S E N T I E N T
Things We Love In Folkestone
A Few Recommendations - Autumn 2017
Note from May 2019 - I first wrote this in 2017 and so some of it is out of date. I keep meaning to update this as there have been many changes, new places springing up, a few no longer available, but am pushed for time, so whilst the below may be useful, please note that there have been changes since this was written nearly 2 years ago - I have added a few updates in but not everything is updated I am afraid. I’ve also added some links to blog posts written by other people and which are far better done than my warbling content below. All their views are their own etc etc.
May 2019: 91 Magazine: https://91magazine.co.uk/blog/2019/5/2/instagrammers-guide-to-folkestone
I figured a lot of people are likely to be visiting Folkestone over the next couple of months, with the Triennial launch on 2nd Sept 2017 (through to 5 Nov 2017) so I put this little blog post together. My gallery, Sentient, has been on the Old High Street (CT20 1RN) since March 2017 and I have been living in Folkestone since July 2016 after upping sticks from East London. In that time I have discovered a lot of favourite places and lovely people so wanted to share them here as ideas for anyone planning to visit, as I am regularly asked for tips by visitors and friends. I’ve also marked most of the places on a map and suggested a route for those of you short on time (though please note, this map doesn't show the triennial artworks - visit the Folkestone Triennial site for those). Please note, there are plenty of other fab shops and venues in town and I would love to cover them all here but am a bit pushed for time. I will update this entry as and when I can.
The below is based on my own interests, likes, experiences and opinions. None of the below is sponsored, paid for etc - it’s entirely based on my personal views. You may not agree. We are all different etc etc… I have also included some links below to other coverage on Folkestone, some of which is more recent (and far better written than mine!) so would also be good for you to look at (all views contained within those linked articles are their author’s own etc).
Getting here and around
Folkestone centre is pretty small and, in my view, easily covered by foot. If you want to go slightly further afield (particularly useful if following the Triennial artworks map) and don't fancy the walk (e.g. going east towards The Warren park or west towards gorgeous Sandgate) there is a new cycle hire place by the Harbour Arm, opposite the Grand Burstin hotel.
If you are visiting by train, get off at Folkestone Central. It’s then an 8 minute or so walk into town (I admit it doesn’t feel so central when you first get in, I’m always used to stations being in the middle of a town, but here there is a short walk before you hit the town centre).
Re parking, I’ll leave it for you to search the net for car parks - there are several sound the centre and Creative Quarter. The Triennial map has car parks marked out.
Please note, the Old High Street is pedestrianised between 10-6pm so you won’t be able to drive down it (and outside of those times it is a bit of a tight squeeze). It’s also a fairly steep and narrow slope with some cobbles (as well as paved pavement) so may not always be suitable for everyone (or every shoe type).
Suggested Route If You Don't Have Much Time
There are plenty of places to walk and explore but if you are time limited then I recommend following the light green trail /arrows (sorry they are a bit rubbish, I did this really quickly) on the map above to catch some of Folkestone centre’s best! I haven’t included details of how long it could take as obviously it depends how long you stop along the way. As noted, this doesn't cover Triennial artworks, so visit the Triennial map for those - it's a really good map.
There are a few great choices in Folkestone centre, many of which are also dog friendly (which is great for my little puppy), my favourites being the following (in no particular order, with the map code number in brackets):
Steep Street cafe (11)
Lovely coffee, GREAT CAKE and I could stare for ages at the titles of all the bizarre old books that fill so much of the wall space in this lovely place. They also hold exhibitions from time to time. Dog friendly
Also includes a vegan chocolate shop full of some delicious treats. A couple of outside tables.
Good for brunch - delicious avocado, haloumi and sourdough breakfast and ginormous “freak shakes”.
Dog friendly. Usually hosts exhibitions by local artists too.
CafeTeria (7)/ Benny’s
Great coffee and delicious sandwiches. Plenty of seating inside.
Bella Vita (not on map at mo - at bottom of old high street) - lovely Italian cafe and restaurant by the team who also own Bella Vita in Broadway Market, Hackney
Marleys - new to the street late 2018/early 2019 - Old High Street - this fantastic cafe and restaurant is beautifully fitted out, the food is locally sourced and delicious, prices are good and it’s a really relaxing environment to chill in. This has become a firm favourite of mine and I often pop in to work on my laptop (they have wifi) and enjoy the delicious sausage sandwich and halloumi fries.
Other food spots we love.
Follies on the Harbour Arm (22) (they also have a branch on Sandgate Road) - good pizzas with the added bonus of being able to take your dog with you if you sit in one of the outer tables (in the corridor). Please note, the harbour arm is not open all year so check ahead.
Luben (6) - love the wood fired pizzas and decor here. This is a large restaurant so there is plenty of seating and it is good for larger groups. Definitely one of my favourite pizza places in Folkestone.
Rocksalt - posh nosh in a prime setting overlooking the sea and harbour - get one of the outside tables on the terrace on a lovely sunny day - bliss.
Papa’s Fish n Chips (Sandgate road) (27) - my local for take away fish n chips, though they also have seating inside.
Fish Basket - Guildhall Street - opened late 2018, really delicious fish and chips.
Marley’s - mentioned above in the cafe section, this is a relatively new addition to the Old High Street in late 2018 and has some delicious, locally sourced food.
Custom Folkestone - more fantastic local food available on The Harbour Arm
Dr Legumes - also on the Harbour Arm. Fabulous plant based food.
Eleto chocolate cafe (5)- some delicious chocolate treats on the menu and also a fab space to chill either inside or on their outside seating.
Chambers (26) - A good spot in the town centre, also has a club/bar below ground.
Beanos (17) - vegetarian cafe on Tontine Street.
Planet Earth Kitchen - vegan cafe
Sister Seitan - vegan pop up, regularly appearing around town (e.g. in The Quarterhouse “The Clearing” cafe, or in Chambers).
The Grand hotel (29, it’s actually slightly further west than shown on the map here) - old large characterful grand hotel with a pretty good afternoon tea, and some outside seating near the Leas.
Anna's (not shown on map) - cafe closer to the main shopping parade with some good brunch, lunch and afternoon tea options.
I’ve also heard very good things about the tapas, El Cortador, on the Old High Street (with very reasonable wine prices too) though haven’t tried that one myself. There is also a delicious ice cream place down by the harbour near Rocksalt and the water fountains though I can’t recall the name - but it is really good ice cream.
Much of the art and creative venues are around The Old High Street and Tontine Street (circled in green, roughly, on the map!) - these are the two main streets of the Creative Quarter. There is a large variety in the type of art on offer, a very good selection with something for most tastes. The Old High Street has more shops whilst Tontine Street is more studio based but there are still a number of shops down there, and often some artist studios are open for a wander inside too. Here are some of my favourites/useful snippets, though there are many more.
The Folkestone Triennial festival (2 sept 2017 - 5 Nov 2017. UPDATE: THE NEXT ONE WILL BE IN 2020) info can be found at http://www.folkestonetriennial.org.uk/ so there is no point me repeating it here, but defo check out the Gormley piece….and I love the lightbulb at the end of the Old high Street when the sides are lit up at night.
Folkestone Fringe - Folkestone Fringe is an artist-led organisation which will curate ‘Edge: Push/Pull’ to coincide with Folkestone Triennial 2017. Edge:Push/Pull is about movement and how change plays out in our streets, our homes and our places of work. The push and pull of ideas and actions are shaped by, and in turn shape the socio-economic, cultural and political landscape. There are a large number of Fringe events coinciding with the Triennial timing - see their website for more information.
Sentient (15) - THAT’S US! - art gallery, unusual stuff, gifts, cards, jewellery etc. Much of the work for sale is by me, Rebecca Mason, though I also stock work by a number of artists I have previously exhibited with or whose work I just love. Prices start at £3 for cards, with limited edition signed collector cards at £3.69 upwards. I have tried to include work and general quirky stuff to cover all budgets.
Leigh Mulley’s murals (2 - this is just the most recent one) - Leigh is a very successful local artist whose photoreal paintings are incredible. Leigh also has three very large wall murals located in the town centre- a large seagull, a fairground ride and a huge bunch of flowers. We sell Leigh’s work in store at Sentient.
Sam Millen’s street signage (various locations) - if you notice some street signs around town that look a little unusual (“grassy area”, “another sign”, “large concrete structure”, “this way” “that way” etc) this may be Sam’s witty and amusing work. They are so well executed they often look like official signs. We sell Sam’s work in store at Sentient.
The Dirty Pen - this guy can draw and then some. Excellent work from a very talented local artist.
Performance Space (20) - really exciting performance art space on Tontine Street run by two local artists. Initially established in Hackney Wick in 2011, this Folkestone based organisation is committed to supporting challenging and difficult work embracing performance art as an evolving medium and pushing the boundaries of body, time and space.
The Quarterhouse (19) - venue for comedy, music and theatre events.
Lilford Gallery (9)- some fab work on offer here by a number of artist friends I have previously exhibited with in London.
Space Gallery (8)- a variety of excellent, less commercial exhibitions by local and national artists.
Shane Record - Shane is an excellent and very popular artist located near the top of the Old High Street who paints beautiful landscapes as well as portraits.
There are more fab bars/pubs than those mentioned below but here are some for starters….
Space Bar (8)- this edgy gallery also has a bar and a large outside terrace area (“outer space”), great for relaxing and a friendly crowd.
Kipps Alehouse - at the top of the Old High Street,
Steep Street cafe (old high street) - also serves alcohol
Radnor Arms (christchurch road, CT20)- I love this Ramblinns pub/restaurant. Delicious food, dog friendly and an outside seating area too. Really well fitted out inside.
Various bars on the Harbour Arm - you'll find a few lovely bars along the harbour arm including a champagne bar at the end.
The Cliffe Restaurant (28) part of a hotel, this also has a bar open to the public with outside seating looking over the Leas Promenade and the sea. Nice to chill at during an evening.
The Bouverie Tap - delicious roasts and breakfasts and good sized portions.
A small selection of the other shops we love...
Atelier Feralchild(14) - women’s clothing and accessories. Beautiful clothing picked by stylist and graphic designer Helga. There are some gorgeous, classy pieces in here along with some excellent designer finds.
Bounce vintage (13) - great selection of vintage clothes at low prices, new stock arriving frequently. These guys know how to pick vintage clothing and the prices are excellent.
The Quartermasters (11) - printed t shirts (including custom). They include work by some fantastic artists.
Leas Coastal Park (23 - main entrance /24) - lovely to walk through, plus includes a kid’s play area, lots of picnic tables, outdoor BBQ spaces and some gorgeous views of the sea.
Leas Promenade (25) - higher up above the Leas Coastal Park - walk between the two via the Zig Zag path (or find some steps) - really gorgeous on a sunny day and I love the mini rock caves. There’s a coffee shop and ice cream stall at Leas Cliff Hall on the Parade. I also really love the vinery just off the promenade, a place I really enjoy sitting and just staring out to sea.
Folkestone Harbour Arm - Folkestone’s pier aka the Harbour Arm includes a number of restaurants and a champagne bar at the end. It’s lovely to sit here on a sunny day and there are often performances/live music acts during the weekends at the summer.
Folkestone Harbour Station - newly renovated former train station platforms that are now walkways which help to join the town to the Harbour Arm and also the Boardwalk along the beacj. Sometimes has pop up markets and they have just (April 2019) installed two big neon signs by Tim Etchells (though I haven’t seen them lit yet).
For dogs off lead, Radnor Park near the station can be good as there is a dog park. There’s also a stream area, which my spaniel loves. The Warren is great for dogs, as is The Leas Coastal Park (though in good weather be ware of lots of BBQs and picnics - my greedy spaniel is a nightmare at that time of year. SORRY TO EVERYONE! i have made a blog post all about dog friendly folkestone, which may also be of use.
The sandy beach is Sunny Sands (21) - usually very popular and with limited space so be prepared for it to be busy on a hot day!
My favourite beach is Mermaid beach, especially when viewed from the Leas Promenade on a sunny day - a beautiful stretch of coastline with a mermaid/fish tail shape. It’s down by the Leas Coastal Park.
***Dogs are not allowed on Sunny Sands or Mermaid beach May to Sept***.
For dog friendly beaches try the stretch where the boardwalk is, or go further west past mermaid beach. Look out for the signs. Personally, I prefer the dog friendly bit by the boardwalk as the pebbles seem to be smaller. My dog seems to prefer to run on the smaller pebbles.
There is plenty of space to ride cycles along the promenade by the beach, taking you down to Sandgate.
The Warren beaches - further east we have a fantastic country park area known as The Warren. It doesn’t take long to walk to from the bottom of the old high street and has beaches and plenty of land for your dogs to run free.
There are a number of other speciality shops I would love to cover here - record shops, photographic shops, cake shops...I just don't have the time right now - I am really sorry to anyone I have missed out and will be updating this when I get time.
There are not many cash machines around the Creative Quarter or harbour area so it is worth stocking up when you’re walking through the town centre (there are a number of machines on Sandgate Road, plus a free machine inside Wilkos).
Sunday typically 10-4 (high street chains etc) or 11- 5
A number of restaurants will stop serving around 8-9pm and some close around 3.30pm until 6pm some days - this is not London so the business hours are not as vast.
A number (but not all) of the Creative Quarter shops are closed 2-3 days per week (often Mondays and Tuesdays but this can vary). Whilst you may find this frustrating, please remember this is a relatively small town and these are small businesses often run by individuals or couples/families. It's very hard to be open every day and on the days the shops are not open the owners may be working on other projects, sorting stock etc etc, not taking time out. A number of the shops are open by appointment on the usually closed days, so if you're desperate you can try that, or try their online shops instead. Please do give some thought before giving small business owners a hard time about why they are not open every day, as there may be a lot more going on behind the scenes than is obvious. The more people visit and support the area, the better able shop owners are to hire staff for other days, and have often reached business decisions over their hours based on trial and error re opening hours. Please be kind and supportive as people are working hard to do their best. Plan ahead by checking out their websites if there is a specific place you wish to visit. Check their websites, twitter, instagram etc. Thanks