The Way of St Augustine
Take the Way of St Augustine and discover the beautiful Kentish countryside, where St Augustine once walked, and where Christianity first came to the English people. Walk between the Shrine of St Augustine, Ramsgate, and Canterbury Cathedral, both places of immense cultural, historical, and religious significance.
The walk is about 19 miles long, so can be walked in a day or comfortably split into two days. Public transport along the way makes it possible to do the walk in parts too. The route is flat, so not too challenging for social or family walks.
The route can be walked in either direction. Going from St Augustine’s to Canterbury Cathedral, it marks the route St Augustine and his Companions would have taken after they landed on Thanet, met King Ethelbert, and were given permission by King Ethelbert to settle in Canterbury. The Wantsum Channel has silted up in the centuries since, but the walk takes you across land that St Augustine crossed by boat.
The other direction, by travelling to St Augustine’s landing site, resembles the traditional pilgrim route from Santiago to Finisterre in Spain. St James, who evangelised Spain (just as St Augustine evangelised England), is said to have landed at Finisterre. Later he was executed in Jerusalem, but his body was brought back to Santiago. Many people who walk to Santiago travel on to the coast, to Finisterre. Ramsgate is England’s Finisterre!
Don’t forget to pick up your Pilgrim Passport [image] and get it stamped along the way.
Developed by the Shrine of St Augustine, Canterbury Cathedral, and the Green Pilgrimage Network, in collaboration with Explore Kent and the Churches Conservation Trust, the route is increasingly popular. It originated with an idea by John Coverdale, and was developed by Catherine Lloyd, Rob Mackintosh, and Canon Caroline Pinchbeck.
Places of note
- Shrine of St Augustine, Ramsgate – built by Augustus Pugin in celebration of St Augustine
- St Augustine’s Cross – near Cliffsend (English Heritage, free)
- Minster Abbey – the chapel is always open, and it is possible to book tours in advance
- St Mary’s Church, Minster – an imposing church, once on the sea shore! The church is open daily throughout the year – usually 9am-5pm. There are guided tours on most Saturdays, 12pm and 2pm and by arrangement (please call 07958 813577).
- West Stourmouth Church
- Stodmarsh Church – open to pilgrims
- Fordwich Church – see the “Fordwich Stone”, believed to be part of St Augustine’s tomb. Book with the Churches Conservation Trust to “champ”.
- The Canterbury World Heritage Site comprising St Martin’s Church, St Augustine’s Abbey (English Heritage), and Canterbury Cathedral.
- Eastbridge Hospital, Canterbury – medieval pilgrim accommodation, now a museum and almshouses
There are plenty of pubs along the way for you to refresh yourself, including at Fordwich, Stodmarsh, Grove Ferry, Plucks Gutter, and Minster.
Directions: The Route
Maps can be downloaded here.
When travelling on this route, please tread carefully, leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but photographs. Please support local producers and organisations through purchase of local food and souvenirs.
Share your experiences on social media with the hashtag #canpilgrim
Ramsgate – Canterbury
Begin at St Augustine’s. As you leave the church, on to the road, turn left and walk along the clifftop. Enjoy the views over the English Channel, and on a clear day you will be able to see France.
You will come to a brick wall, where you will need to turn right and follow the path up to a road, with a large elegant terrace at the top on your right. Turn left, and be careful that the footpath eventually stops on the left hand side of the road, so walk on the right. Walk past the Pegwell Bay Hotel as the road bends to the right, and take the footpath on the left.
Follow this footpath between hedges and some houses, heading towards the ‘Hugin’ Viking Ship. Enjoy the views over Pegwell Bay, which was once the southern end of the Wantsum Channel which divided the Isle of Thanet from the mainland. You can see on the other side of Pegwell Bay the estuary of the River Stour which is the remnant of the Wantsum Channel.
At the ‘Hugin’ Viking Ship, carry on the cycle/footpath heading down to sea level. When you come to The Sportsman pub (on the right), turn down Foads Lane. At the top of this road, turn left on to Cottington Road. Take care – there is a long corner here with no footpath; it may be advisable to walk on the field to avoid traffic. Keep looking ahead: there is an important landmark ahead.
Enjoy the view of St Augustine’s Cross as you walk along this road. When you reach it, read the interpretation boards and look at the engravings on the cross. Then carry on, turning off the road just after the St Augustine’s Golf Course on to the footpath that takes you along the railway line. After going under the bridge, do not take the gravel path, rather bear right and head on to the path right next to the railway, with hedges on its side.
Follow this path, always keeping next to the railway. Carry on, across a road, keeping the railway on your right, until you come to a cross of the railway with styles and large gates. Cross here – taking great care that there are no trains coming – and follow the wide concrete path up to the village of Minster.
As you come past some houses on your entrance to Minster, look ahead and see the flint boundary walls of Minster Abbey. At the junction at the end of this road (‘Durlock’), you can head right to the entrance of Minster Abbey if you are able to visit their chapel. They are an enclosed community, so please respect their way of life, but they are also very welcoming and hospitable.
Head into the main village, left at the end of Durlock, and towards the medieval parish church, St Mary’s. This church is very ancient and interesting, and take a look inside if it is open.
Head left from St Mary’s towards the railway station. Just before the level crossing, turn right and follow the road. It turns into a footpath, and keep following it until you can cross the railway on the left. Cross the railway, and follow the path south on to the marshes, under the power lines, and down to the River Stour. Turn right at the river, and follow the path again.
After about a kilometre, take the path that heads right, and up on to the Abbot’s Wall – an earthwork that dates to medieval times. Follow this path until just before a road, at which point take the path to the left which heads towards the road at an oblique angle. Take care walking along this road, and crossing the bridge. Cross over the road to the Dog and Duck pub, which may provide good refreshment!
At the Dog and Duck, go through the garden and to the river again, and follow the path along the riverbank. This eventually widens past some trees, with a caravan park then an orchard on your left.
Eventually you will have a choice: either to take a path to the left, veering slightly away from the river, or to keep going by the river. Keep going by the river if you are not stopping, and cross the river on a concrete bridge by a pumping station. Take the left path, which turns into a track, if you are taking advantage of staying overnight by champing or just want to visit the beautiful little village of West Stourmouth and its fascinating church run by the Churches Conservation Trust.
Follow the road through the village and find the footpath heading right at the bend in the road. Follow this down to the river, and cross on the footbridge. Turn left, with the river on your left, and soon find the footpath turns right, off towards Grove Ferry.
Approaching Grove Ferry, walk through the picnic area and car park. Here you may want to hire a canoe with Canoe Wild and paddle up the river to Fordwich. You may also seek refreshment at the Grove Ferry Inn overlooking the river.
Continuing your walk, you can follow the Stour Valley Walk along the riverbank. This is a winding path and should only be done if you have sufficient time. Alternatively, find the footpath heading south west on the bend in the road near the Grove Ferry Inn. Keep following this across the marshlands and fields. It crosses a footpath at right angles: keep straight on. Where it can veer left, keep to the right. Head behind Undertrees Farm, and you will link up again with the Stour Valley Walk shortly before Stodmarsh.
At Stodmarsh, pay a visit to the medieval church. Then have more refreshment at The Red Lion before continuing on along the quiet country lane, up the hill, following the path into the field and parallel with the road, rejoin the road a little further along, and follow the footpath into a field where you meet a junction with a road dropping away behind you to the left. Follow the path, through woodland down into the town of Fordwich.
Fordwich is Britian’s smallest town. Take a look at St Mary’s Church and perhaps sample the food and drink at either the Fordwich Arms or The George. Take the path opposite The George through some beautiful meadows, and keep following it through woodland (be careful not to get distracted by occasional other paths!) and then in to modern housing on the outskirts of Canterbury.
Don’t miss the Conduit House that once supplied St Augustine’s Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral with water. Then carry on and find St Martin’s Church – the oldest continually-used church in the English-speaking world.
Follow the main road, past St Augustine’s Abbey, and down Longport, and then past St Paul’s Church. If you have time, take a short detour to Lady Wootton’s Green to see the impressive Fyndon Gate – once the grand entrance to St Augustine’s Abbey – and the modern statues of King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha.
Cross the dual carriageway at the traffic lights, and carry on down Burgate. See St Thomas’s Catholic Church on your left, where you can see two relics of St Thomas Becket. Carry on down to the gate of Canterbury Cathedral. If you show the people on the gate that you are pilgrims they will usually let you in free!
Canterbury – Ramsgate
Start at Canterbury Cathedral. If you show the people on the gate that you are pilgrims they will usually let you in free. Leaving the Cathedral, turn left and head up Burgate. See St Thomas’s Catholic Church on your right, where you can see two relics of St Thomas Becket.
Cross the dual carriageway at the traffic lights, and head up towards St Paul’s Church. If you have time, take a short detour to Lady Wootton’s Green to see the impressive Fyndon Gate – once the grand entrance to St Augustine’s Abbey – and the modern statues of King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha. Follow the road, up Longport, past St Augustine’s Abbey and on to St Martin’s Church, the oldest continually-used church in the English-speaking world.
Head on along the road at the base of the churchyard, and keeping right, and it eventually becomes a footpath. Don’t miss the Conduit House on your left that once supplied St Augustine’s Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral with water.
Keep following the path through woodland (be careful not to get distracted by occasional other paths!) and then through some meadows as you come to Fordwich – Britain’s smallest town. Take a look at St Mary’s Church and perhaps sample the food and drink at either the Fordwich Arms or The George.
At Fordwich you may want to hire a canoe with Canoe Wild to make the journey to Fordwich by river – a fun way to travel, and in keeping with St Augustine’s way of transport!
Follow the path out of Fordwich near the church, marked the Stour Valley Walk, through more woods, up the hill, and where the road forks, take the road that does not fall away to the right. Follow the footpath into a field parallel with the road, rejoin the road a little further along, and enter Stodmarsh. Perhaps have some refreshment at The Red Lion, and do visit the medieval church.
Follow the footpath again taking a left at the pub, along a lane and through a car park. Be careful not to take a path going straight on, which is a dead end, but follow the path turning right angles to the right then left. After this, you will have a choice: left or right. Heading left will take you along the bank of the River Stour, and is straightforward but winding and takes longer. In winter, this path may be closed due to bank erosion or flooding. Take the right path, which goes behind Newborns Farm, and across the marshes to Grove Ferry. There is the Grove Ferry Inn here for some more refreshment.
From Grove Ferry, head along the river, through the picnic area, and off across the fields after the boatyard and large house on your left. Eventually you will come to the river, and a footbridge at a pumping station. Cross here, and choose whether to visit Stourmouth. If not, follow the river to Plucks Gutter. If going to Stourmouth, carry straight on with the river behind you.
Go to the pretty little village of Stourmouth to see the little All Saints Church, or if you’re champing with the Churches Conservation Trust. Take the road through the village, heading north and back towards the river, where you will eventually come to the path on the riverbank.
Follow the river to Plucks Gutter, where you can be refreshed at the Dog and Duck. Cross the river here on the road bridge – take great care and walk on the right. Walk a little further along the road on the north of the river, and take the path that veers obliquely off to the right through the field. This leads you to a long raised medieval earthwork called Abbot’s Wall. Turn right and walk on the path on top of it.
The path turns right and back towards the river, follow it, go along the river, and then take the first left after about a kilometre. This path takes you under the power lines and up towards Minster – spot the church from a long way off. Cross the railway line and turn right. The path becomes a road, and you come into Minster.
Have a look in the medieval parish church of St Mary’s if it is open, and carry on east along the main road. See the ancient Minster Abbey, and head round the corner. The entrance to Minster Abbey is round this corner, and perhaps pay a visit to the chapel there. This is an enclosed community, so please respect the sisters’ way of life, but they are very welcoming and hospitable.
Follow the little road called ‘Durlock’ and back out into the fields. Head towards the railway line, cross it, and turn left, keeping the railway on your left. Carry on, cross a road, keeping the level crossing on your left, and along the path with hedges on its side. Keep going, and go under the large modern road bridge. When you come to St Augustine’s Golf Course, turn right along Cottington Road.
Here you will see St Augustine’s Cross, which marks the traditional landing site of St Augustine in AD 597. When you reach it, read the interpretation boards and look at the engravings on the cross.
Follow the road, taking great care as there is no pavement. It may be advisable to walk on the field as you go around the long bend. When you come to Foads Lane on your right, turn down there towards the sea. At the end of that road, cross the larger road, and turn left. You will come to the ‘Hugin’ Viking Ship which was rowed to Broadstairs from Denmark in 1949.
Head towards the corner of the car park here, and follow the path on top of the rising cliffs. Enjoy the views over Pegwell Bay, which was once the southern end of the Wantsum Channel which divided the Isle of Thanet from the mainland. You can see on the other side of Pegwell Bay the estuary of the River Stour which is the remnant of the Wantsum Channel.
When you come to the road, turn right and go past the Pegwell Bay Hotel and Sir Stanley Grey pub, and up the hill, making use of the pavement on the left. Cross the road and turn right towards the sea when you come to a large terrace on your right. Go all the way down to the clifftop, and turn left.
The home straight! You may be able to see the stump of St Augustine’s tower, and The Grange, as you walk along the clifftop. Enjoy the views over the English Channel, and on a clear day you will be able to see France. Come in to St Augustine’s, perhaps pray a while, present your intentions to St Augustine’s intercession, and have a look around this fascinating building.
Pilgrim Passports are ways of collecting stamps from pubs, churches, and other places on the route, as well as helping people identify you as pilgrims on the Way of St Augustine.
They are available by contacting St Augustine’s, or at St Augustine’s itself.
Public transport along the route
Both Canterbury and Ramsgate have good bus and railway connections (including to each other).
Buses run between Ramsgate and Canterbury. Buses to both Thanet and Canterbury may be caught at Sturry and Upstreet (near Grove Ferry). Buses for destinations in Thanet are also available in Minster and Plucks Gutter. See www.stagecoachbus.com for more information.