Height Gained: 390m
Public Transport: Hourly trains from Dover Priory station to Deal, as well as regular 15/15X buses (Stagecoach, towards Deal) from Dover Bus Station .
Parking: Pay and display car parks in Deal and Dover. Free parking along the seafront at Walmer and Kingsdown.
Refreshments: There is a snack bar and pub by the beach at St Margaret’s Bay, as well as the Pines Garden Tea Room on the route beyond.
Overview: The famous White Cliffs of Dover dominate this short but dramatic day, the chalk of the South Foreland rising precipitously between Kingsdown and Dover. It is justly popular, almost uncomfortably so on a sunny summer’s day.
At Kingsdown, join the end of Wellington Parade and continue along the shore to the Zetland Arms. Then cross the pebbly beach of Oldstairs Bay towards the first white cliffs of South Foreland. Join the road briefly, then at the bend head up the steps to the clifftop and a lovely walk across Kingsdown Leas. There are glimpses of the precipitous chalk faces as the path climbs steadily towards the prominent war memorial on Leathercote Point. It stands to the men of the Dover Patrol, a fleet of naval ships, submarines and trawlers responsible for safely transporting troops across the Channel in World War I. The route forks left shortly before the memorial and café, but it is possible to cross the road from it and descend to rejoin the coast path as it drops down towards St Margaret’s Bay. Keep left in the trees to descend the cliff via steep steps to the stunning bay, the only place it is possible to look up at the chalk cliffs on the South Foreland. St Margaret’s Bay, from where the first cross channel telephone cable was laid, is part of the larger village of St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe, made famous by its star-studded residents – Noel Coward, Ian Fleming, and Peter Ustinov among them.
Keep left of the lighthouse, following a path down to probably the busiest section of cliffs in the country, the iconic White Cliffs of Dover. It is thought the sight of these brilliant cliffs from across the sea gave Britain its ancient name Albion. Despite the hordes, it is a lovely walk along the dizzying chalk cliffs up to 350ft high – here the North Downs meet the sea and France is often clearly visible across the Channel. The main route stays high inland of both Fan Hole and Langdon Hole, though some of the most dramatic cliff scenery is to be found where the land rises and falls here and well-worn alternatives cut the corner. At Fan Hole, there is a World War I sound mirror halfway down the slope built to warn of the approach of enemy aircraft; it is part of the Fan Bay Battery complex, whose deep shelter has been opened as a tourist attraction. From Langdon Hole a path zigzags precariously down the cliff only to have collapsed just short of the steps up from remote Langdon Bay.
The signed coast path forks right near the far end of Langdon Hole and climbs past the coastguard lookout to pass the White Cliffs Visitor Centre. Follow the access road down to the bend, then bear left to descend steeply towards Dover. If you stay closer to the cliffs with their bird’s eye view of the vast Eastern Docks, be aware that you must fork right up the cliffs to rejoin the coast path – the lower path looks promising but abandons you in dense scrub.