Saxon Shore Way



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Leaving Faversham towards Oare Marshes

Sandwich Bay

South Foreland Lighthouse

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A page from the 1980 guide

One side of a leaflet from the 1986 guide

Saxon Shore Way

The 153-mile (246 km) Saxon Shore Way from Gravesend to Hastings offers the walker an unrivalled diversity of scenery from the wide expanses of marshland of the Thames and Medway estuaries to the majestic White Cliffs of Dover.  Spectacular panoramic views follow the route along the escarpment of the old sea cliffs from Folkestone to Rye and from the sandstone cliffs of the High Weald at Hastings.

The historian is treated to the "Saxon Shore" forts built by the Romans at Reculver, Richborough, Dover and Lympne, to the landing place of St. Augustine and of Caesar and to defences of more modem times against Napoleon and Hitler.

The shoreline provides a treat for the naturalist and is a delight for birdwatchers.  Sections of the route pass through internationally recognised areas of importance for birds – look out for divers and grebes, peregrines at Dover Castle and Bewick Swans wintering on Romney Marsh.

The Saxon Shore Way is a great walk for all interests and all abilities, from family groups to the seasoned rambler.

A History of the Walk

Back in the 1970s there was much talk in footpath circles about the concept of a footpath circling the coast of Great Britain.  It didn't then come to pass, but it spurred a group of enthusiastic volunteers to see what they could do to create a route around the coast of Kent.  They concluded – not necessarily correctly – that the modern coastal route would not provide an ideal or varied walk.  So they cast back some 1700 years and decided upon a route that would follow the Roman shoreline in the third century AD.  The Romans were plagued by Saxon pirates and fortified the shoreline against them.  From that the walk took its name.

Initial work was done by Andrew Gray assisted by Sheila Cameron, working under the auspices of the Kent Rights of Way Council, an organisation which represented many Walking and Rights of Way groups in the County.  When she left, the main coordinators became Andrew Gray and Elsie Straight, who, with the assistance of many volunteers and the limited resources of Kent County Council, created a 140 mile path around the coast.

On 22 June 1980, His Grace, the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury unveiled a sign stone at the Grove Ferry Picnic Site near Sandwich and then led a fine body of walkers along a stretch of the route, to formally open the route.

Guides to the Walk

The first guide was a set of cards published in 1980 by the Kent Rights of Way Council  (no longer in existence) with the help of the KCC and the Countryside Commission.  These were lovingly prepared by Andrew Gray who wrote the text and drew the fine linear maps which ran from the top to bottom of each page.  These sold very well and within three years there was talk of the need for a revamped publication.

Mick Whittingham stepped into the breach and agreed to rewrite the guide, so that it formed a series of short circular walks.  The first sections, along Kent's north coast, were published in 1986, but development on Kent's south coast held up work on the final sections.

By 1989 Kent Ramblers had assumed responsibility for the guide and Peter Miller oversaw the production and final distribution of the last sections as far as Ham Street (the walk then finished at Rye).

Next, in 1993, came a book by playwright Alan Sillitoe with photographs by Fay Godwin.  This entertaining commentary on the many points of interest on or near the Saxon Shore Way made no attempt to offer directions to the walker and it sems that the author did not always follow the correct route anyway.  The book contained as an appendix the linear maps from the first guide mentioned above.  The black and white photographs were largely disappointing.

In 1996 came a splendid Recreational Path Guide produced jointly by the Aurum Press and the Ordnance Survey in association with the Kent County Council and covering a route extended to Hastings.  Written by Bea Cowan, author of many fine guides to long distance walks in Kent, that guide too is no longer available except at extortionate prices from on-line second-hand booksellers.

Finally in 2006 Kent County Council produced a book of eight circular walks, each incorporating part of the Saxon Shore Way.  Although a very fine book in its way, it covered only a small fraction of the route and did not include route directions.

At the present time there is no guide to the Saxon Shore Way in print but Kent Ramblers volunteers are working on a new guide.  If you would like to help test out the draft material we have so far prepared then please contact us on

The testing arrangements are that we will email you the first two sections of the route to test out.  When we receive your comments we will email you two more sections, and so on.  This process ensures that you are always testing a recent draft of any particular section and that we get the feedback we need.  We do not charge for supplying sections of our guide under these arrangements and we do not make any payments for the feedback we receive.

 The section from Sandwich to Capel-le-Ferne follows almost the same route as the England Coast Path which is described (but in the opposite direction) in our Guide to the Kent Coast Path: Part 1.