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A historic hike along breathaking coastline — Saxon Shore Way

Su Westerman (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A historic hike along breathaking coastline — Saxon Shore Way

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

11-23

days

3-6 h

/ day

168 mi

6,025 ft

6,000 ft

The Saxon Shore Way explores some of Britain’s most beautiful and wildlife-rich coastline on a historic journey through the ages.

From the bustling port of Gravesend, on the Thames Estuary, the Way winds 160 miles (278 km) around the south east coast of Britain to finish at the seaside town of Hastings, in East Sussex.

The trail affords some of the finest coastal walking in Britain. Expect sublime birdlife displays along the marshes of the Thames and Medway estuaries, breathtaking views atop the White Cliffs of Dover, panoramas over Romney Marsh from ancient coastline escarpment, medieval towns, golden beaches, ancient woodlands, and lots more.

The Saxon Shore Way follows the line of fortifications that defended Roman Britain from Saxon invaders. Interestingly, this means the trail follows the coast as it would have been in the 5th century AD, often many miles from today’s coastline.

The trail tells the story of Roman rule in Britain, the subsequent rise of the Anglo-Saxons up until the Norman Conquest of 1066—defined by the Battle of Hastings—which laid the foundations for modern British culture.

The Saxon Shore Way explores two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as many Sites of Special Scientific Interest and nature reserves, including the North Kent Marshes, one of the most important bird habitats in the UK.

The trail is waymarked throughout and follows well-maintained paths. The hiking is generally quite leisurely but there are some challenging sections, making it a good choice for experienced and intermediate hikers alike.

In this Collection, we split the route into 12 stages, each averaging 14 miles (23 km). Of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or couple of stages, in isolation.

Every stage finishes close to accommodation, even if there are only a few options nearby. However, places to stay are not always abundant so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.

If you are planning to arrive by public transport, Gravesend has excellent links, including regular bus and train services direct from London. Hastings, at the end, also has great public transport links around the country, including direct trains to London and Brighton.

If you plan to drive, your best bet is to negotiate with a hotel or B&B owner in Gravesend to stay for a night either side and leave your car for the duration. To get back from to Gravesend, you can catch a train from Hastings, typically with a transfer at London Bridge.

For more information about the Saxon Shore Way, visit: visitkent.co.uk/attractions/saxon-shore-way-2474.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.

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Saxon Shore Way

163 mi

5,975 ft

5,950 ft

Last updated: November 8, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Intermediate
    04:30
    11.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    150 ft
    125 ft
    Ferry
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    Taking you to a 12th-century castle, a 16th-century fort, and a nature reserve that is a haven for birdlife, this first stage is a wonderful introduction to the Saxon Shore Way.

    

    To make the itinerary work, this stage is short at 9.1 miles (14.6 km). With almost no ascent or descent, it is a leisurely

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:33
    15.6 mi
    2.4 mph
    600 ft
    525 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage crosses the heart of the Hoo Peninsula and introduces the majestic River Medway as it rolls towards the Thames.

    

    You start by following county lanes out of Cooling, after which you pass through a farm and step straight into RSPB Northward Hill Nature Reserve, a haven for birds overlooking the

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:23
    15.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    250 ft
    350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage explores the diverse habitats of the Medway Marshes, where stunning wildlife displays are never far away.

    

    You start outside St Mary Magdalene Church, which dates to the 13th century, and hike northeast to Gillingham Marshes, on the Medway.

    

    You take the footpath east past Cinque Port Marshes

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  • Difficult
    07:00
    17.3 mi
    2.5 mph
    100 ft
    100 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Atmospheric shipwrecks, lonely marshes, and excellent bird watching opportunities combine on this spellbinding stage.

    

    Start by following the Swale, a tidal channel of the Thames Estuary, to Milton Creek. You then make a full loop of the creek, passing through Sittingbourne.

    

    You rejoin the Swale and follow

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  • Difficult
    05:35
    13.7 mi
    2.5 mph
    125 ft
    125 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From tidal marsh to golden coastline, this stage takes you to the seaside via a historic church with celebrity connections.

    

    Start by walking northeast along Oare Creek to Faversham Creek, which you follow right back to Davington (less than a mile from where you started).

    

    Here, you find the Church of St

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  • Difficult
    05:19
    12.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    350 ft
    325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This hike-of-two halves takes you from bustling British seaside into a serene patchwork of marsh and farmland.

    

    From Whitstable, you simply follow the coastline east for the first 8 miles (12.9 km), where you experience lovely views.

    

    Along the way, you pass the classic seaside town of Herne Bay, which has

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:23
    10.8 mi
    2.5 mph
    75 ft
    50 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage explores one of the most symbolic Roman sites in Britain, visits the historic town of Sandwich, and brings you back to the coastline.

    

    For the most part, this hike follows the course of the River Stour through farmland intersected with dykes. With almost no ascent or descent, you should find

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:41
    15.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    750 ft
    750 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    ‘There’ll be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover,’ is the Vera Lynn refrain that will echo in your mind as you explore one of England’s most iconic landmarks.

    

    The trail heads east from Sandwich to join the coastline at Sandwich Bay. You then follow the England Coast Path national trail south past

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  • Difficult
    06:44
    15.0 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,575 ft
    1,400 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    With more climbing than any other stage on the Saxon Shore Way, this challenging hike should test your mettle.

    

    From Dover, you rejoin the England Coast Path as it rises over Western Heights and then descends to Shakespeare Cliff.

    

    You continue along the cliffs and, a short time after passing Samphire Hoe

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  • Difficult
    06:06
    14.2 mi
    2.3 mph
    775 ft
    950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Roman ruins and ancient woodland filled with rare wildlife combine on this enchanting hike.

    

    From Saltwood, the trail climbs gradually through farmland and woodland past Lympne Castle (which only opens as a wedding venue unfortunately) and onto Portus Lemanis.

    

    Also known as Stutfall Castle, Portus Lemanis

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  • Difficult
    05:16
    12.7 mi
    2.4 mph
    325 ft
    300 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The penultimate stage takes you to the historic town of Rye, where half-timbered medieval houses with quirky names are ten-a-penny.

    

    With a manageable distance and a near entirely flat terrain, you should find this a leisurely hike.

    

    From Hamstreet, the trail follows the rough course of the Royal Military

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  • Difficult
    05:45
    13.3 mi
    2.3 mph
    950 ft
    1,000 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage brings you back to the ocean for an epic finish along the white cliffs.

    

    A hike-of-two halves, this stage begins along level and leisurely terrain before transforming into a challenging scramble over coastal cliffs and into coves.

    

    From Rye, you emerge into pretty drained farmland and soon

    by Dan Hobson

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    12
  • Distance
    168 mi
  • Duration
    70:13 h
  • Elevation
    6,025 ft6,000 ft

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A historic hike along breathaking coastline — Saxon Shore Way

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