The Kent Pilgrims' Festival
The Kent Pilgrims' Festival launched this September (21st - 25th) to celebrate Kent’s rich pilgrim heritage. Taking place around the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the modern pilgrimage celebrates Kent’s local history and allows participants to follow in the footsteps of those who came before them, transporting them all the way back to medieval times.
The aim of the pilgrimage is to reach out to audiences who would perhaps otherwise not be interested in such a history-orientated festival. Filled with an assortment of activities and events, the pilgrimage is transformational, inviting locals and visitors to take delight in the series of walks, talks, exhibitions, workshops, and demonstrations available to them.
I was fortunate enough to partake in the Canterbury element of the festival and experience some potential activities for future festival-goers.
Hidden away in the cobbled back streets of Canterbury, The Foundry is a refreshingly rustic dining experience. Far removed from any modern restaurant cliches, The Foundry presents a dark, yet warm interior, supported by a professional assembly of friendly bar and restaurant staff, who ensure a cordial welcome. Armed with an impressive array of handcrafted beers, lagers, ciders and spirits, The Foundry lifts the curtain on the brewing process by allowing customers to observe it as they enjoy a locally sourced meal from an extensive food menu.
I was fortunate enough to visit The Foundry on a sunny Sunday in late July, which required me to indulge in their offering of a hearty Sunday roast. The promise of using local produce is immediately evident in the vibrancy of flavour and overall quality of the food, with the beef being perfectly soft and tender, contrasting against the crunch and richness of the parsnips, carrots and roast potatoes.
The meal was entirely elevated by the atmosphere, where locals and regulars piled in from the heat, to seek solace and shelter with a cold beverage from the pub’s substantial drinks menu. I also enjoyed an ice cold pint of their hand-brewed Canterbury Pale Ale, which was remarkably crisp, whilst also retaining a pleasant sweetness. A perfect companion to a hot day.
I was also fortunate to take a brief glimpse at the distillery, witnessing the exciting creation of future spirits, which laid bare just how personal and unique the whole establishment is.
Whether you are partaking in the Pilgrim Festival, or simply just passing through town one weekend, The Foundry is an essential pit stop that allows you to luxuriate in all things Canterbury. With their own branded alcohol and glassware for sale as well, there’s an array of perfectly charming souvenirs to accompany you to your next location.
In a city full of unavoidable history, Canterbury is full of hidden gems. Tourists and city-goers are often drawn to the more fabled attractions on the high street, such as the formidable Westgate Towers and the legendary Cathedral which is situated in the heart of the city. However, also situated on the high street, seemingly hidden away in plain view, are the stunning Franciscan Gardens, which absolutely warrant your attention.
This stunning attraction submerges you into Canterbury’s colourful past, allowing you to follow in the footsteps of England’s first Franciscan settlement. Set up as a charity, and now fully open as a heritage site, The Franciscan Gardens are a heavenly respite from the busy streets of Canterbury.
Situated on the River Stour, the tour takes you around the acre and a half of the original site that remains in the charity’s care. Starting at the beautiful Greyfriars Chapel, you’re taken on a journey through the settlement, including stops at the cloister garth and the remarkable cutting garden. The authenticity of the gardens really allows the history to come alive, making the experience totally engulfing and unmissable.
Once the tour is complete, I would recommend taking an alternative view of the settlement via the river; boat tours are available which take you right through the heart of the history.
Whilst I enjoyed the stunning sites along the tour, the level of upkeep, restoration and care given to the site was equally awe-inspiring. I was fortunate enough to be given a tour by Josh, who was not only exemplary in his knowledge of the settlement, but his passion and vision for the restoration projects was inspiring. The continuing need for funding and investment is evident in some areas, but I felt that only enriched the tour further, as it laid bare the future potential for the site.
The Franciscan Garden tour embodies everything the Pilgrim Festival stands for. The excursion shines light on a much under-appreciated aspect of Canterbury’s history, that will not only educate but enthrall anyone who is lucky enough to visit.
For more information visit HERE
Words by Joshua Evans