In England’s south east county of Kent, not far north of the Channel Tunnel is the tourist-friendly attraction of Canterbury, a 1, 000 year-old city originally settled by the Celts, captured and heavily developed by the Romans and finally becoming England’s Christian core thanks to St Augustine’s conversion of King Aethelbert – on Pope Gregory the Great’s behalf – in 597 AD.
The city centre offers medieval walls, a variety of interesting ruins, a cluster of museums, the oldest school in England – The King’s School – and some charming ancient housing (interspersed with plenty of less attractive homes) but most notably the impressive Canterbury Cathedral with its kaleidoscopic stained glass windows and elaborate tombs.
Cathedral crowds queuing outside the entry point, Christchurch Gate.
Canterbury became one of Europe’s most visited towns in the middle ages with Christian pilgrims visiting the site of the Archbishop’s ugly demise. The Cathedral was the pilgrimage goal in Chaucer’s classic and bawdy Canterbury Tales that tormented many an English schoolboy with its medieval verbiage and lewd imagery.
Medieval St Margaret’s Church is now home to a life size Canterbury Tales reconstruction while the city centre offers various lively shows on the same theme.
Canterbury’s West Gate on the Stour River.
Canterbury Cathedral is a World Heritage Site, together with the Saxon St. Martin’s Church and the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and is one of the most visited places in the UK, with over a million tourists/pilgrims a year.
The little city is calm, user-friendly and reasonably accessible from London (55 miles/89kms SE) by train (about 1. 5/2hrs depending), coach or car; from Ashford, Kent – where the Eurostar trains pause; from London’s Gatwick Airport; from Channel Tunnel and ports of Dover, Folkestone.