With clear blue skies in all directions, it was an excellent day for a coastal drive, so after another excellent full English breakfast, we headed down the A 2 towards Dover. We planned to visit to Samphire Hoe, Dover Promenade, Dover Castle, White Cliffs of Dover and then continue along the coast, possibly as far as Ramsgate or Margate. We started at Samphire Hoe Country Park, which is located a couple of miles west of Dover.
Samphire Hoe Country Park
Originally in an area known as Shakespeare Cliffs, the current park is reclaimed land created by dumping the material dug out during construction of the Channel Tunnel. Access is from the A20 westbound lanes only, about a couple of miles west of Dover. Just off the highway is a traffic light that controls access to the single lane tunnel, which descends through the cliff. Clearing the tunnel, continue passed the Chunnel machinery complex, towards the visitor centre, where they have paid parking available.
Samphire Hoe breakwater
They started construction with a mile long breakwater, which during our visit was about 20′ above the English Channel. The 4.9 million cubic meters of material dug out while building the Chunnel, created the current nature reserve. While the Chunnel starts back in Folkestone, it actually crosses the coast many feet directly beneath Samphire Hoe.
Mounds of dirt to creating the nature reserve
Using Dover in the background it puts into perspective the incline created by dumping the material from the channel tunnel. The area is well finished and landscaped into a nature preserve.
Samphire Hoe nature reserve and paths
The entire park encompasses 30 hectacres and miles of paths, which have some moderate to steep inclines. When finishing the park, they sowed a mixture of 31 wildflowers and rye grass. At the latest count, the area is home to 200 species of plants, 120 types of birds and 30 types of butterflies. Around the parking lot, they have, washrooms, coffee bar, lecture/exhibition room, which was in the process of being set up when we visited. They also have a number of information boards and volunteers.
Judi at Samphire Hoe with White Cliffs in background
All in all, a most enjoyable visit to a peaceful and quiet nature reserve.
Departing Samphire Hoe, you must head west on the A20, requiring us to locate an exit for transitioning to the eastbound carriageway. Our first stop in Dover was the promenade/beach, which is within the harbour breakwater complex, as is the ferry terminal.
Dover beach protected by the harbour breakwater
While the beach is gently sloping and provides an easy entry into the water, it just isn’t the fine golden sand, that I have grown up enjoying in Scotland and North America.
Dover Beach – pebbles
Dover Beach and Promenade homes
However, the beach was spotlessly clean and even on a week day, in early June, it had a good number of people.
Original Dover promenade homes
This is the block of the original promenade homes along the Dover waterfront, which have exceptional views of the promenade, beach and English Channel.
Newer promenade homes on the side closer to the ferry terminal
With Dover Castle in the background, this is the block of newer homes along the Dover promenade. With the older homes at the other end, it provides an interesting contrast.
Located above the beach this is an excellent area for walking, cycling or just sitting on one of the many benches, enjoying the views of the beach, harbour and out across the English Channel.
Looking East across the ferry terminal to the White Cliffs of Dover
Dover ferry terminal
Had Judi and I settled in UK rather than Canada, Dover ferries is probably where I could have found employment with my old company P&O.
This was our next planned stop, but approaching the parking entrance, they advised it was full and to use the upper overflow lot. Heading up the A258, we turned onto Upper Road, as directed. However, I missed the entrance and couldn’t find a spot to turn around safely. Since Upper Road took us to the White Cliffs Park, we decided to skip the Castle.
White Cliffs of Dover
We stopped at this National Trust property for a few hours, so I will complete a separate post with photographs.
White Cliffs of Dover poster
St Margarets Bay
All hot and sweaty from walking a couple of hours in 30C/90F + heat, it was A/C on, as we continued east along the coast towards St Margarets Bay. After descending a rather steep, narrow and winding road, we reached the promenade and beach.
St Margarets Bay promenade and beach
The promenade has ample parking, a pub at the west end and a cafe hut and toilets at the east end. Similar to Dover, the fairly sheltered beach is again pebbles, but it certainly didn’t discourage kids from playing on the beach.
St Margarets Bay looking east from the end of the parking lot
Listed in the “Domesday Book” of 1086, it was first known as Addelam. Originally a “limb port” for Sandwich, which at the time was one of the original Norman Cinque Ports, dating back to 1278. Now it is a seaside resort.
Deal beach with fishing boats pulled up on the beach
As seen above, the pebble beaches throughout this region continue along the Deal waterfront. The beach foreshore was gently sloping, but then it dropped rather steeply into the water. Did not see many people out enjoying the beach.
Deal beach looking north towards the pier
The above photograph was taken in the vicinity of Deal Castle, looking north towards the pier.
Homes on Marine Road
The predominantly single family homes in Marine Road have exceptional views over the beach and across the English Channel.
Beach Street beach
North of the Pier, on Beach Street, we found a parking spot between the road and beach. The promenade goes for a couple of miles, but again the beach is pebbles. This area of beach has a more gradual slope down to the water.
Deal Promenade and parking along the beach
Beach and seaview homes along Beach Street, and the wide and level promenade, which has a number of benches. Lots of angled parking is available between the road and beach; however, during the summer months these spots will be at a premium.
In the vicinity of the pier, we looked for a parking spot, so we could enjoy taking a stroll to the end of the pier. Unfortunately, with no parking, we had to skip the pier walk.
The Australian couple we met at Canterbury Cathedral recommended a visit to Sandwich, with its plethora of narrow streets and collection of shops, pubs and restaurants. We parked adjacent to the River Stour and went for a walk around the town.
River Stour adjacent to the parking lot
Sandwich Toll Bridge
This single lane bridge was a toll bridge from the Middle Ages until 1977. To this day, they still have a Trustee to manage the remaining excess toll monies.
Table of tolls due in 1905
Old Toll House
Next we headed over to the bar at the Bell Hotel for a drink and some dinner. Standing at the bar, we were waiting for the very pleasant waitress to complete taking food and drink orders from a couple of ladies ahead of us. A male employee arrived and started berating the young lady, and then he turned to serve us. We asked for menus, to which he responded the galley doesn’t open until 16:00, it was 15:54. I said how about we order and pay for drinks and food at the same time, to which he refused to accept any food order until 16:00, yet the young lady next to him was accepting food orders from the ladies ahead of us. Citing a complete lack of customer service, we left to find a superior establishment.
After a short walk we found the Fleur de Lis, which had excellent staff and we enjoyed an excellent meal.
One of the many narrow streets around the hotel
By the time we finished dinner and returned to the car, it was almost 18:00 and since we left the B&B about 08:30, we decided to call it a day and return to Canterbury, after a most enjoyable day.