Kent is known as the Garden of England and is renowned for its hop fields, orchards and distinctive oast houses. It is steeped in history and has cycle routes that take riders past castles, historic houses and ancient churches as well as many splendid and celebrated gardens.
As it is within easy reach from London by train and road, Kent is seen by many as an ideal destination for a day’s cycling, yet it is so well served by cycle routes for riders of all ages and abilities that it can be a fabulous location for longer cycling holidays too.
The Heron Trail, a circular, 18-mile route on the Hoo Peninsula, is bounded by two rivers – the Medway to the south and Thames to the north.
The trail provides a combination of rural and maritime interests. The longer Coast to Cathedral route is a 50-mile circular ride linking Dover, Folkestone and Canterbury. Ride along bridleways and leafy lanes and over rolling hills through country villages and hamlets. It is great for day rides or a cycle holiday.
The route is best approached anti-clockwise because the short, steep climb out of Dover is easier than the longer climb out of Folkestone.
Crab and Winkle Way
The Crab and Winkle Way is a 7.5-mile route between Canterbury and Whitstable. Opened in 1999, it takes its name from the railway line that ran between the two towns until 1952 and is mostly traffic-free. It runs partly on the old railway path, but also on Forestry Commission tracks and woodland.
It offers plenty of interesting stop-offs along the way, from medieval earthworks to modern sculptures, and is mainly flat.
Whether an experienced cyclist or a novice, there is plenty to enjoy along the 29-mile route on the Isle of Thanet peninsular, the point where Vikings first landed in Britain.
The coastal section from Pegwell Bay to Reculver winds its way past bays and sandy beaches, often against a backdrop of chalk cliffs. Margate and Ramsgate are lively seaside resorts and then there is the nostalgic charm of Broadstairs.
The inland loop takes in Kentish villages and passes Minster Abbey, founded in 670.
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The 42-mile route from Ashford to Tunbridge Wells runs on country lanes through the High Weald, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is one of the best way to take in Kent’s Garden of England scenery.
This ride is not recommended for novices and anybody who thinks Kent is flat might reconsider after trying this.
However there are a series of shorter rides that explore the Weald in more manageable bursts. For those who want to take on the full route, dedicated cycle lanes run alongside main roads at both Ashford and Tunbridge Wells.
The route between Tonbridge Castle and Penshurst Place is almost entirely traffic-free and runs from the heart of Tonbridge alongside the River Medway, out into the countryside as far as the buildings of Penshurst Place five miles to the west.
There is only one significant climb – between the bridge over the River Medway and Well Place Farm – and it is rewarded with views of the surrounding countryside.