Cantii Way 2024

Our choice for 2024 was the 140 mile circular Kent route called the Cantii Way It is named after the ancient tribe that ruled Kent pre-Roman. Myself and fellow cyclist Dave Clark did the ride in late April 2024 – an unseasonably cool period with mainly north and east winds – strong on the first 2 days, then light. We missed all the heavy showers. Doing the ride outside of school holidays and the summer meant easier cycling on many of the traffic free paths shared with pedestrians.

Reculver Towers

The Cantii Way has good rail links and we travelled from Southampton via London to our starting point in Ashford. We chose a relaxed pace of riding over 5 days including travel there and back. This equated to 30-40 miles per day with our pre-booked overnight B&Bs and flat rental (day 2). The weather was ‘mixed’ with cold northerly winds on the first two days, but we missed all the heavy showers and only donned our cycling capes for the ride home from the station on our return.

The route uses current NCNs but is not signed as the Cantii Way, so we would recommend your own ‘navigational’ aid. We chose printed maps – I cut up sections of 1:50,000 maps with the route highlighted, then laminated them into route cards to clip on my handlebar map holder. Signage is primarily existing NCN routing, and this varied from very good to needing the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ approach at key turns. One key route change marker on the last day was obscured by an overgrown hedge!

From Canterbury to New Romney has the most traffic free sections. Broadstairs to Hythe has the most climbing. A significant part of the route was across the North Downs AONB.

A summary of each day now follows.

Day 1 – Train from Southampton to Ashford then cycle to Canterbury (5 + 18 miles)

A cycle from Rownhams to Southampton Central for 9:30am train to London Waterloo. An easy walk via a lift to Waterloo East and then a Southern service to Ashford International arriving 12:19. Exit on the south side and turn left and look for NCN18 signs for the start of the route through parks in Ashford onto small lanes to Wye. From Godmersham to Shalmsford Street there is a gravel uphill section which avoids the A28. At the top of the hill at Broadham Down we found the route blocked by a recent tree fall and had to spend some time negotiating the blockage up a steep bank and through woods.

Then a descent to the Great Stour (river) and a traffic free entry into Canterbury. Overnight at Ebury Hotel.

Day 2 – Cycle Canterbury to Margate (28 miles)

This uses NCN1 & NCN15. We located NCN1 just north of the Cathedral. As so often it took some following along small streets and footpaths, and portions which you have to walk! Eventually we exited into the University grounds and a climb to test our legs. Then followed a well compacted gravel surface track through Clowes Wood then a tarmac former rail line and minor roads to Whitstable.

Clowes Wood

From Whitstable the NCN15 follows the sea wall, mainly at beach level, with occasional excursions to higher ground above. We had a warming soup as part of the set lunch at Charlies Bistro next to the pier at Herne Bay. We had a strong north wind, and with high tide mid afternoon had to divert inland at one point to avoid sea spray. Reculver Towers was a good vantage point (our heading photo) – also worth noting its link to the The Dambusters. Overnight was a flat in Margate found on

Day 3 – Cycle Margate to St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe (27 miles)

A brighter start and the wind had switched from a brisk northerly to a lighter easterly, and we enjoyed a morning of sunny intervals. NCN 15 is still mostly traffic free now on the top of the cliffs. As we rounded Foreness Point we had this view………

Botany Bay

Then through Broadstairs to Ramsgate. As we crested the ridge west of Ramsgate we saw an approaching heavy shower so we scheduled in a hot chocolate stop at the the Viking Ship cafe. After the shower we continued down to Pegwell bay – a favourite landing place for the numerous invasions of England. Then onto Sandwich, where of course lunch was a sandwich in the Sandwich Shop in Sandwich!

Then a flatter section along a lane next to the golf links to Deal, and onwards to Kingsdown along the coast. Then a traffic free gradual climb along Otty Bottom to our overnight at the Parkdean resort on the top of the cliffs. Our best value rooms at £49 each with pool, sauna & jacuzzi access included.

Day 4 – Cycle St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe to New Romney (30 miles)

After overnight rain a dry day which started with views across the channel to Calais. The descent to Dover on the NCN 2 includes a section that would need to be walked down, so we reverted to the road approach via the Bleriot memorial. Another time we would stay on the road all the way. Then good signage through the town and along the seafront. Be careful at the large roundabout before the A20 climbs out of Dover. You need to cross the A20 before the roundabout using the pedestrian crossing towards a petrol station to link up with NCN 2 on the north side of the road. At the next roundabout the busy road is left behind and we started the long climb on a tarmac cycle track. After 500 feet of climbing you are rewarded with this view!

NCN 2 from Dover to Folkestone

This is one of the highlights of the route, and we savoured the long traffic free descent to Capel-le-Ferne and then down to Folkestone. A nice section through the Lower Lees country park followed. A busy road section through Sandgate with a ‘close pass’ from the usual 4th car to pass after the first 3 had given room, then onto a cycle track along the sea front made us more relaxed. Lunch at the terminus of the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway in Hythe. After lunch we initially we followed NCN 2 along the Royal Military Canal to West Hythe, then we turned south on lanes to Dymchurch. This area has its own distinctive character (Romney & Walland Marshes) which we sampled on this day, and first part of tomorrow (to Rye). At Dymchurch we went onto the sea wall cycle path to Littlestone. There are many Martello towers along this part of the route. The southwest corner of the Cantii Way has the least accomodation options – especially if you want to avoid expensive Rye, so this is probably the best stop to fix first when planning your tour. We stayed at Broadacre B&B. in New Romney, and had a very good Turkish evening meal in Diamond BBQ restaurant.

Day 5 Cycle New Romney to Ashford then train to Southampton (36 + 5 miles)

Again after overnight rain a dry start that would continue until we arrived at Ashford station! We returned to Littlestone, then followed the road to Dungeness lighthouse and railway station. Many bird watchers and ‘big skies’ in the flat Dungeness peninsula. We cycled to the lighthouse at the end of the spit.

Then up to Lydd, and back onto NCN 2 to Camber.

Camber Sands

Sections of the NCN 2 need repairing so we reverted to the road before entering Rye. A quick look around ‘the tourist hot spot’ of Rye, a £4-60 hot chocolate, then turning north along lanes to Ashford using NCN 11 & NCN 18. We initially followed the Royal Military Canal again. A couple of short hills on the approach to Ashford, then a descent to the cycle routes through the centre of Ashford for a ‘chilled out’ access to the station. Very good signage here. We arrived at the station as the first shower of the day arrived. The 3:30pm train via Waterloo got us to Southampton Central by 6:20pm, and then a wet ride home by 7pm

Mike Bunce & Dave Clark April 2024 (Version 1)