Palm Bay, Margate

Kent, often referred to as the “Garden of England,” boasts a myriad of scenic walking trails that span coastlines, orchards, medieval villages, and verdant countryside. For those keen to explore Kent at a leisurely pace, here’s a list of the top 10 walking trails guaranteed to immerse you in its natural beauty.

1. The White Cliffs of Dover: Distance: 10 miles round trip Overlooking the English Channel, this iconic trail offers panoramic views of the famous white cliffs, Dover Castle, and on clear days, a glimpse of the French coast. It’s an essential walk for every Kent visitor.

2. Sevenoaks Circular: Distance: 4 miles This moderate walk takes you around the tranquil Knole Park, home to herds of deer and the historic Knole House. The trail is adorned with ancient trees, offering a serene experience.

3. The Saxon Shore Way: Distance: 163 miles (can be done in sections) Winding its way along the coast from Gravesend to Hastings, this trail traces the old Saxon defenses. It offers a mix of coastal scenes, historic landmarks, and quaint villages.

4. Elham Valley Way: Distance: 22.5 miles Connecting the historic cities of Canterbury and Folkestone, this trail meanders through the picturesque Elham Valley. It’s perfect for those looking to explore Kent’s countryside, with opportunities to spot diverse wildlife.

5. Romney Marsh Circular: Distance: 4 miles Often referred to as “Kent’s wilderness,” Romney Marsh promises a flat trail across a unique landscape of historic churches, sheep-dotted pastures, and wetlands bustling with birdlife.

6. Eden Valley Walk: Distance: 15 miles Starting in the market town of Tonbridge and culminating at Penshurst, this trail showcases the pristine Eden Valley. It’s especially beautiful in spring, with orchards in full bloom.

7. Deal to Sandwich: Distance: 10 miles round trip This coastal trail connects the charming towns of Deal and Sandwich. The path offers serene beach views, and the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory is a treat for bird enthusiasts.

8. North Downs Way: Distance: 153 miles (can be tackled in sections) Following the ancient pilgrimage route to Canterbury, this trail promises spectacular views of the Surrey Hills and Kent Downs, two of Southeast England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

9. Rye to Camber Sands: Distance: 7 miles Starting in the cobbled streets of Rye, this trail leads to the expansive golden sands of Camber. It’s a peaceful route, offering a blend of historic architecture and coastal splendor.

10. The Greensand Way: Distance: 108 miles (can be divided into sections) Stretching from Haslemere in Surrey to Hamstreet in Kent, this ridge-top route offers splendid views across the Weald. It passes through historic villages, dense woodlands, and verdant meadows.

11. Blean Woods National Nature Reserve:
Distance: Various trails ranging from 2 to 8 miles
This ancient woodland, one of the largest in southern England, is home to an array of flora and fauna, including the rare heath fritillary butterfly. Multiple pathways crisscross through the reserve, offering walks suitable for all ages and abilities.

12. Medway Valley Walk:
Distance: 28 miles
Following the course of the River Medway, this trail traverses the picturesque countryside, passing historic sites like Allington Castle and the Aylesford Priory. With plenty of resting spots and pubs along the way, it’s a delightful trail for a long yet leisurely walk.

13. The Royal Military Canal Path:
Distance: 28 miles
Constructed in the early 19th century as a defense against Napoleon, this canal now provides a tranquil route stretching from Seabrook to Cliff End. Walkers can enjoy reflections in the water, spot diverse bird species, and explore the various picturesque villages dotting the route.

14. The Stour Valley Walk:
Distance: 51 miles (can be tackled in sections)
Following the River Stour from its source in the Ashford Downs to Pegwell Bay, this trail meanders through lush meadows, dense woodlands, and ancient settlements. A highlight of this route is the beautiful town of Sandwich, which boasts rich medieval architecture.

15. Thanet Coastal Path:
Distance: 20 miles
Stretching from Ramsgate to Reculver, this coastal trail promises breathtaking sea views, chalk cliffs, and glimpses of rare migratory birds. Pass through the bustling harbor of Margate, the serene Minnis Bay, and the historic Reculver Towers on this enchanting seaside journey.

16. The Wealdway:
Distance: 80 miles (can be tackled in sections)
Beginning at the banks of the River Thames in Gravesend and stretching all the way to the coast at Eastbourne in East Sussex, The Wealdway dives deep into the very heart of Kent. You’ll traverse grasslands, forests, and historical towns, each holding a tale of Kent’s illustrious past.

17. Swale Heritage Trail:
Distance: 16 miles
Named after the River Swale, this trail is an immersion into Kent’s rich shipbuilding legacy. As you move from Murston to Goodnestone, look out for historic shipyards, beautiful orchards, and traditional oast houses – all testifying to the region’s varied heritage.

18. High Weald Landscape Trail:
Distance: 90 miles (best approached in sections)
Dive into an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty! This trail is a stunning tapestry of gill streams, sandstone outcrops, and ancient woodlands. From Horsham to Rye, every step is a dance of nature’s splendors and historical intrigue.

19. The Viking Coastal Trail:
Distance: 32 miles
Experience a journey through Kent’s Viking history. This circular route around the Isle of Thanet is not just a visual treat of beaches and cliffs, but also a testament to the Viking legacy, especially as you pass through the historic towns of Ramsgate, Broadstairs, and Margate.

20. Darent Valley Path:
Distance: 19 miles
Following the River Darent from Sevenoaks to Dartford, this trail is a blend of serene river scenes, ancient Roman ruins, and lovely meadows. Points of interest include Lullingstone Castle and the World Garden, offering diverse experiences in a compact trail.

Extra Tips for Walking in Kent:

Prepare for the Weather:
Kent’s weather can be unpredictable. Make sure you pack a light rain jacket even on sunny days, and always wear sunscreen.

Stay Hydrated:
Carry sufficient water, especially during the summer months. Some trails have limited facilities, so it’s always a good idea to be self-reliant.

Footwear is Key:
The terrain can vary from sandy beaches to muddy paths. Ensure you wear sturdy, comfortable footwear appropriate for the trail you’re undertaking.

Preserve the Environment:
Remember to leave no trace. Always dispose of waste properly and avoid disturbing the wildlife.

Connect with Locals:
Kent’s residents are known for their warmth and friendliness. Engaging with locals can lead you to lesser-known spots or fun local tales that aren’t on any guidebook.

Take a Break in Village Pubs:
Many of Kent’s walking trails pass through charming villages. Take a break and drop into a traditional pub. It’s a great way to experience local food, ale, and ambiance.

Capture the Moments:
Whether you’re an amateur with a smartphone or a professional with a DSLR, Kent’s landscapes are a photographer’s dream. But remember, while photos are lovely, also take some time to soak in the views without any lens in between.

Stay Safe:
Inform someone about your walking plans, especially if you’re heading on longer or less popular trails. And always have a small first aid kit handy.

Safety and Enjoyment Tips for the Extended Trails:

Keep an Updated Map:
Some of these trails intersect with others. Ensure you have an updated map or a reliable GPS device to keep on track.

Pace Yourself:
Some trails, especially the extended ones, offer various points of interest. Don’t rush; take your time to soak in the beauty and history.

Local Delicacies:
Kent is famous for its local produce. When passing through towns or villages, try local delicacies like the Kentish cherry or the Whitstable oyster.

For the longer trails, consider splitting your journey across multiple days. Kent offers a variety of accommodations, from cozy B&Bs to luxurious countryside resorts.

Whether you’re an avid hiker or just someone looking to take a leisurely stroll, Kent’s walking trails provide something for everyone. Armed with a map, sturdy shoes, and perhaps a picnic basket, embark on these trails to truly understand why Kent is fondly called the “Garden of England.”