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Where is this?

Canterbury is in East Kent and the home of Canterbury Cathedral, the most important in the Church of England. Canterbury is a very ancient city with Roman roots and is on Watling St, the old Roman Road to Dover.

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Canterbury, East Kent

Canterbury has history in bucket loads.  The centre is bustling and pedestrianised but look above the shop fronts and every building seems to be medieval. 

The centrepiece has to be the cathedral, seat of the archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England.  Needless to say it is an imposing building and set in the centre of walled city – much of the wall still exists and a long stretch reaches high above a grassy bank on the southern perimeter.  But beware, entrance to the Cathedral is £7.50 for adults.

parking airport

The main thoroughfare is St Peter’s St.  At one end are the estate Towers, one of England’s finest fortified gatehouses.  At the other end, is a rather sad little ruin of church with just a small tower remaining.  It was at the centre of the area of the town that took a direct hit from German bombers in 1942.  It was also where Christopher Marlowe, the great Elizabethan playwright was christened in 1564.  As I say, history exudes from every building.

St Peter’s St itself is wonderful.  Superficially like any many other High Streets with all the usual chains.  But the sheer age of the place permeates.  There is quaint little bridge – quite easy to miss – that takes a tributary of the River Stour under the street.  On the corner is the Old Weaver’s House dating back to c1500.  The river itself looks more like a Venetian canal than a Kentish waterway with punts ready to take visitors on a trip that combines a tour of some of the most interesting buildings in the city with a delightful views of riverside scenery. 

Venture a little further from the centre and sadly, the magic dissipates quickly.  Canterbury suffers like so many towns and cities with too much traffic and the pedestrianised centre pushes it to the periphery.  In fact, only a few hundred yards from the centre things  become somewhat tatty but that does not diminish the beauty and fascination of the best parts.

Canterbury is Roman and there is a Roman Museum that has lots of everyday items on display as well as plans of the Roman town and the buildings that stood in it.  Roman Canterbury stood on the main highway from London to Dover, the famous Watling Street, the course of which remains the same in a few parts of the town.

Canterbury Cathedral

But Canterbury is perhaps best known historically for the role it has played in the religious life of the country.  This began with when St Augustine founded a abbey in Canterbury in 598AD, the ruins of which form part of the Canterbury World Heritage site.  Moving on nearly six centuries it was in Canterbury that St Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170.  If church history interests you, then Canterbury offers the oldest parish church still in constant use – St Martin’s dating back to 597AD, St Mildred’s is pre Norman Conquest, as is St Dunstan’s.  There is also Greyfriars, a  thirteenth century building spanning the river and the oldest Franciscan building in Britain.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Canterbury also boasts the ruins of a Norman Castle.  There really is no end of interest for the historically minded.

Canterbury sits well inland but towards the north east of Kent, the Garden of England.  It is surrounded by some stunning countryside.  There are meandering rivers with weeping willows paddling their branches in the water and to the north of the city, the woods of the Blean include two of the largest nature reserves in the south of England.  To the south are the picturesque Downs complete with pretty villages nestling in their valleys.

Where I stayed:  Riverside Bed and Breakfast, Ashford Road.
Quick review: Welcoming, beautifully clean with excellent well cooked breakfast.  Could have been better appointed, not ensuite but priced to compensate.



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