Folkestone – A Seaside Walk With A Mermaid And A Lighthouse

fishing boats folkestone

Pass the beautiful mermaid sculpture which looks out to sea, take a walk along the pier to the lighthouse and visit the harbour to watch fishermen with their catch of the day. 

These are just a few of the things you’ll see if you take a walk around the traditional seaside town of Folkestone, Kent, where you’ll find there is something for everyone, from cool cafes, quirky shops and a public art collection, to sand and pebble beaches and an award winning coastal park.

And if you visit on a bright sunny day, like I did, you’ll return home with some picture postcard photos.

looking back at folkestone

I parked at the top of The Leas, near the Grand Hotel, which is free and you can stay as long as you like. On a clear day you can see France. As you’re facing the sea, turn left, with the route to Folkestone’s attractions clearly signed.

The Leas was originally designed in the mid-1800s, exclusively for the upper classes. They would parade up and down in all their finery and the riff raff were kept away by a guard. Today, anyone’s allowed and it’s popular with walkers and joggers.

The Leas is a clifftop promenade. Look down for some stunning views.

looking out to sea from the leas

At the end of The Leas – and you’ll be able to see it from some distance away – you’ll come to the Step Short Memorial Arch, which was unveiled by Prince Harry in 2014. It was built as part of the commemorations marking 100 years since Britain joined the First World War.

memorial arch at folkestone

It is the site where millions of men marched to boats taking them across the Channel to fight on the western front. The marching soldiers were given the order to “step short” at the top of the Road of Remembrance. 

You’ll see knitted red poppies attached to the railings here, as soldiers who have lost their lives in conflict are remembered.

poppies folkestone

Either head down the Road of Remembrance, the most direct route to the harbour, or take a quick detour through the town centre, as I did, to grab a takeaway cappuccino. 

If you do walk through the town, go down Sandgate Road and head towards the cobble-stoned Old High Street. On your way you’ll see some brightly coloured buildings and street art. There is a move which got underway some years ago, to transform Folkestone through the arts, which is now run by the charity Creative Folkestone. You’ll find some weird and whacky art, not to everyone’s taste, as you walk through the town and along the seafront.

colour buildings folkestone

From the bottom of the Old High Street, cross towards the fish market, go under the arches and towards the harbour. You’ll see fishing boats and nets and stalls selling fresh seafood.

Carry on towards the Sunny Sands, if you want some traditional seaside fun with buckets and spades. Here you’ll see the mermaid sculpture, which looks out to sea.

mermaid sunset

Head back through the harbour and fish market and take a left onto the Folkestone Harbour Arm.

hello from folkestone

Take the right hand path to see the former Folkestone East railway station, now defunct, but recently refurbished as a visitor attraction.

folkestone railway station

The left hand side takes you along the pier and out to sea. Wrap up warm, it gets cold and windy the further you go. You will find food and drink stalls on the harbour arm and sometimes a craft market. Reach the end for some photos of the lighthouse and views back to land and the cliffs.

Folkestone lighthouse

After leaving the pier, I took a left, towards Folkestone beach, where you can follow the boardwalk to the Folkestone Coastal Park.  

Towards the end of this walk way, take a right, under the archway, into the Lower Leas Coastal Park. Here you will find trees an amphitheatre used for outdoor events in the summer, an adventure playground, public art installations, a national cycle rote and picnic areas.

Take the steep zig-zag path back up to The Leas and The Grand. You might want to stop for some stunning photos looking out to sea as you do the climb – or take some selfies with a fabulous backdrop! At the top of the path, with the bandstand in front of you, go left.

This walk took me just less than two hours, stopping to get a takeaway coffee and lots of photos. If you decide to follow my route, enjoy!

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2 Comments

  1. Yvonne barr-cox says:

    My husband and I also visited Folkestone 1st may and saw the many delightful things that Jane did, we were very impressed by the re- vamp and have recommended it to our friends! What a glorious day.

    1. Jane Barlow says:

      Glad you enjoyed it!
      Lots of investment in Folkestone over recent years and rejuvenation of the town through the arts is great to see 🙂

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