"As much as London has to offer, one thing the city lacks is good, beachside relaxation. Luckily for city-dwellers, the historic Kentish coast, known and loved for its gorgeous vistas and local landmarks, is but a quick drive away." Tremayne from London city guide HG2 tells me. Read on to see how much fun there is to be had beside the seaside.
"For Zipcar members, Kent’s rocky coastline is very accessible – it’s easy to pack your day with beachside walks, visits to local galleries, and plenty of fresh seafood and still make it home for supper. One of the coast’s top destinations is the small city of Folkestone, whose history dates back to pre-Roman times. The town’s proximity to France (visitors can catch a glimpse of our neighbour on a clear day) means it was an important port city and battle site. Today, relics of Folkestone’s military past make for interesting local sightseeing, while the town’s reputation as a creative hub means it’s chock-a-block full of art galleries and creative types.
Once you arrive in Folkestone, the fresh sea air will probably have you feeling a little peckish. For those looking to enjoy the town’s access to fresh seafood, Rocksalt (4-5 Fishmarket, Folkestone CT19 6AA, 01303 212070, www.rocksaltfolkestone.co.uk) offers an upscale, fine-dining approach. The restaurant’s weekly changing lunch menu should appeal to seafood lovers, with seasonal dishes like Grilled Folkestone Plaice with Brown Shrimps and Sea Aster and Creamed Crab and Mussel Spelt with Sorrel offering up a taste of the area (with a plate of Kent cheeses for dessert, naturally). Best of all, the restaurant is perched right on the edge of the harbour, meaning diners can still take in views of the English Channel whilst tucking into freshly caught fish.
A more casual way to enjoy the local seafood is to stop at one of the area’s oyster restaurants for a deliciously briney bite (or half dozen). Those who are motoring down in their Zipcar from London to Folkestone can stop off in Whitstable on the way down, itself a destination seaside town and home to the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company, the oldest surviving commercial enterprise in Europe. One of the town’s best bets for seafood is Wheeler’s Oyster Bar (8 High Street, Whitstable, CT5 1BQ, 01227 273311, www.wheelersoysterbar.com), which serves two varieties of Whitstable oyster on the half-shell as well as a wide range of other fishy specialties.
After lunch, there’s no better way to end your meal than by exploring Folkestone’s idyllic local scenery. The Leas Promenade provides an ideal path along the cliffs, complete with old Victorian bandstand, flowerbeds, and a path down to pebbly beaches. Afterwards, culture vultures can wander back into town for a tour of the local galleries. Space Gallery (7 The Old High Street, Folkestone CT20 1RJ, 07989 965883, www.spaceseven.co.uk) is a highlight as the local destination for edgy contemporary art.