Sister's Hoods | Folkestone with Clementine May
I moved to the seaside town of Folkestone about four years ago, ever since I have fallen in love with this little corner of the East Kent coastline. Folkestone is a small coastal town with the English channel to one side and the North Downs to the other. It is currently going through a phase of regeneration; becoming a hub for Artists, mostly due to the local philanthropist Roger de Haan who initiated the Folkestone Triennialand the regeneration of the Creative Quarter in 2008. Thanks to the legacy of the Triennial the town is peppered with commissions by contemporary Artists such as Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger and Cornelia Parker (you can download a map of Folkestone Artworks here).
The town has also benefited from being on the high speed line to London where a train from St Pancras station to Folkestone will take just under an hour; close enough to the big City for both commuters and day-trippers. If you happen to find yourself in these parts then here are a few areas of the town that you might want to explore:
This cliff-top promenade is a gentle walk from the leafy suburbs of the West End into town and on a clear day you can see the white cliffs of France peeping over the Channel. At the top of the Leas sit two Majestic Edwardian buildings; The Metropole and the Grand, both were once very popular hotels in their heyday and although the Grand still opens to the public as a restaurant and bar (I hear the cream teas are very good) the majority of the building (and the whole of the Metropole) have now been turned into flats. If you veer off the Leas at the bandstand a zig zag path, complete with grottos, will lead you down the cliff to the Lower Leas Coastal path. Here you will find perfect picnic spots, wildflower coastal gardens, adventure playgrounds and access to the pebbled beach.
This quiet little residential pocket of town feels almost like a village. It’s focal point is the 13th century church from where a couple of small roads lead out towards the Old High Street. Take any of these and you will pass quaint cottages, grand Georgian townhouses and pretty pastel coloured terraces. Considering this area is small it doesn’t do badly for pubs and one of my favourites is The Pullman, situated on Church Street alongside a brilliant little florist, a vintage clothes shop and the Folkestone Wine Company.
With its brightly coloured buildings, housing independent shops and Artist studios, the Old High Street is at the heart of the Creative Quarter. I love this part of town, it slows down a little out of season but between Easter and October it is a hive of activity. At the top of the street is the family friendly Lubens pizza restaurant which sits just next door to County Fayre.
This deli is always my first point of call for gifts; whether its a locally brewed cider or some Kentish apple chutney there are lots of goodies here for food lovers. Working your way down the cobbled street you will pass galleries selling the work of local artists and a number of lifestyle and fashion shops. I don’t think it is possible to visit this end of town and not pop into Steep Street Cafe; lined with secondhand books and serving delicious coffee and homemade cakes this is always a bustling meeting place throughout the year.
This has once again become the hub of the town, especially in the Summer months. Take a walk to Sunny Sands (a sandy beach perfect for families) or treat yourself to delicious seafood with a view of the fishing boats at Rocksalt. We like to take the walk through the harbour on the old railway tracks, passing the old station and heading to the Harbour Arm. A promenade out at sea the Harbour Arm is lined with local food and drink outlets. Ranging from a champagne bar in a lighthouse to Greek Mezze served from a double decker bus. It has spectacular views across to France, Dover and Dungeness and is a great place to meet friends and soak up afternoon sun.
I couldn’t talk about Folkestone and not mention the Warren. This beach is tucked away behind the headland and involves a little more effort to get to but it’s well worth it. With views over to the White Cliffs this rugged sandy beach is a real gem and the perfect place to find some quiet time for rock pooling or daydreaming.
I hope I have done a little to sing the praises of this seaside town I now call home. Next time you are in the South East or you are hopping on the EuroStar to Paris why not spend a day in Folkestone and explore this cultural coastal town.