With its ferry connections, Dover is well known as a gateway to France. It is however also a great starting point for some scenic coastal hikes. Hiking Dover to Deal is a convenient choice, as this seaport town is well connected to London by train. The station is only a short walk away from the seaside. Once there, you can either head north or south along the England Coast Path and the Saxon Shore Way. I have explored both options with my daughter, as both routes are fairly easy.
Heading North – Dover to Deal
Both Dover and Deal are former garrison towns of strategic importance and used to contain a military base. If you decide to do this walk with your kids, you could combine nature with a history lesson. Start the hike with a visit to the Dover Castle and finish it by checking out Deal Castle. As we were hiking Dover to Deal during the Corona pandemic, it was necessary to book ahead, so we skipped the castles. My eleven-year-old daughter wasn’t too disappointed to miss out on this cultural experience.
Leaving Dover behind
When leaving the town, the first stretch of the hike was fairly busy. This was hardly surprising as it was leading past the famous white cliffs of Dover. The ascent via the steps to the clifftop was quite steep. Luckily, we were rewarded with a café at the visitors centre and had some ice-cream whilst enjoying the views. Beyond the visitors centre, the terrain becomes easier with a wide and comfortable gravel path before turning into a more challenging dirt track. It continued to be busy because most people were heading to the nearby Foreland lighthouse.
Arriving at St Margaret’s at Cliffe
To keep the motivation high, we stopped for more refreshments at the lighthouse. It was a sunny day, so we idled away drinking lemonade and eating crisps in the outdoor seating area. Then it was time to head across the field to re-join the path again. The next stretch was very green and leafy, and we also lost the crowds. We shortly reached the very charming village of Saint Margaret’s at Cliffe. To make the most of our visit, we also followed the signs down to the beach at St Margaret’s Bay.
We noticed how close to France we were as my phone kept on switching to Central European Time, one hour behind British Standard time. It was time to move on and leave this lovely bay behind.
Arriving in Deal
The path continued to be quiet and green. At times we saw more of the English countryside than the white cliffs and sea. The hike became very relaxing and unspectacular in a steady and calming way. We reached the villages of Kingsdown and Walmar and arrived in Deal after following a long asphalt seafront path. It became rather monotonous after a while and I was urging my daughter to pick up the pace. We were happy to arrive in Deal and discover a charming seaside town with cosy pubs, quaint shops and narrow lanes. It was getting late so we went to a seaside restaurant serving delicious seafood to escape the evening cold. We will leave it for the next visit to explore the village and the Deal Pier.
Total length: 10 miles (16 km)
Difficulty: Fairly easy but with some steep climbs and steps.
Advice: Next time I will try to have lunch at St Margaret’s at Cliffe.
Refreshments: Café at the White Cliffs of Dover Visitors Centre, South Foreland lighthouse, Dunkerley’s Seafood Restaurant (Deal)