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National Walking Month: walks to try in Kent with Explore Kent in Hoo, Upnor, St Margaret's Bay and Dover

May is National Walking Month – time to dust off those boots, get outside and start exploring the county on foot.

Aimed at promoting the benefits of walking –no matter what your level of fitness – walking is free and simple and can help you see the county’s sights while also improving your health. There are miles of trails, scenery and countryside to venture out into, so what are you waiting for? We have some inspiration for you, with walks which will get you out and about as well as discovering more about Kent’s rich heritage.

Get walking Picture: National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra
Get walking Picture: National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra


This circular walk in the Kent Downs AONB on heritage coastline is dotted with reminders of Britain’s more recent conflicts and the coast’s role on the frontline of Kent. On a clear day you can see France.

The circular walk starts at the Coastguard pub in St Margaret’s Bay, walking back up Bay Hill.

Bear left to follow the Saxon Shore Way signs along Beach Road past the popular Pines Gardens and St. Margaret’s Museum. The centrepiece of the Pines Gardens is a brooding bronze statue of Winston Churchill.

The lighthouse in St Margaret's
The lighthouse in St Margaret's

The path then leads through Lighthouse Down and past the whitewashed Victorian South Foreland Lighthouse, now conserved by the National Trust. The concrete remnants of cross-Channel gun positions and observation posts are still clearly visible in the undergrowth.
Once past the lighthouse, follow the track along Lighthouse Road towards the village of St Margaret’s at Cliffe, crossing the main road. Continue along The Droveway to pick up the footpath heading across fields towards the Free Down.

At the bottom of the valley, the route passes through the middle of the former gun position of a high velocity howitzer “Bruce”.

Follow the path uphill on to The Leas where the former Coastguard Station has been converted into a welcoming tearoom with Channel views. Continue along the clifftops where you will be able to look for the tracks and burrows of foxes, badgers and rabbits.

The Coastguard - the nearest pub in the country to France
The Coastguard - the nearest pub in the country to France

Be sure to notice the whitewashed house at the end of the beach where Ian Fleming, writer of the James Bond novels, once lived and is said to have written Moonraker. At the end of the walk, you will find the stretch of shingle beach at St Margaret’s Bay, and The Coastguard pub – Britain’s closest pub to France.

Distance: 4.7 miles/ 7.56km. Allow 2 hours 45 minutes.
To download the full details visit explorekent.org/activities/st-margarets-bay-walk-guarding-gateway


Beach walks with your dog

Explore the countryside with your dog

Country parks in Kent


Hoo Peninsula, a quiet part of North Kent, its marshlands attracted writers such as Dickens and painters including Turner and Hogarth.

Sandwiched between the lower reaches of the Thames to the north and the meandering Medway to the south, Explore Kent and Discovering Britain have got together to produce this walk around Hoo Peninsula.

Take a walk. Picture: Explore Kent
Take a walk. Picture: Explore Kent

Starting at Upper Upnor car park in Upnor Road, ME2 4XE, look along the cobbled Upnor High Street as it slopes downhill towards the river, with houses dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Retrace your steps to the top of the High Street, turn right to follow the Saxon Shore footpath with a high wall on your right and walk past a boatyard to stop opposite
The Ship pub. Continue on with the river on your right. When you reach The Pier pub follow the path across a grassy area towards some boats. Stop by two stone obelisks in front of the Arethusa Venture Centre.

An important part in Hoo’s maritime past, the boundary stones mark the southern limit of fishing boats. The next section is only accessible at low tide, walking along the top of the beach passing the Medway Yacht Club, keep your eye out for a Second World War pillbox on the shore. Stop when you reach arches on your left.

Upnor Castle Picture: Steve Crispe
Upnor Castle Picture: Steve Crispe

These arches are the remnants of an artillery fort where 44 guns pointed out into the river, although they were never fired. Continue ahead along the riverside path to Hoo Marina, cross the road and walk through the churchyard, bear left at the field junction. Emerge onto a track with a sweeping view of the arable fields, power station chimney and church tower. Continue on straight and you’re on a footpath known as the Saxon Shore Way.

Follow the track ahead, until the footpath becomes an alley, then follow the Saxon Shore Way signpost downhill through woods to emerge at the London Stones. Turn right and retrace your steps back towards Upnor Castle and car park.

Distance: 4.5 miles/ 7.24km. Allow 2 hours.
You’ll need to check the tides before setting off as one section is only accessible at low tide. To download the full details go to explorekent.org/activities/great-expectations-hoo-peninsula-trail

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