Canterbury Historic Highlights

Posted: 2009-08-25

Canterbury Historic Highlights

It has been too long since my last post. Blame it on Canterbury. I went for my first visit to Canterbury, and came back with hundreds of photos to sort through, and a few dozen historic attractions to write articles about.

Hopefully, all those articles and photographs will encourage you to visit Canterbury yourself, but in case you'd like a quick and easy summary, here are my top tips and suggestions on what to see to get the most out of a visit.

Canterbury Cathedral - well that's hardly an earth-shattering tip, but hey, its well worth a visit. To really get the most out of a visit, though, try to read about the long history of the site before you go. And if you can, arrange to come back after the church is closed, when the cathedral precinct is often open to visitors. Then you can wander freely around the precinct, see the wonderfully vaulted cloisters, the Water Tower, ancient King's School, and the Norman Staircase.

The area around the cathedral gates way is often extremely crowded with tourists during the day, so its often well worth coming back in the evening when there are few people about.

Take the time to walk the old medieval walls, sections of which date from Roman times. And speaking of walking, follow the brown signs from the city centre to St Augustine's Abbey, founded by the saint himself. But don't stop there; just beyond the abbey grounds is St Martin's church, which can claim to be the oldest church in Britain, perhaps used by Bertha, Queen of Kent in the late 6th century, and contains sections of Roman construction.

If you want to really stretch your legs, I can highly recommend a two-mile walk along the Stour Valley Trail from Canterbury to Fordwich, where you will find the smallest town hall in Britain, a lovely timber-framed building. A stone's throw from the town hall is the parish church, with a mysterious 12th century scarved stone shrine known as the Fordwich Stone.

And one final suggestion; hidden away off Stour Street is Greyfriars Chapel and Franciscan Gardens. Greyfriars was the first Franciscan monastery in England, and the last surviving part of the abbey sits on arches over a tributary of the River Stour, bounded by lovely, peaceful gardens.

No matter how much time you have to spend in Canterbury, you'll find plenty of historical interest to occupy your time! I enjoyed myself immensely, and I can highly recommend it as a destination if you have even a passing interest in history.

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