Hiking the Dover Coast Path

There is nothing like a good hike to blow away the cobwebs. As we all know, raising your heart rate through exercise does wonders for not only your physical health but mental health too.

After years of running and the subsequent injuries that come along with it, I have found myself drawn to long adventurous walks. Whether it is a short steep climb, clambering over hills and mountains or wondering through vast forests and coastal paths, hiking has become a staple part of my week.

In lockdown I had to find paths close to home that not only allowed me to keep distance from others, but also kept my mind occupied. And as restrictions started to lift, longing for the feeling that I was on holiday, I scoped out more picturesque and challenging routes within an easy drive from home.

As a result, Dover was my adventure away from home. Just over an hours drive, I headed to the National Trust carpark where the route promised scenic views from the get go. On the first occasion I visited after rules were relaxed somewhat the carpark was open, and has been ever since, though other facilities such as toilets and cafe remained closed.

This is a great starting point, especially if you want to avoid a very steep hill start from the port up to the top of the cliffs (which I did on my second visit a month later).

From here the coastal path is clearly sign posted with “English Coastal Path” waymarkers. Keep the sea to your right, follow these and it is impossible to get lost.

Along the route you will pass the Dover Coastguard station on your left, before following the path round where you will find horses grazing the steep inclines and (when the season is right) vast poppy fields, before reaching the South Foreland Lighthouse.

Having visited twice in recent months, I can guarantee whatever the weather, the views are outstanding. With the glorious white cliffs reflecting on the sea even on a stormy day it is recommended to stop and take in your surroundings.

Follow the path onwards beside the lighthouse, to head inland for a short section. Once here turn right and right again and you will find yourself on the marked Saxon Shore Path.

Here the path starts a steady decline into St Margarets Bay. At this point I followed the path down to the beach on the bay – a small rocky section between the cliffs – before picking up the path again up a steep zig zagging staircase. You can avoid this by finding your way through the village, but if your legs can take the incline, its worth taking a break to the shore.

Once at the top of the stairs, turn right and follow a further incline through the kissing gates and you will reach a beautiful view point to look back on the cliffs. From here you can see the light house you have passed along the way.

Continue on for a few more minutes and you will reach the Dover Patrol Memorial. The Grade II listed obelisk, designed by Sir Aston Webb, was built in memory of the Dover Patrol of 1914-19 and the lives then lost in the Second World War. The monument stands at the half way point of the path from Dover to Deal, so if you are looking for a long distance walk you could continue on to Deal and return to make the hike a 20 mile round trip or for a one way trip simply hike the Dover to Deal path in one direction.

On both occasions visiting the area, this was my turning point. It offers the perfect stop to take a break and have some refreshments, before returning and heading back in reverse.

The route offers a wonderful scenic path, with many inclines that challenge even the seasoned hiker. However, as with all hikes, come prepared for all weathers and eventualities. The path can be rough and rocky, and in wet conditions, rather slippery. A good pair of walking boots or trainers are a must, along with a back pack with drinks and snacks if you plan a long hike, and a weather proof jacket. As I found out, the weather on the coastal path can change in an instant – even on a summers day – so come prepared!

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