Kent’s Top Cycle Trails
by Visit Kent, in conjunction with Explore Kent
There’s no better way to explore Kent than on a bicycle; this season, discover charming countryside and quaint villages, pass alongside hop fields, orchards and distinctive oast houses or travel along one of the most famous coastlines in the country – the choice is yours.
VIKING COASTAL TRAIL
Chase sunsets and drink in striking coastal scenes on one of the most beautiful cycle routes in the county. Whether you are an experienced cyclist or a novice, you will find plenty to enjoy along the 32-mile Viking Coastal Trail around the Isle of Thanet.
Starting inland at St. Nicolas at Wade, start with a gentle roll through pretty Kentish villages towards the coast, passing ancient churches such as St. Nicholas at Wade and Minster Abbey, one of England’s oldest inhabited buildings founded in 670 AD.
Nature lovers can take a short detour to the 16-acre Monkton Nature Reserve, an important resource for the protection of wild flowers, including rare orchids, or head straight on to Ramsgate, the UK’s only royal harbour.
Pay a visit to St. Augustine’s Abbey while in town, or enjoy the scenery at one of the many cafés overlooking the harbour and marina. The Royal Harbour Brasserie cannot be beaten for food with a view…
Next, head to the seaside resort of Broadstairs. Less ambitious cyclists can skip the inland routes and pick up the trail here, but make sure you pay a visit to the town’s beautiful sandy beach and wander the winding streets as Charles Dickens once did. Arrive in August and the sight of thousands of music lovers will greet you, as they take over the town for the famous Broadstairs Folk Week. The almost traffic-free route from Broadstairs to Margate boasts spectacular scenery, including Botany Bay with its chalk stacks and the surfers of Joss Bay.
As you arrive in Margate, marvel at the new Turner Contemporary art gallery overlooking Margate Harbour. This famous seaside resort is now a haven for artists and chic independent businesses, so grab a bite to eat in the Old Town or enjoy an extra special afternoon tea in The Sands Hotel and watch the sunset over the beach below.
From Margate, pick up the route again opposite the train station and follow the sea wall to Reculver via Westgate-on-Sea and Birchington, Kent’s largest village and home of the wonderful Quex Park and Powell-Cotton Museum – a must for families.
Along the seawall, you will find plenty of diversions, with slopes and steps to the cliff tops and popular beaches and rock pools. Minnis Bay is popular with swimmers, as well as sailors, windsurfers and sea canoeists.
From here, the scenery changes with striking views of the flat marshland as you approach the twin towers of Reculver Church, a few miles east of Herne Bay, and your final destination.
- Ramsgate Royal Harbour
- Viking Bay, Broadstairs
- Botany Bay, Margate
- Turner Contemporary, Margate
- Quex Park, Birchington
- Reculver Towers
WHERE TO STAY
Albion House Hotel, Ramsgate – www.albionhouseramsgate.co.uk
The Sands Hotel, Margate – www.sandshotelmargate.co.uk
Two Chimneys Camping & Caravan Park – www.visitthanet.co.uk/accommodation/9637/?key=two-chimneys-caravan-parkµsiteid=210
TUDOR CYCLE TRAIL
Those looking for a short and sweet route that still packs a picturesque punch should head to the this six-mile cycle route, taking cyclists back to Tudor times and the former stomping ground of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
Running from Tonbridge Castle to Penshurst Place, the route offers a mostly off-road ride through the Weald of Kent, taking in the River Medway and various historic sites. Kings and archbishops, as well as tyrants and heroes have helped write 900 years of English history at Tonbridge Castle, where your ride begins. Before setting off, take a look around the motte-and-bailey and 13th-century gatehouse.
This wonderful ride takes you past playing fields on the edge of Tonbridge and into Haysden Country Park, running around the edge of Barden Lake with its wide variety of birdlife.
Shortly after passing beneath the A21, you will enter a delightful secret kingdom of lush woodland, carpeted with wildflowers in the spring. The first noticeable climb of the day comes between the bridge over the River Medway and Well Place Farm, giving you wide-ranging views of the surrounding countryside and setting you up for a fine descent past two lakes to arrive at Penshurst Place and Gardens. The imposing estate is the finest and most complete example in England of 14th-century domestic architecture – a medieval masterpiece that retains the warmth and character of a much-loved family home.
Explore the estate’s main house, including the famous Baron’s Hall and The Long Gallery where key scenes from BBC’s Wolf Hall were filmed, and enjoy a drink or light snack at the newly opened Porcupine Pantry café. The grounds boast an impressive array of formal gardens with distinctive ‘rooms’, and are a joy to behold in the spring and summer.
After a look around the house and gardens, wander into Penshurst village to admire the medieval buildings or for a well-earned sharpener at the local pub.
- Tonbridge Castle
- Penshurst Place and Gardens
- Penshurst Village
WHERE TO STAY
Why not extend your trip and head to the nearby Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn? This beautiful castle is not only a joy to explore, but also offers luxury bed and breakfast accommodation – so you can truly live like a king or queen! Hever Castle is five miles away from Penshurst place along a well-signposted route through the Weald. www.hevercastle.co.uk
SANDWICH TO RYE
Seasoned cyclists will find plenty to charm and challenge them on this incredible route through smugglers’ country.
This area is long associated with the Russell Thorndike’s famous Doctor Syn novels – tales of a swashbuckling smuggler known for wearing a scarecrow disguise – and takes in quaint fishing towns, artists’ hot spots and coastal splendour. A whopping 56-mile long trail, fit and experienced cyclists could cover the entire route in a day but there are good rail links along the coast making it very easy to tackle in stages.
Start at the beautiful town of Sandwich, a feast of medieval architecture and some of the best-preserved half-timbered houses in England. The Secret Gardens of Sandwich also provide fragrance, tranquillity, a Lutyens house and Gertrude Jekyll design. Then head down to Deal, a delightfully arty seaside town recently voted as having the best high street in the country.
For a relatively gentle day out, the nine-mile section from Deal to Dover along a stunningly scenic coastal cliff path, is perfect. A trip to the clifftop Dover Castle is a must!
From Dover, head seven miles towards Folkestone on the Chalk and Channel Way for rugged views from the famous White Cliffs. But be prepared for steep climbs as the route drops back to sea level (and some on-road cycling) at both Dover and Folkestone.
From Folkestone the journey becomes flatter as you pass the beautiful Lower Leas Coastal Park and follow the seawall, which is almost totally traffic-free for six miles. The path leads you to the Royal Military Canal at Hythe. From Hythe, National Route 2 moves a few miles inland taking lanes through the picturesque villages of Romney Marsh, including Burmarsh and Old Romney.
After passing the historic town of Lydd, it’s back onto a traffic-free cycle path following most of the way to the Sussex border and taking in the beautiful shoreline.
- Secret Gardens of Sandwich
- Deal High Street
- Dover Castle
- Lower Leas Coastal Park, Folkestone
- Royal Military Canal Hythe
- Dungeness beach
Where to stay
- The Bell Hotel, Sandwich – www.bellhotelsandwich.co.uk
- The Royal Hotel, Deal – www.theroyalhotel.com
- The Marquis at Alkham – www.themarquisatalkham.co.uk
- Ramada Dover – www.ramada.co.uk/hotels/united-kingdom/dover/ramada-dover/hotel-overview
- Mercure Hythe Imperial Hotel and Spa – https://www.hytheimperial.co.uk/
For more ideas on what to do in and around Kent, visit www.visitkent.co.uk.
Extra detailed cycle and walking routes are available at www.explorekent.org.