Winter Wonderland Walks
Discover the beauty of Kent this winter through breathtaking walks traversing ancient settlements, quaint villages, rolling hills and stunning coastline.
We may be in the depths of midwinter, but despite the cold winds and icy frosts, there’s no need to stay cooped up indoors when you’re in Kent. With its picturesque countryside and glorious coastline, the county offers some of the best winter walks in the UK. From brisk strides along our blustery beaches to scenic hikes through frosty hills, there’s a route to suit every type of rambler. Walking through Kent offers the opportunity to discover quaint villages, ancient woodlands and beautiful coastal paths, all while enjoying the crisp winter air and some breathtaking scenery that can’t be found anywhere else. So grab your coat, lace up your boots, and set off on one of our recommended winter walks in Kent – complete with delicious food, drinks and boutique places to stay.
Perhaps Kent’s most well-known patch of countryside is the Kent Downs Area of Natural Beauty. Spanning across 878 square kilometres it offers stunning landscapes, rolling hills, deep valleys and chocolate-box villages; this is the ideal area for long rambles rounded off by a hearty meal. With a plethora of guided routes with clear trails and signed footpaths, walkers can embrace any area of the Downs with clarity and confidence. As well as picturesque scenery, the Kent Downs offers a host of historical sites to marvel at. This includes the prehistoric long barrow that can be found on the Coldrum Trail. This trail follows the North Downs Way and the historic Pilgrims Way, which pilgrims once travelled on between Winchester and Canterbury. Included on this trail is Trosley Country Park, which offers a unique habitat for flora and fauna and boasts lots of resident wildlife including tawny owls, badgers and dormice (although the little dormice will be cosily asleep in winter!). You’ll pass through a mixture of farmland and woodland along this walk before finally reaching the wonderful setting of the Coldrum Stones, a 6,000-year-old burial site dating from around 4000 BC that is the best example of its type in Kent and offers magnificent views across the countryside. After your walk, stop by at Bowleys at The Plough in the village of Trottiscliffe where the route also passes through. Simply enjoy drinks at the bar or enjoy the culinary sensations created by young master chef Alex Yates.
Another nearby walking route that takes in the beautiful scenery of the Kent Downs Area of Natural Beauty is the Harvel Hike from Otford to Cuxton. Ramble high up on the North Downs on this epic adventure – it’s a long route at just under 24 km, but with plenty of beautiful sights to reward you. Start in the charming village of Otford and you will soon climb high up onto Otford Mount, one of the highest hills on the North Downs Way. Continue into Kemsing Down Nature Reserve with its array of wildlife, wind past the ancient village of Wrotham and stop by at The Bull Hotel. After this long walk (that you should allow six hours for), you will love the cosy wholesomeness of this pub. The inviting atmosphere of open fires, chit-chat, comforting food and a pint will be the perfect, well-earned end to your day’s walking. Stop by for gorgeous food or a sumptuous Sunday roast, or make your visit that little bit more relaxing by booking a room here. The Bull prides itself on being a traditional rural retreat, recently restored to reveal richly beamed walls and ceilings, stunning fireplaces and oak floors. All 11 rooms have en-suite facilities, central heating, TV, free Wi-Fi and tea and coffee facilities for optimum comfort. There are four-poster, king-size, double, twin and single rooms, and the excellent cooked-to-order breakfast is served every day – the perfect way to fuel up for a hike. If you needed any more persuading that The Bull is a top-spot to stay at, they won series 13 of Four in a Bed!
The Kent Downs Area of National Beauty stretches so far it takes in an array of varied landscapes. As well as sprawling acres of hilly countryside and woodland, Kent’s coast can also be enjoyed. The seaside towns of Folkestone, Sandgate and Hythe promise stretching beachfront promenades with panoramic views of the ocean, as well as some incredible places to stay at and dine in. This includes Folkestone’s London & Paris Hotel, which serves incredible seafood showcasing the best of coastal cooking from the South Coast. Open Wednesday to Sunday, enjoy sea views and a vibrant atmosphere before or after a stroll along the beach to or from Sandgate and Hythe. If the weather is a bit too blustery for a beach walk, then nearby countryside offers the perfect sheltered escape. The Tolsford Trek Walk starts at the popular Brockhill Country Park, Folkestone, with its famous deer paddock, alder valley and lake, and follows part of the North Downs Way.
Leave the park to climb to the top of Tolsford Hill, an impressive natural feature that remains wild and unspoilt. At 181 metres above sea level, Tolsford Hill is one of the highest hills of the Downs in east Kent and is owned by the Military of Defence. A BT tower stands on the plateau at the summit of the hill, which is one of the few British telecommunications towers built of reinforced concrete; it is more than 70 metres high and quite a marvel. There are magnificent views from the hill, which has streams and rivers coursing around its base including the Nailbourne and the East Stour. As you pass through the chalk grassland, look out for buzzards and skylarks soaring high above the hills. Follow the route through Peene and the beautiful village of Saltwood. Here, look out for the village’s historic church and castle before returning to the country park.
Another lovely walk with plenty of unique sights and historically important points is the Royal Military Canal in Hythe. This easy-going walk sets out from West Hythe, but walkers can choose from a shorter route up to Palmarsh Bridge. Before crossing the bridge, walkers can decide to retrace their route back to West Hythe or continue along the towpath and along a quiet country lane to reach Hythe – the starting point of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. On days when the trains are running, you are likely to see a spot of steam from the heritage trains heading towards the canal – this is a wonderful reminder of the historical bygone age of canal and steam power. The railway was the dream of millionaire racing drivers, Captain J.E.P. Howey and Count Louis Zborowski, it was built in the 1920s and later extended to its current route, which runs to Dungeness. The Royal Military Canal was built between 1805 – 1809 as a defensive structure designed to protect against possible invasion by Napoleon’s army. Fortunately, such an attack never happened, however the canal still acts as an essential form of irrigation providing drainage to much of the surrounding marshland. After stopping off at the Station Café for some light refreshment you can walk back to West Hythe along the other side of the canal. The Royal Military Canal is 28-miles’ long and forms the long distance Royal Military Canal walking route.
When exploring Hythe, the perfect place to stay is at the Hythe Imperial Hotel and Spa. The Hythe Imperial in all its Victorian grandeur is home to 92 beautifully modern and unique bedrooms, with no two being the same. They range from intimate and cosy to spacious and decadent, sea view or garden view, even cottage-style suites and family rooms with a separate sleeping area for the children. If you’re aching after your walk, why not treat yourself to a spa treatment to ease your muscles? We suggest the full body massage – after a detailed consultation, your therapist will design a massage according to your individual needs using your personally chosen aromatherapy oil and focusing on your particular areas of concern.
Along the coast near Deal, Betteshanger Country Park is the most important cycling centre in East Kent, with a three-kilometre road cycling track providing safe, traffic-free road cycling facilities. The track is ideal for families with its safe environment for children to ride and also for serious cyclists where training conditions are ideal. There is a further 10 kilometres of mountain bike trails, all of varying difficulty, designed to challenge and excite all levels of cyclist. A range of bicycles and helmets are available for hire too. Although cycling is the park’s main focus, this former spoil heap provides many walking options both in the open and through woodland. A popular route takes in the picturesque blue lake, which during winter can ice over and make a stunning, sparkling sight. From the top of the park, you’ll get panoramic views towards Sandwich and its world-renowned golf courses: Ramsgate and the Thanet Offshore Windfarm. This is a great spot for dog walkers, with ample parking and disability friendly routes.
After a day full of fun and activities at Betteshanger Country Park, visit The Coach at Hacklinge for a delicious roast dinner or Sunday lunch. Just minutes away from the park itself, The Coach serves locally sourced tasty food and drink that’s tailored to the seasons. Passionate about celebrating everything our corner of Kent has to offer, The Coach is proud to use local fresh produce from brilliant local suppliers including Jenkins & Son Fishmongers in Deal and Stour Valley Butchers in Canterbury.
For those looking to turn a trip to this area into a longer stay, then choose your very own home-away-from-home with local boutique holiday lettings agency, Keepers Cottages. Their portfolio of properties in the Deal and Sandwich area include plenty for both couples and large families and everything in between. One such example is Noggin at the heart of Deal’s conservation area. The elegant Georgian three-storey building’s interiors have been lovingly designed by the owners with some fabulous finishing touches including extra thought and care to ensure guests have everything they need for the perfect stay. Situated in a quiet side street just off the main promenade and beach, Noggin is also just a few yards from lively Deal High Street with its delis, boutique shops, traditional pubs, cafes and restaurants. The house has a cosy sitting room with wood-burning stove, a lower-ground-floor kitchen and dining room, plus a delightful sunny courtyard. Upstairs boasts three beautifully decorated bedrooms including one with an en-suite shower room.
Another easy access walk that this time incorporates Kent’s magnificent coastline is the Minnis Bay to Reculver walk. Suitable for buggies and wheelchairs, use the path along the sea wall to take in wonderful sea views of the Thanet Coast. The entire length of the route is flat, making it a very accessible route for all the family. The highlight of this walk is the imposing towers of Reculver, sometimes referred to as the ‘Two Sisters’ or simply ‘Reculver Towers’. The towers are the remains of a monastic church and sit within a Roman fort. Most of the fort and church itself have been washed out to sea, however the towers and ruins are a fascinating place to explore. The walk follows the Viking Coastal Trail and mainly uses the concrete surfaced sea wall with lots of opportunity to spot bird life along the walk, so don’t forget your binoculars! If you have time, take a look around and explore the Reculver Visitor Centre and discover the 2,000-year history – including how the Isle of Thanet was cut off from the mainland by the Wantsum channel.
Some of the most interesting walks in Kent that delve deep into the mysteries and history of our county’s past are included as the North Downs Way’s Lost Landscape Heritage Trails. These trails include many weird and wonderful legends and facts regarding Kent’s landscapes and one such walk covers a lost heathland, a woodland that’s been moved and a special map belonging to an anonymous contributor. This is the Charing East Lost Landscape Walk, which encompasses two circular walks from the North Downs Way National Trail. This 6.4-mile trail takes you southeast of the village of Charing, past buildings of many ages, then up onto the Downs, culminating with the superb views near Charing Windmill. This walk is particularly beautiful in the winter with frost and snow dusting the rooftops of the town making it feel like a scene from a Christmas card!