Kent’s coastal gem of Folkestone has seen a huge transition in character over the last decade. What was once a tired seaside town left wilting in the century after the departure of the beach-loving Victorians, is now a trendy ocean haven perfect for those with a creative soul and love of good food. Whether you’re craving the ocean air or looking to embrace Kent’s burgeoning arts scene through galleries galore and theatre, Folkestone will have you sorted.
One of Folkestone’s newest and most celebrated areas of development is its thriving Harbour Arm. Built in 1843, this was once the dock for the ferry boat service between Folkestone and Boulogne. Today, it has helped propel Folkestone into being a destination for the arts, now embraced as one of the town’s hotspots for food, drinks and events. In the summer, enjoy a myriad of independent bars as you sit in the sun sipping cocktails accompanied by live music, or venture out on the beach in serious style with The Pilot Beach Bar. A brand-new, 12-hole adventure golf course and café, Putters! is the perfect option for those looking for even more fun on the Harbour Arm, as is the outdoor cinema which screens various films and sporting events throughout the year. At Christmastime, The Goods Yard, turns into a magnificently festive Christmas market showcasing independent, artisan traders – the perfect spot for perusing potential Christmas gifts as you sip a mulled wine or hot chocolate.
You can see Folkestone’s Harbour Arm from the extraordinary Abbots Cliff House, A Bloom Stays’ holiday home that is perched up high on the cliff in Capel Le Ferne. From the house, you can see the Champagne Bar at the end of the Harbour Arm, or on a clear day, all the way out to France. This house’s history is worth looking up just check out our blog post where we travelled back to the 1940’s and retold its story.
Away from the ocean in the centre of Folkestone, a plethora of mouthwatering foodie must-visits await even the most discerning of diners and coffee connoisseurs. Find Marley’s On the Corner at the bottom of the Old High Street, serving up famously good brunches and delicious lunchtime and evening meals. We recommend visiting for brunch and trying one of their pancake stack specialities. With the use of local produce, expect these to be adorned with the likes of local bacon and maple syrup, to fresh Kentish cherries and cream in the summer.
For those looking for panoramic ocean vistas to accompany their meal, Rocksalt is a must-go. Arguably Folkestone’s slickest and most stylish restaurant, expect sleek and shiny interiors and a huge floor-to-ceiling window that frames the entirety of Folkestone’s harbour, the bobbing boats below and beyond. With views like this, Rocksalt is the perfect place for those special celebrations. Enjoy a flute of Kent’s finest sparkling wines from the likes of Gusbourne Vineyard alongside divine dishes of Whitstable oysters, locally caught fish and succulent steak.
If you’re visiting Folkestone for a romantic retreat then check into Channel View. A hotel-inspired chalet apartment sleeping two guests plus your four-legged friends. After dining out in Folkestone, embrace the evening’s coastal sunsets in its own hot tub.
For those looking for the cosiest of coffee stops, Folkestone has plenty of those to choose from too. Back on the Old High Street, find Folkestone favourite: Steep Street Coffee House. Serving seriously good coffee, artisan tea and more, enjoy a delicious drink alongside a slice of heavenly homemade cake as you admire the original interior styling. From floor to ceiling, Steep Street Coffee House is lined with shelves and shelves of second-hand books – but beware – you may lose all sense of time when perusing the shelves of this coffee and book-lover haven! The Old High Street’s gems are not limited to coffee shops, here you will find the majority of Folkestone’s Creative Quarter. This community includes an eclectic host of artists and makers with galleries and shops welcoming inquisitive guests. This includes the likes of Aimee Craddock, who uses recycled precious metals and responsibly sourced gemstones to create bespoke jewellery, and Alan Smith, an artist who showcases his oil paintings from his studio and gallery here.
If shopping is what you’re after, Folkestone is certain to satisfy too. The Old High Street is home to several high-quality and delightfully quirky gift shops. One such shop is The Great British Shop, which offers a selection of enchanting items. From homeware and prints and toys and stationery, there are plenty of beautifully unique items on offer. Further down the street, find Paradiso, which stocks original vintage film and television memorabilia. Their brilliant collection of posters covers every film genre and every decade from the 1940s to the 1990s. You can also get your hands on a selection of books, soundtrack LPs, toys, and games. Vintage lovers will be further excited by two more vintage shops in the form of Bounce Vintage and Ben’s Vintage Menswear, both great for bagging a pre-loved piece. If you’re with little ones or four-legged furry friends, make sure you stop by at Moo Like a Monkey, a children’s shop selling a hand-picked selection of Scandinavian and British-made clothes, books and wooden toys, and, Not for Humans, a boutique pet store.
As well as food and shopping, Folkestone’s thriving arts scene extends to performing arts and theatre. One of the best places to experience this is Folkestone Quarterhouse. As Folkestone’s ‘cultural heart, the Quarterhouse presents a regular programme of theatre, music, film, comedy and everything in between. The theatre works with the people of Folkestone and beyond to help make even more creativity happen in the town. Folkestone’s second performing arts space comes in the form of the Tower Theatre, which is wholly-owned by Folkestone-Hythe Operatic & Dramatic Society: an independent not-for-profit charity. Presenting a vibrant programme of live performances and creative engagement activities to entertain and inspire audiences of all ages and backgrounds, the Tower Theatre is bound to have a performance destined to enrich your stay in Folkestone.
For a family-friendly stay check out The Gate House. Cradled within the peaceful Alkham Valley just outside of Folkestone, this luxury cottage oozes characterful charm and bags of period features. Get the best of Folkestone’s busy seaside as well as the relaxing gardens and country views back at your holiday home. Sleeping up to four guests and two dogs.
Folkestone, with its ever-evolving identity, has a rich and varied history that can be discovered in depth at The Folkestone Museum. A gateway to Folkestone’s fascinating heritage, experience interactive displays, workshops and a plethora of collections that showcase everything from the clothes of the past to maritime history and events.
A visit to Folkestone would not be complete without a trip to the beach. Folkestone’s Sunny Sands is beautiful all year round, enjoy hot weather in traditional bucket-and-spade style, or experience a bracing walk to admire the roaring ocean in winter. Here, you can spot the famous mermaid statue which draws influence from Copenhagen’s The Little Mermaid. The Lower Leas Coastal Park is another great outdoor spot. Home to the largest free adventure play area in the Southeast, it also boasts an amphitheatre which hosts theatre and musical performances during the warmer months. The coastal park is right next to the beach and comprises glorious pine avenues, gardens and flowers blooming all year through.