As the October half term approached we were desperate to get away – but along with the rest of the country we also felt anxious about travelling too far due to the looming threat of Lockdown 2.0. Having really enjoyed our stay in York last October we decided to try a similar city break closer to home, this time in the stunning, historical city of Canterbury.
Canterbury is around a 2 hour drive from our home in East Sussex. Far enough to feel like an exciting get away yet not so far the children suffer from a long car journey. Having studied for my PGCE in the city around 13 years ago I had a good idea of some of the main appeals of a trip here – although visiting as a tourist felt very different. I hadn’t invested any time in exploring the rich history of Canterbury all those years ago and I was pretty clueless about the importance of this historic place until our recent adventure.
Where to Stay
We stayed in an apartment booked through AirBnB on Castle Street right in the heart of the city. We found the accommodation to be smart, clean and well presented as well and being in the ideal location for exploring the city. The proximity of the apartment to the bustling centre of town meant we could pop in and out during the day for a change of clothes, warm drink or just to rest our feet. This property has a double room for the adults with a large sofa bed in the lounge for the kids.
Things to do
Family Ticket : £20.50
Duration of visit: Allow around 1 hour
St Augustine’s Abbey dates back to as early as 598AD. The Abbey was originally established as a burial site for Anglo Saxon kings but later became a monastery until its dissolution in 1538. Today it is run by English Heritage and acts as part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site.
Highlights: There is an incredible sense of peace and tranquility at the Abbey. Us adults were in awe of the sheer historical importance of this place loving exploring the ancient tombs and building remains. While the children weren’t overly interested in the historical importance of the Abbey (I know, right!!?) they loved exploring the grounds and the freedom of the open spaces. I can imagine it would be a lovely place to take a picnic and relax on a warm day. There is also an excellent audio tour which older children might enjoy following.
Family Ticket: Around £35
Duration: 45 minutes
The perfect way to see the city from a new perspective – Canterbury Punting Co offers a range of punting packages including spooky tours, private hire or shared boat hire. You’ll be guided by your very own punter as you glide along the River Stour, just sit back and take it all in. Our guide was the charming Quentin (the only French man I’ve met with an Irish accent!) who enlightened with stories of tanning, witchcraft and abbots while navigating us away from the river banks and friendly ducks.
Highlights: Relaxing and enjoying the ride. We loved our river experience and really enjoyed having our own guide to answer all our questions. We were unlucky with the weather during our visit – make sure you take an umbrella or dress well in wet conditions! We’d love to try this again on a sunny day.
Family Ticket: £25 (£12.50 per adult)
Duration: 1-1.5 hours
At the heart of this city sits Canterbury Cathedral. Dating back to 597 AD the Cathedral is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. You need to pay to see the Cathedral up close as it’s totally enclosed from the rest of the city – during our visit they were offering free children’s tickets for the half term break so our family ticket came to reasonable £25. Our entry price also paid for a guide who was able to show us a number of highlights including the very place that Thomas Becket was murdered and the tomb of the Black Prince.
Highlights: The incredible stained glass windows, Antony Gormley’s thought provoking sculpture in the Crypt and ambling through the peaceful cloisters (the kids loved these – very Harry Potter!)
Family Ticket: £25.00
Duration: Around 1.5 hours
In a city as steeped in as much history as Canterbury it’s easy to walk past some of the most significant building and points of interest without having any idea of their significance. Canterbury Guided Tours uses a number of highly knowledgeable and local tour guides to make sure you get the most our of your city stay. We spent an incredibly wet afternoon with our lovely guide Katie who filled us with knowledge and stories from the home of Rupert the Bear to the most crooked house in town. She was also fantastic at making sure the children were engaged by encouraging them to re-enact Thomas Becket’s brutal murder.
Highlights: This was such a special and enjoyable experience (despite the weather). I think we all felt so much more clued up about the significance of Canterbury thanks to Katie’s insight. I loved all the small snippets of inside info like the fact that Orlando Bloom is represented as a Young Squire on the statue of Chaucer in the middle of town. Who knew?
If you are thinking of visiting Canterbury then check out the official Visit Canterbury website for the latest news on events and special offers.
Disclosure: With thanks to Visit Canterbury for hosting our visit to St Augustine’s Abbey and our Guided Tour. We paid for all other excursions and accommodation.