Visit the lighthouse, stroll along the beach, sit in the tranquil gardens – and see the awesome cliffs and coastline which inspired the James Bond adventure Moonraker. You get a real idea where he was inspired to put the missile site for example.
It’s the place where James Bond author Ian Fleming had a weekend and holiday home, right by the sea. Walk to the very end of the shingle beach and you will see several white houses.
Ian Fleming’s former house is the one with the green shutters. Here Fleming would look out to sea through his telescope and find inspiration for his 007 spy series plots.
It wasn’t just Moonraker for example that was inspired by his time here. Fleming was an avid golfer. He played regularly at the nearby Royal St George’s Golf Course. Here he was inspired to write the famous golf scene from Goldfinger.
How to get there
It’s a truly inspiring place to visit, so set aside a day, as there’s lots to do.
If you’re travelling by car set the sat nav for The Pines Garden, Beach Road, St Margaret’s at Cliffe, Dover, as you can park for free along this little stretch, although it does get busy in the summer months.
Alternatively, there is a car park if you continue downhill to the seafront.
Or avoid the very steep cliff road, with sharp bends, altogether, park in the village and walk down.
I always start my visit with a refreshing and invigorating clifftop walk.
There’s a circular route you can take from The Pines Garden tea rooms, by simply following the well-worn track and heading uphill.
Keep going up, up, up and turn left before the lighthouse. Just keep following the path which will take you along and quite close to the cliff edge, follow it downhill, turn right as you come out of some shaded woodland and you will be back at your starting point.
Or there are several official and marked routes you can follow, if you prefer, which include walking part of the English Coast Path. Explore, enjoy the views and the countryside and have fun.
Walking the dog
You’ll likely to come across quite a few dog walkers. However, it’s a walk where dogs should be on leads. On parts of the route you will come across cattle and there are also wild ponies, with grazing important on the chalk grassland, to encourage insects and plants to grow.
The walk takes you through a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with rare fauna and flora.
Also, due to the close proximity to the cliff edge, it would be dangerous to let dogs run free. Stick with leads on the whole route, unless you can be sure your dog or dogs will stay right by your side at all times.
South Foreland Lighthouse
After the climb uphill you will see signs for the South Foreland Lighthouse. The grounds are looked after by the National Trust. Have a short break here, with refreshments and toilets on site.
It’s a great place for photos – and for flying a kite! It can be a bit breezy, so you might want to have an extra layer of clothing with you.
There are some fab views across the English Channel from here. Watch the ferries going to and fro France. On a clear day, look across the sea and you will be able to see France in the distance.
The lighthouse was built in the middle nineteenth century, to help those in the Channel to navigate the Goodwin Sands, where the lives of many mariners were lost.
The Goodwin Sands covers a huge area of the English Channel between the South Foreland Lighthouse and Ramsgate.
The sandbank, hidden below the sea for most of the time, has been a graveyard for ships and seaman. Since the 14th century there have been warning lights positioned on the white cliffs which overlook the sands, to warn ships of the hazard.
There is free access to the lighthouse grounds and tearoom, or pay a small fee for a lighthouse tour.
The Pines Garden
After around a one hour walk my next stop was The Pines Garden, back at the start of the cliff walk, where I’d parked.
Visit the tea room for lunch, tea, coffee or cake. Sit inside and relax outdoors in the gardens, listening to the fountains and the birds singing their merry tunes.
There is seating opposite the tea rooms and benches around the gardens. Take a wander and you will find a waterfall, a lake and an organic kitchen garden. There is also a statue of Winston Churchill.
Next stop, the beach. Follow the steep, road down to the sea. Just follow your nose, you will smell the salty air.
Along the beach you will find the Coastguard pub, a kiosk serving hot drinks and ice creams, an ice cream van and toilets.
At one end of the promenade there is a row of colourful beach huts. At this end you will see paddle boarders and surfers out at sea.
At the other end, you will find a few fishing boats and beyond that, Ian Fleming’s former house. You’ll also see signs warning you not to go on the last bit of beach, in case you get cut off by the tide.
Look up to see the stunning white cliffs.
If you still have time to spare, visit the village, where you will find a green where there are stunning views out to see. There are a couple of cafes and for a tiny village, quite a few pubs.