The spectacular countryside and landscape around St Margaret’s at Cliffe can be appreciated at all times of the year. From sun baked sunny days to bracing windy days.
St Margaret’s developed as a holiday resort in late Victorian times when it was seen as a place to retreat for the rich and famous. During the war the local people were evacuated and the area was occupied by the troops. It became known as ‘Hell Fire Corner’ because of the continual bombardment. The little cove of St Margaret’s Bay is well off the beaten track down a very narrow, windy road (not recommended for caravans or camper vans). There are no early records of the area but the church was built some time between 1140 and 1298 on an earlier Saxon site. In 1367 a hermit monk called Nicholas de Leogh kept a light burning in a cave to warn sailors of the dangerous shores. In more modern times Thomas Edison tried out the first electric light at the lighthouse in 1859. The Bay and surrounding area for centuries was the haunt of smugglers and the coastline the scene of many wrecks, lying so close to the Goodwin Sands. In the days of the smugglers it is said that the church tower was used to store the equipment needed to haul the contraband up the cliffs.
This is the closest part of England to France – only 21 miles separates the two countries and so St Margaret’s is often the starting point for cross Channel swimmers.
If the tide is out you can walk along the shingle beach and look for fossils, dabble in rock pools or play ‘skimmers’ and see how many times you can get the pebble to bounce in the water.
Very steep steps behind the carpark lead up the cliffs to join the Saxon Shore Way and other extensive footpaths where you can walk along the cliffs with spectacular views of the coast line. Visit www.kent.gov.uk/ for details of walks. From St Margaret’s you can walk to Kingsdown to enjoy the pebble beach there.
You can either walk up the steep windy road and look for the signs for The Pines Gardens and St Margaret’s Museum or drive up and park along the road side. Visit http://www.baytrust.org.uk for opening times.
If you have mobility problems it is possible to sit in the small carpark (pay and display) at the bottom of the cliffs and watch the ships going in and out of Dover.