Canterbury’s Best Bits
Now that we’ve told you about lots of wonderful places to visit in (East) Kent, it must be time to tell you about what not to miss if you visit Canterbury. And visit you must, as it truly is a wonderful place. Not only that, but it is also motorhome friendly. Of course, we’d recommend that you stay at Canterbury Camping & Caravanning Club site, but if that’s not really your thing, then there is an actual ‘aire’ or motorhome stop in Canterbury. The Park & Ride on the New Dover road has 20 motorhome spaces where you can stay overnight. There are no services, but there is a pub next door and the bus fare into the city is included in your fee (£3.50 per day at time of writing, see link). Of course, if you’re not travelling by motorhome, there are plenty of hotels in town. We recommend a hotel that has parking as parking can be costly in the city centre.
So, now that you have somewhere stay, it’s time to go out and see the sights. Of course there is the Canterbury Cathedral to see. It’s currently being renovated but it is worth a visit. If you attend Evensong, you can go in for free! The other obvious attraction is the Canterbury Tales, where you can immerse yourself in history of the famous tales.
There are a few things, however, that are perhaps less obvious but mustn’t be missed. Things like the Goods Shed, a Farmers Market with a difference. Set in an old warehouse, it is open Tuesday to Sunday and sells beautiful, fresh, local produce; cheese, meat, vegetables, fish, bread, oils, vinegars, wine, ales… You can also eat in the restaurant (on a raised section, no dogs allowed), or have food in the little cafe stalls on the main floor which also do great coffee (dogs allowed).
After a nice brunch at the Goods Shed, why not go for a trip on the river Stour. You can go on a boat trip, which is fun and informative, but even better is the Punting experience. You can catch a punt at the West Gate for a leisurely trip on the river. Next to the West Gate is West Gate Gardens; great for a picnic and you must see the Oriental Plane Tree to try to get your arms around it… The Dane John Gardens are beautiful as well for a nice walk around, and are right next to the Norman Castle which unfortunately is now closed to visitors due to no longer being safe.
On one of our days out, we also saw the procession of King Henry II who was doing penance to try to reconcile with the monks after the murder of Thomas Beckett, the archbishop of Canterbury at that time.
Following the murder of Thomas Beckett in 1170, Canterbury became a place of Pilgrimage, attracting pilgrims from far and wide. To accommodate the pilgrims, hospitals were set up. These are not hospitals for ill people as we know them now, rather these were places for pilgrims to stay overnight, like hotels or B&B’s and the name hospital came from ‘hospitality’. There are still several of these buildings dotted around Canterbury, and one in the centre of town is open to the public and well worth a visit. There is an ancient chapel and an ancient mural painting to see, and the most amazing thing is that the lodgings are still used today.
A visit to Canterbury is not complete without a walk along the Kings Mile, where you’ll find some interesting and independent shops including the Crooked House which houses a second-hand bookshop, and ‘Unboxed’, where you can shop for fresh produce without using plastic packaging (bring your own packaging, or buy containers there).
There are a number of museums in the centre of Canterbury, such as the Roman Museum displaying an original roman mosaic floor amongst other things. And there is the Beaney centre, which includes the visitor information centre and a cafe, but also a museum and gallery.
If after all this, you feel like it’s time to put your feet up and have a drink, there are some great pubs in town too. We often use the Two Sawyers in Ivy Lane which does good food and sometimes they have live music. The Dolphin Inn is also a great pub with some great beers and ciders on tap.
It’s easy to spend a couple of days exploring Canterbury with so many interesting and fun things to see and do. If you time your visit, you could also catch one of Canterbury’s events such as the Food festival in September and the Canterbury Festival towards the end of October.
We’re thoroughly enjoying our time here and I suspect we’ll miss the place. Lucky for us then that it is so close to the crossing to France as we’re sure to have plenty of opportunity to visit on our way to Europe and back.