Folkestone: A town guide
PUBLISHED: 10:41 19 May 2016 | UPDATED: 11:44 19 May 2016
See the sleepy seaside town of Folkestone in a whole new light as it unveils more of its sensational redevelopment work
Folkestone is in the midst of transformation. Once considered a flagging seaside town, long past its best, a remarkable scheme to give the seafront an exciting new look is gathering pace. Work has so far has seen improvements that include the popular interactive fountain, new restaurants and the introduction of sea sports facilities. And this summer the newly renovated Folkestone Harbour Arm is expected to draw thousands of visitors. The harbour and old town areas are also home to several pieces in the Folkestone Artworks collection, originally commissioned as part of the Folkestone Triennial but now curated as permanent pieces that are free to view in the town’s public spaces. The popular Creative Quarter continues to thrive, with its quirky mix of independent shops, galleries, cafés, bars and restaurants. The area is also home to the Quarterhouse with a vibrant programme of theatre, comedy, music. With further attractions including The Leas, with its sea views and wonderful gardens, the Leas Lift, one of the oldest water-balance cliff lifts in England, the First World War Memorial Arch and not forgetting the beach, Folkestone has a lot to offer visitors seeking somewhere a little different this summer.
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With average house prices in Folkestone at around £195,000, it’s one of the few parts of Kent where you can still pick up a one-bedroom flat for £70,000. With much of the housing stock consisting of flats, two-bed flats are between £90,000 and £275,000, although new-builds are asking a lot more. Three to four-bed terraced houses are priced between £165,000 and £300,000, with six-bedroom detached homes at the top of the market for up to £1,850,000.
Harbour Arm restored
Folkestone Harbour Arm reopened to the public in March after further work to restore the historic stone structure over the winter. Now more of a pleasure pier, mesh decking has been installed so people ‘promenading’ on the main level can view the lower landing stages; 32 distinctive wooden benches – recycled from former harbour fenders by artist Matthew Burt – have also been re-sited. Most excitingly, the interior former waiting rooms have been decorated for use as bars, cafés and restaurants. Work to restore the structure will continue throughout this year and into next, including refurbishment of the listed lighthouse tower, which now hosts a Champagne bar, and masonry works on the upper harbour arm. Further developments will include the creation of new access through the former railway station area and restoration of the brick viaduct across the harbour, with the aim of creating a pedestrian route across the inner harbour in 2017. The wide range of food and drink outlets now calling the structure home include Cockles, The Hog & Hop, Saltwood on the Green, Chummys, Sole Kitchen and cocktails from The Bathtub and Gun. Others making a welcome return include Go Dutch, Follies, That Burger, The Big Greek Bus, The Lighthouse Champagne Bar and The Waiting Room. The popular recreation of the Jeffery sisters’ famous First World War Mole Café is also back, thanks to volunteers from local charity Step Short. A programme of entertainment and music has been arranged at weekends. The arm is open for walking from 9am-5pm Mon to Thu, 9am-10pm Fri and Sat and 9am-7pm on Sun. Food and drink outlets tend to only open at weekends and during holiday periods. Access is controlled by gates that will be closed at night, or when weather makes conditions unsafe.
Eating and shopping
Shopping options in the Creative Quarter are eclectic to say the least. This area is filled with creative businesses offering everything from art and photography to jewellery and homeware. The fun is in browsing and discovering something unique, but among our favourites are Kitty McCall for colourful, modern furniture and textiles, Rennies Seaside Modern for vintage design and women’s fashion store Suzie Abbott, which specialises in bespoke dresses. When it comes to eating out, the jewel in Folkestone’s crown is surely Rocksalt (01303 212070), with its spectacular floor-to-ceiling view over the harbour and its top-quality, super-fresh seafood. But there are plenty more hotspots in the town, including Googies (01303 246188), famed for its burgers, El Cortador tapas bar (01303 243974) and Blooms (01303 250397). For top-notch seaside fish and chips, try Rocksalt’s sister restaurant The Smokehouse (01303 884718) or the highly-rated Plaice2go (01303 257114). And thanks to the newly reopened Harbour Arm, there are even more great places to eat and drink in Folkestone this summer.
World first: Multi-storey skate park
The striking design for a unique indoor sports facility in Folkestone has been approved by Shepway District Council. Following a series of public consultations last year, detailed proposals were developed by Hythe-based Guy Hollaway Architects (who also designed the stunning Rocksalt restaurant), together with Maverick, a specialist skate park design consultancy. With the £10m project being funded by The Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, the new centre will include what is thought to be the world’s first indoor multi-storey skate park. Accommodating skateboarding and scootering at beginner, intermediate and competition levels, there will also be state-of-the-art facilities for climbing, bouldering and boxing, including a potential new home for Folkestone Amateur Boxing Club. The finished design also incorporates a café, a rooftop function room and 32 car parking spaces. The exciting project has attracted international press coverage and also widespread attention among the skating community. It’s hoped the centre will appeal to visitors from across the south east and beyond, and people who live in the Shepway District will be able to use the facilities at special prices. This is the latest scheme to receive planning permission in the ever-growing Creative Quarter, and is set to be a worthy addition to the recent architectural creations along Tontine Street, which include The Quarterhouse venue and The Cube adult education centre. Preparation work on the site has begun almost immediately, with construction expected to take between 18 and 24 months.
Lucy Porter: Lucy Alice Designs
What do you do?
I launched Lucy Alice Designs in 2013 and sell my work through notonthehighstreet.com and 60 independent gift shops and galleries in the UK. It is a hand-made jewellery, gift and greetings cards brand and my designs are inspired by the animals and landscape around me. I hope to launch my own online store later this year.
Where are you based?
I moved into my studio on Tontine Street in 2013 and I feel very lucky to be part of such a creative community and have a space dedicated to my work.
Why so many creatives here?
It seems to be a combination of the beautiful location, talked-about art events such as the Triennial, proximity to London and the reasonable house prices that are bringing people here. I have so many creative friends in Folkestone, we all seem to flock together.
Is it changing?
I’ve seen a massive change in the last three years, especially around the harbour and the Creative Quarter. The addition of Rocksalt, the new-look Harbour Arm and the opening of beautiful cafés and shops on the old High Street have brought such a vibrancy here.
I love to pack up a picnic and take a stroll down The Leas and coastal park. Other gems include The Warren (see our front cover) and Kingsnorth Gardens. Favourite places to eat and drink include Steep Street Café, The Pullman’s beer garden, Googies for a brilliant burger and Follies for pizza. There are some fabulous independent shops, including Kitty McCall, Anecdotes and The Great British Shop.
Folkestone is easily accessed via the M20 by car and there are regular trains from London Charing Cross (one and a half hours) and Dover Priory. Sat nav for the town centre: CT20 1AU
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