Long time no light post! I figured that for those of you who are interested to see some more of the UK than just London I’d tell you more about my trip to Canterbury. I recently went to this lovely little town in Kent, with a couple of my friends. I went with an expectation of just escaping London’s buzz and enjoying a calmer lifestyle for a day. Did the trip meet my expectations?
I must say that the time of the year was probably not the best for this visit as we went there in February. The weather was changing every 5 minutes from full sun through clouds and wind to pouring rain, back to the sun again – seriously, crazy! But you need to be prepared for this wherever and whenever you travel around the UK. Once you accept this fact you can start enjoying the trip.
Getting to Canterbury
We took the cheapest option of getting to Canterbury from London, which was the National Express bus. It took us I think something between 2-2,5 hours to get there from Victoria station. There are two train stations in Canterbury as well, East and West (East is closer to the bus station), but it’s a 1,5 ride and the train costs the same or sometimes even more than the bus, depending on the departure time. A lot of the trains are also not direct. If you’re making the trip on the weekend or outside of the peak traffic times in the week I’d suggest taking a bus for sure.
Approximate National Express return ticket price (depending on how far in advance you book): £15-30
Dane John Mound and Castle
If you take the National Express, you will arrive to the Canterbury bus station. It’s a nice place to get to as it’s already close to two of the town’s attractions. You can quickly cross them off your list and then head to the high street. If you head straight to the city wall you will quickly see Dane John Gardens. It now basically serves as a small park/square where during the summer you can go for a picnic and to relax in fresh air. It also has a nice observation point which is the mentioned mound/hill. If you climb just a little bit you can see a beautiful view of the Cathedral and the whole town.
From there you can easily get to the Canterbury Castle. Well, the ruins of the castle really. In my imagination I had a picture of a great castle, similar to the Cathedral’s size etc. so the castle was a bit of a disappointment when I saw it, haha! It is nevertheless inspiring that this castle survived since the 11th century and is still standing!
From the castle, within 10-15 minute walk you can get to the Cathedral. It is grand I must say. It really is massive and architecturally amazing. I was impressed. The only downside to visiting it is the cost. The adult entry fee is £12. They do keep renovating it though and it still serves its catholic purpose as well.
It’s also added to the UNESCO World Heritage sites list, so fair enough! A couple of snapshots from the inside below, but truth be told – pictures don’t really show all the greatness of this place.
Crooked House of Canterbury
On our way from the Cathedral to the high street you can take a little detour and go to the Palace Street to see the skewed (or crooked) house. Looks pretty cool from outside. Apparently due to numerous chimney/roof renovations it started to incline and when they tried to repair it and move it back to stand straight it skewed even more, so in the end they left it like this and used some more modern technology to keep it standing. It is after all a historic building dating back to the beginning of 17th century.
When you finally get to the high street you can feel more like in London – slightly more people there, lots of shops, cafes, restaurants. The charm of it for me is that it doesn’t really feel that filled with chain restaurants to be honest. It’s because although they are there (lots of Café Neros, Starbucks and other Cafés Rouges) they made them fit in from outside more, so instead of using bright blue colours Nero used a wood-themed logo with gold-ish text on it. Looks great and matches the town’s old buildings and a nice small town feel.
We went for lunch to one of the pub-restaurants and were not disappointed. Quite the opposite to be honest, the portions were really big in the lunch set menu and the food was very tasty. The prices also slightly more inviting than in London!
Because we had some more time to spare, we decided to try the Historic River tours offered on the river Stour. The guys offering the trip were really nice and funny, so we thought ‘why not!’. The trip took about 40 minutes and cost £10 (so again, not the cheapest thing ever!), but we laughed so much as our guide was really funny. He was telling us about some more history of the town, its connections with France (and how much you can still see its influence) and various legends common among the citizens. It was a well spent 40 minutes, so if you feel like you’ve walked around quite a bit already and would like to have some fun it’s a good choice for you. Not an absolute must-experience though.
West Gate Towers and Gardens
If you’ve still got strength you can go to see the West Gate Towers (I believe you can also go up the tower and see the view, but can’t recommend it as I haven’t been!), another historic building in the town and from there head to the neighbouring gardens, again just to chill out in the afternoon. Unfortunately we didn’t get to walk around there a lot because we were freezing! So we ended up going for a hot chocolate with a nice river and high street view. Whatever works! 🙂
Overall, my experience in Canterbury was what I expected, a much slower pace, less people, quite a few things to see. It was a nice place to spend a relaxed day outside of London.
Have you been to Canterbury? What other small town you would recommend for a relaxed day trip to escape London? Looking forward to find the next destination!