Folkestone Downs

Folkestone Downs are a prominent ridge of chalk hills to the north of Folkestone and form part of the North Downs escarpment that runs through Kent and Surrey. White Cliffs Countryside Partnership manage 72 hectares of the Downs on behalf of Eurotunnel including Castle Hill, Sugarloaf Hill, Round Hill and Cheriton Hill.

The chalk grassland on the steep south-facing slopes of the Downs is some of the richest for wildlife in the UK and the whole site is accordingly designated both a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The chalk grassland is at its best in spring and summer when you may see dozens of wildflower and butterfly species during an afternoon’s walk.

Folkestone Downs also supports areas of wildflower-rich grassland that have been restored from arable farmland, as well as patches of secondary woodland that became established on the Downs during the second half of the 20th century. At Holywell Coombe, freshwater springs emerge and feed a small area of calcareous fen that provides another important habitat for wildlife.

The Downs have a long history of human occupation and land use that stretches back more than 4,000 years. Archaeological excavations in the 1980s uncovered evidence of a Bronze Age settlement at the foot of Sugarloaf Hill, and the impressive earthworks of a Norman motte-and-bailey fort can be seen on the summit of Castle Hill. At Cherry Garden Hill a large Bronze Age round barrow is rather unusually crowned by a WWII pillbox.

The North Downs Way passes along the crest of Folkestone Downs and links with Folkestone Warren to the east. There are also many other established paths to help you explore.

Things to look out for

Adonis blue and marbled white butterflies, straw belle moth, yellowhammer, kestrel, adder, chalk grassland wildflowers including orchids.

Visitor Information

Open: 24 hours

Parking: No on-site parking. Roadside parking at Crete Road West.

Accessibility: Un-surfaced narrow paths, kissing gates and stiles.

Facilities: No on-site facilities.

Dogs: Welcome on leads.

Nearest bus stops: Alkham Valley Corner (Route 16, 73, 91), Holywell House (Route 16, 73, 91)

Other information: Please be aware of grazing cattle.


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