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The Charms of Canterbury - Cathedral, Coast and Countryside

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Many visitors know Canterbury through Geoffrey Chaucer's tales of medieval pilgrims, telling stories en route to the city's great cathedral. Chaucer remains a heritage attraction here, but it's still the cathedral that draws most people to Canterbury, and there are plenty more historic sights nearby. For a break from the Middle Ages, you can visit sandy beaches and explore pretty countryside around the Kentish hinterland.

Central Canterbury

 

As you walk towards Canterbury Cathedral, you're following in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims who made their way here over centuries. Also called Christ Church Cathedral, the city's most prominent attraction dominates the historic city centre. You'll find most of the main sights and museums like the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge within an oval ring of streets that follows the line of the old city walls. The lesser channel of the Great Stour flows through the heart of the city, while the river's main channel forms its western boundary.

 

Canterbury's coast

 

It's fun to spend a day enjoying English seaside nostalgia at attractive harbor towns like Whitstable and Herne Bay, on the south shore of the broad Thames Estuary. Whitstable is famous for its oysters, which you can sample in fine local pubs and restaurants. Just outside the town centre, you'll find Whitstable Castle, a splendid mock-baronial castle surrounded by landscaped grounds. Beside the sea near Herne Bay, you can see the square towers of medieval Reculver Abbey, built on the site of an older Roman stronghold.

 

 

Canterbury's countryside

 

There's lush countryside to explore all around Canterbury. In summer, you'll see swathes of apple, cherry, and pear blossom in Kent's famous orchards, as well as fields full of tall hops, which go to make Kent's equally famous ales. Look out for the distinctive conical chimneys of oast houses, used for drying hops. There are also some delightful country gardens in this part of the world. At Mount Ephraim Gardens, you'll find elaborate topiary in a dignified Edwardian estate. And at Goodnestone you can walk in Jane Austen's footsteps though walled gardens filled with roses and clematis.

 

  • Mount Ephraim Gardens, Staple Street, Hernhill, Faversham ME13 9TX; Tel: +44 1227 751 496; Website: Mount Ephraim Gardens
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  • Goodnestone Park Gardens, Goodnestone, Wingham CT3 1PL; Tel: +44 1304 840 107; Website: Goodnestone Park Gardens

 

Rochester's castle and cathedral

 

At Rochester, guarding the crossing of the River Medway, you can explore one of England's more imposing medieval strongholds. The tall, square stone tower of 11th-century Rochester Castle dominates the cobbled streets of the old town centre. Like the Castle, next-door Rochester Cathedral was built for William of Normandy. In 1066, this Norman duke triumphed at the Battle of Hastings to make himself William I of England. You probably know him better as "William the Conqueror."

 

  • Rochester Castle, Castle Hill, Rochester ME1 1SW; Tel: +44 1634 335 882; Website: Rochester Castle
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  • Rochester Cathedral, Garth House, The Precinct, Rochester ME1 1SX; Tel: +44 1634 843 366; Website: Rochester Cathedral

 

Naval history in Chatham

 

When you visit the historic port of Chatham you'll be among the spirits of great English commanders like King Henry VIII and Horatio, Lord Nelson. In the 16th century, Henry turned it into the home of the Royal Navy. By the 17th century it was the England's biggest naval base. The Navy left in 1984, but you'll learn all about the great sea battles of the past at The Historic Dockyard Chatham. Nearby, you can walk round ramparts, see 19th-century cannon being fired, and explore haunted tunnels at Fort Amherst, a mighty relic of Britain's Napoleonic Wars.