Port of Dover by Remi Jouan © Wikipedia Commons

Kent CT18
Folkestone is a seaside town in southern England, 10 miles (16.1 km) west of Dover, Britain’s premier Channel port. Many visitors coming to Britain from the Continent use the Channel Tunnel which emerges on the Downs just north-east of Folkeston at Cheriton.
A large outline of a galloping horse is carved into Cheriton Hill above the Channel Tunnel Terminal. The Folkestone White Horse is the only hill figure in Kent and is appropriately the last or first view of England seen by a Channel Tunnel traveller. Folkestone is only a 52 minute High Speed Rail ride from the centre of London.
Folkestone is located where the southern edge of the North Downs escarpment meets the sea. The Pent Stream cut through the cliff at this point and provided the original harbour. The cliffs are constantly being eroded by the sea and in the 17th century the original headlands had to be replaced by artificial breakwaters. The town now spreads up each side of the Pent valley.
Over the centuries the town was an important entry and trading port. Its proximity to France made it a popular Channel crossing port. The building of the cross-channel tunnel has led to a decline in Folkestone’s importance as a ferry terminal so Folkestone is busy re-inventing itself.
Artistic Creative Quarter
The cultural Creative Foundation is acquiring a large number of run-down properties in the Creative Quarter of Folkestone (the oldest part of town). It is renovating and letting them as work-spaces for artists and creative businesses (some with living accommodation). Already over 100 artistic individuals and innovative businesses have taken up residence.
A key element in the ongoing artistic renaissance of Folkestone is the opening a brand new medium scale theatre, conference and music venue in the heart of the creative quarter. As well as an auditorium, the Quarterhouse includes a restaurant and bars. It offers a year-round programme of live music, comedy, film, talks, theatre and children's entertainment.
The Strange Cargo Arts Company is central to the creative quarter, and the Georges House Gallery holds frequent exhibitions by local artists.
In the 19th century the railway came to Folkestone turning the town into a popular destination for holidaymakers. Numerous guest houses were built to cater for the tourists, and up on the cliffs above the beautiful sandy beaches, elegant and exclusive hotels flourished, catering for the wealthy.
Accommodation - Search & Book through Hotels.com here:    External Link
King Edward VII & His Mistress
King Edward VII and his mistress Alice Keppel (great-grandmother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall) regularly enjoyed the luxury (and discretion) of the Grand Hotel on The Leas.
This gracious area of Folkestone is unchanged and it is a lovely spot to walk and enjoy the magnificent views across the Channel to France. Designed by Decimus Burton in the 1800s The Leas has two levels – the upper includes squares, floral gardens and a bandstand where musical events take place in summer.
Paths lead down to sea level and the Lower Leas Coastal Park. Here there are walking/cycling trails, a large children’s play area and an amphitheatre.
Leas Cliff Hall
At the west end of the Upper Leas walk is what looks like a large ice cream kiosk. This is the entrance foyer of the famous Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone’s premier entertainment venue. The main part of this 1920s building is underground, built into the cliffs below. Under the foyer a large balcony juts out of the cliff face giving fabulous views of the Channel and the Harbour. To find out more visit their website Web: Leas Cliff Hall Website    External Link
The Leas Cliff Railway
One of the landmarks on the cliff top is The Leas Cliff Railway. Sadly this unique water-powered funicular railway is no longer running. The railway opened in 1885 and has operated tirelessly carrying visitors down the cliffs to the beaches below. In March 2010 the City Council decided, in its wisdom, to no longer subsidise the running of this popular attraction.
The Friends of The Leas Cliff Railway are working hard to get enough support to save the railway and take over its running on a peppercorn rent lease. Let us hope they are successful.
Folkestone Harbour Railway
Another landmark of Folkestone under threat is the old harbour branch railway line. This spectacular line runs through the white cliffs to Dover. Started in 1843 the line passes over the massive Foord viaduct, designed by Sir William Cubitt, and completed in 1844. Once the line to Dover began operating, Folkestone started to prosper and expand, further stations being built to the west.
Folkestone Harbour station was used to trans-ship whole trains; the line from Folkestone Junction was very steep and needed much additional locomotive help. The Junction was closed in September 1965 and the entire line closed in 2002.
The line has since reopened to "special" trains such as the British Pullman Venice-Simplon Orient Express, which is a regular visitor, and other rail tours, although the line, and the Harbour station, are likely to close completely in the near future to make way for a comprehensive development of the harbour and sea-front areas. A local group is actively seeking to retain the harbour branch as a tourist/heritage railway operation. Let us hope this lovely historic line can be kept.
Martello Tower Visitor Centre
Ever since the 13th century Folkestone has played an important role in the defence of England although there is little evidence left now. On the cliffs above Copt Point and overlooking the harbour is an early 19th century Martello Tower, one of many built along the south coast to repel Napoleonic invasion. It is now the Martello Tower Visitor Centre with exhibitions depicting Folkestone’s local history, geology and the part Tower No. 3 played during World War II.
Accommodation - Search & Book through Expedia here:    External Link
Folkestone during WW2
Folkestone was a major departure port for troops during the First and Second World Wars. In 1940 the town was made a prohibited area and 35,000 residents left. Defences were set up and for the remainder of the war the town was under constant attack: bombs and shelling (from across the Channel) and later flying bombs caused immense damage.
This part of the south-east coast played a vital role in the Battle of Britain, with nearby Hawkinge Airfield being a frontline support base. The fine Battle of Britain Memorial stands on the cliffs at Capel-le-Ferne, only 2½ miles (4 km) from Folkestone and the superb Kent Battle of Britain Museum is located on the actual RAF Hawkinge airfield.
The Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty includes part of Folkestone and there are delightful walks along the cliffs and through the Brockhill Stream valley which join up with the start of the Royal Military Canal at Hythe.
Local Attractions
Within easy reach are many popular tourist attractions: the famous 15 inch (381mm) gauge Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway which runs all the way to Dungeness Point; Port Lympne Wild Animal Park; Dover with its fabulous Dover Castle and The Roman Painted House; the cathedral city of Canterbury and the pretty villages and oast houses of the Weald of Kent.
A not so well known pretty place to visit is the delightful village of Newington and nearby Peene. Almost overshadowed by the Channel Tunnel Terminal, is the fabulous little Elham Valley Railway Museum at Peene. Step back into the 1930s in this little gem.
Folkestone might be undergoing a period of modernisation but there is still plenty of the old gracious seaside resort left, clean sandy beaches, an attractive harbour and lovely scenery to enjoy.
The town holds a number of varied events which are promoted on the ‘Visit Folkestone’ Information Centre site, link below.
Visitor Information
Contact:  Visit Folkestone, Hythe & Romney Marsh
Telephone   +44 (0)1303 257 946
Mail   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Local visitor information is also available from the following outlets in Folkestone:
- Shepway District Council, Civic Centre, Castle Hill Avenue
- Folkestone Town Council, George Lane
- Folkestone Library, Grace Hill
- Eurotunnel Passenger Terminal, Cheriton
There is plenty of accommodation in Folkestone, some of which is listed on this website’s ‘Places to Stay’ page. The Tourist Information site also lists accommodation available.
Getting There
- By Rail from London
From St Pancrass Domestic station, frequent high speed trains via Ashford take about one hours journey time to Folkestone. For timetable & ticketing please go to Web: National Rail Enquiries    External Link
- By Car from London
From the M25 London Ring Road exit at either Junctions 3 or 5 onto M20 to Ashford and then to Folkestone.
Google Maps - Folkestone