12, signposted Newington. After passing under Channel Tunnel rail bridge, turn right and follow brown signs to far side of Newington village.), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Sa Su, bank holiday 10AM-5PM. A volunteer-run museum preserving the memory of the long-vanished Elham Valley Railway. Highlights include a magnificently-restored 1930s-era station, an original loco, and a model of the original line. The museum profits from its proximity to the Channel Tunnel, presenting a working scale model of the terminal, and the last remaining tunnel manrider in existence. Adjacent to this is an early 18th-century barn which, moved piece-by-piece from its original location (now buried under the Eurotunnel terminal), displays old farming equipment and other rural artifacts, and is also a space for artisan crafts. Children's miniature railway, model shop and tea room on-site. Adult £3.50, concession £3, child £2.50.
- 6 Folkestone White Horse, email@example.com. Chalk figure of a horse which overlooks the town. No, it's not an ancient monument; it was commissioned for the millennium celebrations and completed in 2003. Best viewed from afar; Weymouth Road and the car park of Tesco are good specs, but it's visible from much of Folkestone. If you're just passing through to get to the continent, the outbound Eurotunnel terminal has some of the clearest and closest views.
- Folkestone Artworks. Any time. There are 74 outdoor artworks dotted around the town, promoted by Creative Folkestone. These include an Anthony Gormley statue under the harbour and Richard Woods' bungalows.
- 1 Quarterhouse, Mill Bay, CT20 1BN, ☏ (general), (box office), firstname.lastname@example.org. Box office M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-4PM. At the centre of Folkestone's Creative Quarter, is this arts centre and venue, which hosts regular comedy and music gigs, film screenings, discussions, artisan markets and other community events. Unusual "modern Gothic" café-bar upstair.
- 2 East Cliff and Warren Country Park, Wear Bay Road, CT19 6BL, ☏ , email@example.com. Daily dawn-dusk. A large park which becomes progressively wilder the further from town you venture. By the entrance, it's all very civilised: bowling greens, pitch and putt, a play area. But a challenging walk or cycle towards the sea finds you descending through landslipped cliffs and scrubland. This part of the park is a nature reserve and site of special scientific interest (SSSI), home to over 150 bird species and typical coastal plants such as rock sea lavender and samphire. At the bottom of the descent, you can go rockpooling, hunt for fossils or fish in the sea. Free.
- 3 Sunny Sands Beach, The Stade, CT19 6RB (east of the harbour), ☏ . 24 hours daily.. Home to the annual Folkestone sandcastle competition, this is a rare high-quality sandy beach on a coastline dominated by shingle. As such, space is short supply on hot days. Toilets and nearby food and drink facilities make this a handy place for families. Look out for the statue of a mermaid perched on a rock gazing out to sea. Lifeguard service spring and summer weekends. No dogs May-Oct. Free.
- 4 Folkestone Sports Centre, Radnor Park Avenue, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a large swimming pool (with a flume) at the sports centre behind Radnor park, where there is also one of Kent's only dry ski-slopes.
- 5 Harbour Arm, Harbour Approach Road, CT20 1QQ. Formerly the railway station for the boat trains, the Harbour Arm has been reopened to the public. There are several attractions along its length including several food and drink places. Free.
South-west of the town centre, or if coming from the harbour, west up Marine Parade, 6 The Leas is a clifftop coastal promenade along which you can stroll for about a mile. It's wide and flat, with some landscaping, a bandstand and a number of impressive old hotels. You're high enough to get some superb sea views, and for sure high enough to get buffeted by the Channel winds on blustery days! But on a calm, pleasant evening, there are few better places in Kent to catch a sunset.
There are several different attractions alongside the prom:
- 7 Lower Leas Coastal Park. 24/7. Open all year round, this is a wonderful seaside park containing an amphitheatre that provides free entertainment (mostly music and theatre) all throughout each summertime. Arrive early if you want to find a good seat! There is a large children's adventure play area along the seafront, suitable for most ages. The beaches throughout Kent, including Folkestone and Shepway have won awards for cleanliness and adhere strictly to European water quality standards. GBP 0.
- 8 Ride the Cliff Lift. Victorian engineered water-powered carriage ride, open weekends for transport between The Leas promenade and the stony beach/Lower Leas Coastal Park.
- 9 Leas Cliff Hall, The Leas, CT20 2DZ, ☏ . Box office M-Sa 9AM till showtime. Entertainment venue that, in the age of rock and roll, once pulled the biggest bands in the world. It now subsists on a diet of endless tribute acts and the occasional famous comedian.
There's nothing better than on a warm sunny weekend day in summer than to spend a morning browsing shops in the town centre, take a walk down the Old High Street into the artist's quarter, spill out into the harbour - get some locally caught fish and chips or some wonderful locally-caught seafood from the harbour stalls and then walk to the right, around the shore to the coastal park, stop by and listen to great live music in the amphitheatre, walk up the Zig-Zag path or take the Victorian lift up to the relaxing Leas promenade for some fantastic panoramic views of the coastline, pop into the Grand or Metropole for a refreshing drink in sophisticated surroundings and look at some artwork. In the evening, visit any of the restaurants in the town or nearby Sandgate and catch a show at the Leas Cliff Hall or in the more intimate Silver Screen Cinema in the town centre (next to Waterstone's bookshop).
At the turn of the century, many of the larger chains departed Folkestone for Ashford, being a much larger town and having superior rail connections to London and the continent. But, thanks to the efforts of a visionary charity, Folkestone's retail offering hasn't died; far from it. Creative Folkestone bought up much of the land in the centre and brightened up tired old buildings with vivid colour. The organisation actively encourages artists and craftspeople to relocate their businesses here and, crucially, keeps rents affordable. All this has seen the old town centre transformed into the Creative Quarter; there are around 50 independently-run shops, plus art studios, buzzing cafés and office space for the creative economy. The quarter's focus is the pedestrianised 1 Old High Street and the more modern 2 Tontine Street, which both descend towards the sea and meet just shy of the harbour.
There are a number of cafes in Folkestone, particularly at the top of the Old High Street.
- 1 Rocksalt, 4-5 Fish Market CT19 6AA, ☏ . W-Sa 12:00-15:00, 18:00-21:00, Su 12:00-16:00. An excellent place for seafood. Its prices are fair, and the service superb. There is a terrific view of the sea from every table, and there's a balcony. With four rooms, no dogs. B&B double £90.
- 2 Django's Cafe Bar, 17 Rendezvous St, ☏ . It sells a wide range of food, and is great for sitting outside in the summer.
- 3 Oriental Buffet, 18-20 Rendezvous St, ☏ . All-you-can-eat Chinese food.
- 4 Kalala, 2 Castle Hill Ave, ☏ . All-you-can-eat Chinese food.
- 5 Papas Fish Restaurant and Takeaway, 110 Sandgate Rd, ☏ , email@example.com. Excellent fish and chips. Friendly service.
Country pubs nearby:
- 6 The Gatekeeper Inn, Canterbury Road, Etchinghill (Either jnc 11 or jnc 12 on the M20), ☏ . Open seven days a week for lunches and evening meals. A 16th-century coaching inn, village pub and highly popular restaurant. Terrific food, real ales, oak beams & cosy atmosphere. Piped music questionable.
- 1 Samuel Peto, 23 Rendezvous St, Folkestone CT20 1EY. One of the most popular drinking establishments in the town is the former Baptist Galleries building, and before that a Baptist church, now a magnificently restored Wetherspoon pub, complete, some say, with its own resident ghost!
- 1 Holiday Inn Express Folkestone - Channel Tunnel, Cheriton High St, ☏ . On its own on edge of business park but good convenient stop over for channel tunnel and Dover ferries.
- 2 The Grand Burstin Hotel, Marine Parade, ☏ . Built next to the harbour, this hotel has declined somewhat since it was built in the heydays of 1970s. Renovations have however shaped up the hotel to be a good mid-range option.
Folkestone has easy access to a number of areas:
- Canterbury – the famous pilgrims' cathedral housing Thomas à Becket's remains, a museum celebrating Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a number of Roman things, as well as some decent shops and cafes
- Dover – the remains of a Roman villa, and the white cliffs experience museum
- Hythe – small town with ornamental canal, Port Lympne Wild Animal Park and access to the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch ultra-narrowgauge railway
- France – zip across the channel to Calais
|Routes through Folkestone|
|END ←||NW SE||→ Calais|
|London ← Hythe ←||W E||→ merges with → Dover|
|Hastings ← Rye ←||W E||→ merges with and|