Folkestone Tourist Guide
Take a holiday near the coast and explore the many delights of Kent!
The town is located at the eastern end of the M20 which provides fast access to Ashford, Maidstone, London and the M25. The A20 is motorway-standard to Dover. Folkestone also marks the eastern end of the A259 South Coast Trunk Road with access to Hastings, Eastbourne and beyond. To the north, roads connect Folkestone to Canterbury and the nearby villages of Elham and Lyminge.
The town is situated at the foot of the North Downs, offering spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and the French coast, just 21 miles away. The North Downs Way, which starts in Surrey, reaches the coast at Folkestone and continues through Capel-Le-Ferne to its end at Dover, some 8 miles away. Many walkers enjoy this marvellous scenic route and the ‘Folkestone Horse’, which has been carved into the hill side of the Downs. The area attracts migrating birds and the Warren (woodlands adjoining Wear Bay) and the cliffs above are of particular interest during the spring and autumn periods.
The name of the town has its origin in the late 7th century as 'Folcanstan', probably referring to the 'stone of Folca', a common old English name. In about 630, King Eadbald of Kent built an abbey on the western cliff at Folkestone, for Eanswith, his daughter, and her nuns. This is believed to have been the first Christian community for women in England. Her name lends itself to the parish church of St Mary and St Eanswythe where her mortal remains are believed to be buried. Eadbald chose Folkestone as the site for the church and nunnery dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, which he founded for his daughter Eanswythe. Eadbald also built a castle for the protection of the nunnery. Although the original church has since fallen into the sea and the castle is no longer in existence, it was under the protection of the castle that the fishing village of Folkestone had its origins.
Viking raids were common to this area of England and left widespread damage to the settlements at Folkestone up until the 10th century, and even after Edward the Confessor came to the throne in 1042, the village was again devastated by Earl Godwin of Wessex, after being exiled by the king.
By 1066 Folkestone was a mere hamlet occupied by fishermen and farm workers who cultivated the arable lands that had been cleared in the thickly wooded countryside. At this time the manor of Folkestone was in the ownership of the church at Canterbury. After William became king he took the barony and made a gift of it to his half brother Bishop Odo. By 1086, the year of the Doomsday Book, the barony was held by William D'Arcy. It was given a value of £100 and consisted of approximately 6240 acres, 5 churches and around 600 people.
In 1095 the lord of the manor was Nigel de Muneville. Nigel de Muneville built the town a new church to replace that which was destroyed by Earl Godwin. He did not rebuild the nunnery but built the Folkestone Priory for Benedictine Monks instead. In 1138 a new church and priory were again built, this time by William D'Averanches and dedicated to St. Mary and St. Eanswythe.
The French took the opportunity of attacking Folkestone in 1216 and destroyed much of the settlement. The village even at this early period in its history was significant enough to have a Mayor and a Corporation, and in 1313 it received a charter as a Corporate Limb of the Cinque Ports. Folkestone was a ‘limb’ of the Cinque Port of Dover, until in 1629 the local inhabitants obtained a licence to build a port.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I Folkestone contained about 120 houses.
The people of Folkestone, added the first 'e' in the 16th century, because the anagram of Folkstone is 'Kent Fools' and they considered this an insult. (many thanks to Caz Elliott for this info!)
Until the 19th century Folkestone remained a small fishing community whose seafront was continually battered by storms and encroaching shingle, making the landing of boats difficult. Fishing continued to be the main industry of the town at this time but this was also when smuggling became almost a way of life for many of the townspeople. Smuggling originally involved the illegal export of wool. Added to this was the import of contraband goods such as spirits, tea, tobacco, silk and lace. Smuggling grew to dominate the local economy through the 1700s and well into the 1800s.
In 1807 an Act of Parliament was passed to build a pier and harbour and by 1820 a harbour area of 14 acres (57,000 m²) had been enclosed. At this time trade and consequently the population of Folkestone grew slightly although the development was still held back, with sand and silt continuing to obstruct the harbour. The Folkestone Harbour Company invested heavily in removing the silt but with little success. In 1842 the company went bankrupt and the Government put the harbour up for sale. It was bought by the South Eastern Railway Company (SER), which was then building the London to Dover railway line. Dredging the harbour and the construction of a freight route down to it commenced almost immediately, and the town soon became the SER’s principal packet station for the Continental traffic to Boulogne.
During the First World War Folkestone was host to some 65,000 Belgian refugees and from 1915 was the main departure point for soldiers leaving to fight in the trenches of France and Belgium. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, including many Canadian troops, left from Folkestone, marching from the Town to the Harbour along the route now called the ‘Road of Remembrance’.
Folkestone was seriously damaged during both World Wars, as its proximity to the Continent allowed shelling to take place which gave rise to the name of ‘Hellfire Corner’. The town had suffered great damage and was changed forever. 123 people were killed and 778 injured. 550 houses had been destroyed, 10,000 properties damaged and 37,000 people had left the area.
High speed commuter services are planned to operate from Dover, Folkestone and Ashford to London in 2009 using the High Speed Rail Link. This will place Folkestone about one hour from London by High Speed Train, making it one of the closest (in terms of time) coastal towns to London. This is likely to make the town very attractive to commuters. An in-town shopping centre, Bouverie Place, is due to be open in 2007, is also expected to contribute to a revival of Folkestone's fortunes. Modern Folkestone is a product of the Victorian age. The Town covers some 3525 acres and now has a growing population of around 43,000. The coming of the railway in 1843, the development of the harbour and the Earl of Radnor’s decision to create a superior resort in the middle years of that century were the factors that made the town of today, with fine buildings, attractive parks and gardens and a seafront varied in character. Modern industrial and commercial developments have broadened its economic base and the town now has within its bounds the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, a main rail/road link to the continent.
The Battle of Britain Museum is the oldest established and largest collection of Battle of Britain artefacts on show in the country. It is privately run by enthusiasts and volunteers and is administered as a charitable trust. It receives no grants or funding from the local council, the government, the RAF or the National Lottery. Situated on the historic airfield at Hawkinge, about 3 miles inland from Folkestone on the A260, the Museum's original 1940 buildings, some of which still bear the scars of war, contain the world’s largest collection of authentic Battle of Britain relics and related memorabilia. The Museum is the oldest established Battle of Britain Museum and has been open to the public since 1971, the majority of the exhibits having been recovered in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is located in Aerodrome Road, Hawkinge. Visit www.kbobm.org for details.
Folkestone Museum depicts key moments in the life of this coastal town in South East Kent. Artefacts relating to smuggling, marine life, the town's role in defense and as a holiday destination are represented as well as Folkestone on film and hands-on activities for children. The importance of Folkestone's archaeological past is shown by the Anglo-Saxon skeleton and artefacts from the Roman Villa on the East Cliff. The town's maritime history is covered by objects, documents and text panels. The museum can be found on Grace Hill. For more information telephone 01303 256710.
In 2007 the Folkestone Harbour Festival (14 and 15 July) will be across 2 days. It will include the Famous Raft Race as well as Tug o War, Barrel Pull and the Truck Pull Competition. For more details go to Festival.
The Lower Leas Coastal Park's 350-seat amphitheatre is a stunning facility, forming part of the Folkestone Lower Leas Coastal Park's range of recreational facilities. With Grecian-like columns set in front of a backdrop of the sea the amphitheatre has a varied range of entertainment laid on for free during the summer months. The park is located in Lower Sandgate Road Tel: 01303 853464.
One of Britain's examples of Victorian engineering The Leas Lift is a water balanced lift which has been taking visitors the 30 metre descent, for over 115 years. The original lift was built in 1885 at a cost of £3000. A second lift was built in 1890. It can be found in Lower Sandgate Road Tel: 01303 858660.
Elham Valley Railway Museum is a family attraction where visitors can see steam engines, trains, a signal box and the largest railway model of the Channel Tunnel. There is lots to see for all age groups including pleasant gardens and a local history display. Go to elhamvalleylinetrust.org for information.
Live music is performed from the Victorian bandstand on The Leas, Folkestone, with superb views across the English Channel. Tel: 01303 858660.
Want to see an old-fashioned sweet shop which specialises in the manufacture of sugar confectionery and where visitors can see how the letters are put into sticks of rock? Then go to Rowlands Confectionery (Verteray Ltd), at 17 Old High Street, where traditional handmade sweets and sugar novelties are made and sold on the premises. Tel: 01303 254723.
Folkestone Sports Centre welcomes visitors for fun, relaxation, exercise and serious sporting challenges. From swimming to skiing; gym to golf; badminton to beauty treatments. The Centre is in Radnor Park Avenue and more information can be found at www.folkestonesports.ndo.co.uk
Folkestone General Market is held on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. It is a very busy seafront market next to the large fair arcades.
Folkestone Street Market is held on Thursdays and Saturdays. The Market is situated in the centre of town at Sandgate Road and Guild Hall Street.
Channel Cars, 9 Grace Hill Tel: 01303 246564
Chris's Taxis, 15 Pavilion Road Tel: 01303 226490
Folkestone Taxi Co Ltd, 113a Sandgate Rd Tel: 01303 252000
Premier Cars, 337 Cheriton Road Tel: 01303 279900
The town is served by two railway stations, Folkestone West and Folkestone Central. 'High Speed 1' - previously known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, is a high speed railway built to French 'LGV' (Ligne a Grande Vitesse) standards, that connects the Channel Tunnel to London. There is no link or station onto HS1 at Folkestone, other than to/from the tunnel. The International Station at Ashford is the closest (in the UK) station for the high speed trains to the Continent.
Travel to Eurotunnel
The Eurotunnel Folkestone Car Passenger terminal is conveniently located at Junction 11A on the M20, South of London and is the departure point for freight vehicles and cars via the Channel Tunnel to Calais/Coquelles in Northern France. The Channel Crossing from Folkestone runs up to 53 times daily and takes just 35 minutes. The Folkestone Passenger Terminal has all the modern facilities you would expect including tourist information centres, wide selection of High Street shops, fast food restaurants, toilets, telephones and more.
Folkestone Eurotunnel Terminal is approximately 65 miles from the South of London via Junction 11A of the M20 which connects to the M25 London orbital motorway.
There is a direct rail link running to and from London Victoria and London Charing Cross stations. The main railway station in Folkestone is about 1.5 miles from the port.
There is a frequent National Express service operating from London Victoria coach station as well as many other towns and cities around the country.
From the main bus station in Folkestone town, it is a 15-minute walk to the port.
Royal Victoria Hospital Radnor Park Avenue,Folkestone, CT19 5BN Tel: 01303 850202
Dental Care Centre, 16 Shorncliffe Road Tel: 01303 252415
Earlsgate Dental Surgery, 11 Earls Avenue Tel: 01303 850234
Canterbury Road Dental Practice, 45-47 Canterbury Road Tel: 01303 245923
To confirm any details please contact the Folkestone Visitor Centre, Radnor Park Avenue, Folkestone, CT19 5HX.
Disclaimer: The information in this Tourist Guide has been researched from a variety of sources including books, articles and online information. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information the reader should check any specific facts for themselves before making any decisions based upon the said information.
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015