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In need of a few days break, a chance to get away from the humdrum routine and recharge the batteries, of course you are but the question is, where? Many head for the nearest airport and destinations in the sun forgetting there are locations in the UK that would often fit the bill. For me, Folkestone has proved to be one such place.


3 nights at the 550 room Grand Burstin Hotel owned by Britannia Hotels was to be my home. Overlooking the small harbour and within easy reach of shops, buses and facilities it makes for an ideal base. Standard rooms have En-suite Bathroom, Hairdryer, Tea and Coffee making facilities, upgrade to a Premier room and enjoy a Sea View or Balcony, plus Iron and Ironing Board together with Premier Dining in the Victorian Restaurant. Certainly, my room was clean and the food was the standard expected from a 3 star hotel. Entertainment is available every evening plus the game that has been dubbed by many as the British pastime, Bingo.


Sitting in the sun looking out over the harbour, watching the small boats bobbing around in the breeze, some decked out with flags and pennants, brought back happy memories of my childhood,  when annual holidays with parents was a week by the sea, this area had the same feel.


100 yards away brings you to the old Harbour Station, first opened in 1849 and apart from closures during both world wars was thronged with passengers on the ‘Boat Trains’ to and from London utilising the cross-channel ferries to Calais and Boulogne until the service was terminated in 2001. The old station is being renovated back to its former glory, new bars, cafes, restaurants are being built and its home to Folkestone’s Fishing and Heritage Museum. Stroll along the harbour to the small cafe, buy your tea, coffee, cold drinks, ice cream, walk down the side to a seating area by the water’s edge, sit in the sun and while away the time. Leaving refreshed walk under the arches and enter an area that is like stepping back in time.


The ‘Shell Shop’ with its orange canopies exhibiting wind chimes of various sizes, sounds and colours made from a variety of sea shells, stalls with mouth watering displays of seafood. Delicious Crab, Lobster, Mussels, Prawns, Jellied eels, all fresh and locally caught and at prices that won’t break the bank. Meander past the Ship Inn, exquisite little terraced houses, their hanging baskets a fusion of colour in the sunshine before arriving at a small sandy beach where parents sit on the sand whilst children play with buckets and spades, building sand castles as I did 70 years ago. A wonderful walk down memory lane.


Make your way to Old High Street, a narrow street from a bygone era on a steep incline, home to various craft shops, others selling cakes, desserts, custom made jewellery, musical instruments, for those wanting to relive the music from their formative years a trip to Vintage and Vinyl is a must. This one street alone has to be the visitor’s ‘browsing’ paradise. Reaching the top, having refreshed yourself at one of the several ‘Watering Holes’ on the way, turn left into Priory Gardens home to the old church of St Mary & St Eanswythe’s, an area where worship of the Christian Faith has taken place since 630AD. The church traces a wonderful history, including a time when it was suppressed by Henry Vlll and then transformed back to its present glory in the 1800’s. From this high point look out over the English Channel, the world’s busiest sea lane, on a clear day enjoy views of the French Coast a little over 20 miles away.


Stroll along The Bayle past the delightful British Lion Pub reputed to be the oldest pub in Folkestone dating back to the 15th Century and finally into The Parade where the ‘Parade Steps’ wind their way back down to the harbour.

This is indeed an area worth exploring, never knowing what history lurks in the back streets or along the water front.


Only half an hour away by bus is the old ‘Cinque Port’ of Dover now the UK’s busiest ferry port but that’s for another day.


Folkestone in many ways is a hidden gem, a history going back over centuries, good facilities with no lack of things to see, do and explore. There are numerous hotels and guest houses of all categories so something for everyone and with a main railway station and excellent road links it could prove the ideal weekend away for many without the trauma of airport queues, it certainly was for me.



Alan Fairfax


Folkestone - a weekend break

Alan Fairfax -

is a travel writer for


Alan also writes for the

Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent with regular holiday & travel sections in all editions

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