For many months, I have been dreaming of visiting Canterbury. My dream was to visit in warm weather and go punting along the canals of this famed city and visit its historic cathedral. Once I learned it was not far from London, it made it firmly onto the London bucket list.
The fact that so many people undertook pilgrimages to see this place really captivated my imagination. I wanted to see for myself the Canterbury that was so special to many medieval Catholics. After spending the past several months hiking all around the UK, I can imagine their journeys were not easy!
If I’m being super honest, it was an Instagram post that triggered my desire to visit Canterbury before we move. This photo captures such a gorgeous English scene! When we were unable to join our friends camping in Dorset (see their post on that here), we took off for a day trip to Canterbury as consolation.
Punting, cathedral touring and wandering around the quaint streets of this historic city was a lovely way to spend a summer Saturday on a day trip from London.
London Day Trip to Canterbury
Getting to Canterbury from London is very easy. High speed trains on the Southeastern Railway leave about every half hour from St Pancras to Canterbury West, arriving in just over an hour. These trains are slick! They’re nice and new so the ride is comfortable.
Things to Do in Canterbury
Punting in Canterbury
With the Instagram above being part of my motivation, it probably comes as little surprise that going for a punt was my favorite part of our day trip to Canterbury. It was so relaxing to be out floating on the water and so interesting to see the city from its canals.
We embarked on our tour with Westgate Punts. I had found them online before we ventured to Canterbury and it just so happened that they’re located right at the West Gate (imagine that!), the main gate into the city from the train station. Since this was our main priority for our day trip, we hopped right on a boat from the train!
The process was super informal. We clambered onto the next available boat and took off along the canals. We opted for the Old City Trip, their longest tour, which takes just about an hour. The tour starts out toward Bingely Island along the Westgate Gardens. This part of the trip has lots of plant life to enjoy.
It is so cool to see the city from its canals! You pass under bridges and trees, by apartment buildings and parks and sculptures.
When you approach the Old City, things start to get interesting.
The canals take you under buildings there and through dark tunnels filled with pigeons nesting in every nook and cranny they can find. Our guide had to crouch down very low to get us through these parts.
The resulting views of the old buildings along the canal are so charming. We made a note to stop at this restaurant later for lunch.
After reaching the mills, you turn around so we got enjoy all of the views again. It was a lovely and relaxing trip through Canterbury.
I highly recommend punting on a lovely summer day!
Visit Canterbury Cathedral
Forming part of a UNSECO World Heritage site, the historic Canterbury Cathedral is incredibly important to the Anglican faith and was a pilgrimage site in the medieval period. Home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, the cathedral is grand. I could only capture this part without the scaffolding of the current renovation and preservation work it is undergoing to keep the cathedral standing for future generations!
Inside, the beautiful Boat of Remembrance by Baldwin & Guggisberg hangs in the Nave. One hundred glass amphorae in the shape of ship mark each year since the end of World War I. I wasn’t expecting to encounter modern art pieces in such a historic house of worship, but I absolutely loved this piece and thought it really added to the space. Several of their works, collectively titled Under an Equal Sky, are on on display throughout the cathedral.
We missed the guided tour but walked all throughout the cathedral and underneath, as well as through the cloisters.
On our way out, we wandered among the beautiful gardens and the ruins of the monastery.
After the cathedral, we walked about in search of lunch and castles. Through the winding streets of the Old City, we found our way to the Old Weaver’s House, which we had spotted earlier from the water, on dry land.
Lucky for us, when we arrived we were able to not only get a table but to grab one outside by the canal. We had a lovely meal here in this building that dates back to the 15th century!
After we fueled up on delicious pub food, we set off to find Canterbury Castle. Unfortunately we were unable to walk around in the ruins as it was closed.
We walked back along the canals to the mills to get a closer look.
Then back through town, which was pretty hoppin’ on a summer Saturday!
It was a lovely and relaxing day of exploring!