One Day Pilgrimage to Canterbury

Walking to Canterbury

on the One Day Pilgrimage

[mappress mapid=”1″]

See the route marked on Google Maps HERE:


A beautiful day…

One day is ample time to do something radically life-affirming. One day is all you need to go on Pilgrimage to Canterbury.

You may not have heard much about pilgrimage in the last few hundred years. Henry VIII frowned on this ancient combination of walking and spirituality. But Britain today is on the verge of a pilgrimage renaissance. Numbers tell the tale – 250,000 walk each year to Santiago de Compostela, 7 million to Mecca, but to Canterbury this year, the heart of British pilgrimage, only 50 (five zero) have walked.

We’re so far behind the curve, the only way is up…

Must it be religious?

No. It may be true that pilgrimage (and music) is the foundation of religious experience, and walking slowly through creation is sacred. But today pilgrimage belongs to no single belief-system. It is a wide open human tradition, accessible to brave and dedicated souls.

The Way

mysteries in stone


What exactly is pilgrimage?

Pilgrimage is an unbroken walk between sacred places. It is a self-powered journey toward a holy destination.

Pilgrimage is about sacred places, and the journey between them. It is a way to transform your experience of Britain, and to re-discover an enduring realm of trust, joy, nature, kinship, wonder and beauty.

Is it ancient or modern?

Making pilgrimage is extremely traditional, and brand new every time.

In the ancient sense, our ancestors were all nomadic hunter-gatherers, roaming trails in search of survival and marvel, following the rhythms of the seasons. So pilgrimage is in everyone’s blood.

Some people theorise further that pilgrimage routes may originate from migration trails into Britain taken by our most ancient Ice-Age British predecessors.

But pilgrimage is also a journey through modernity. Smartphone mapping has changed the paradigm of soggy paper maps flapping in the wind. Like it or not, our devices are now connected, and with GPS-enabled HD Ordnance Survey maps downloaded to your clever-telephone, it is nearly impossible to get lost…unless you want to.

Pilgrimage was never about artificially recreating ancient yesterdays. We have always walked through the cutting edge reality of today, along modern hedgerows and the very latest nature. It’s happening right now.

the way

come this way

So What’s The Appeal?

In an era celebrating the integrity and rareness of slow-travel, local-distinctiveness, bushcraft, wild-swimming and folk-music, Pilgrimage is a summary of all these virtues in one profoundly simple package. It’s the obvious next step.

Educationally, pilgrimage provides an intense and effective way to learn about Britain, her nature and people, and yourself.

It is environmentally impeccable, the ideal form of eco-tourism and green-travel. Done well, there is no lower impact available.

Pilgrimage is very healthy, an internse form of moderate exercise. Walking as an evolutionary technique defines our species, and journeying on foot is a celebration and reminder of all that makes us human. There is no better way to see the world, and the longer you walk, the greater the accumulation of benefits.

It is very good for Britain. Meeting people as a pilgrim will unlock the beauty of British hospitality. We all long to help each other and make the world better. Becoming a pilgrim allows people to realise this impulse. You become the lonely footbound wanderer to whom support and shelter should honourably be offered. You become the legendary traveller on a winter’s night. Greet everyone whose eyes you catch. Such meetings help undo social distrust for all future pilgrims.

Pilgrimage is a ritual – the creating of a shortened representation of your life on earth, as a sacred walk between the great waypoints of birth and death. By going a short distance in your highest form possible, changes can be made to improve your entire life path.

But be warned – you will confront your own behaviour – in thoughts and deeds – that will challenge your ideas of self. Pilgrimage makes it harder to maintain incorrect and harmful delusions. Immersion in Nature, without comforting distractions, cuts the sugary icing deep. But don’t take the challenge as a hardship. Such freedom from the trifles and baubles is the good stuff. You will be back for more.


Can I go with friends?

Yes, and family too. Pilgrimage works well solo, but also in a small group. Companions – people to break bread with – can share your adventure and make the long walk more fun. But aim to walk with people who can be comfortable without talking all the time.

Ed Will drinky

a little local ale, but know your limits…

What is a One Day Pilgrimage?

For people with time-constraints who still seek the benefits of pilgrimage, we have crafted the One-Day pilgrimage. This is the final section of the English Camino, which runs along the North Downs from Charing into Canterbury.

The total distance is 17.5 miles – enough to let you know you’ve done something significant – but very manageable on the easy Kent footpaths. There is plenty to see on the way, with Iron Age hill-forts, royal hunting forests, holy wells, medieval pubs, ancient trees, and a cathedral at the end…all along one of the oldest natural geological trails in Britain, the North Downs.

Start early, taking the train from London at 8am to hit the footpaths for 9:30am. Pilgrimage is all about dedication, and if you’re only doing one day you should make the most of it. Starting early will give you enough time to reach Canterbury for 5:30, when the choristers sing Evensong, a free concert of world-class choral music that will make your body (and the whole cathedral) vibrate.

But be warned – 17.5 miles is not a short distance. On multi-day pilgrimages, we would not recommend this distance for a single-day.  If you are not sure you can make a walk thisl ong, consider starting from Wye, to shave 4 miles off the distance…

The One Day Pilgrimage Route

From Charing to Eastwell

From Charing to Eastwell (map from

Take the train from London to Charing – 8am – 9:30am

Charing – Pass the Archbishop’s Palace, a Domesday sleep-spot for Canterbury Archbishops travelling between Canterbury and London. Pop into Charing Church to sing a song, then follow the footpath up the hill onto the Pilgrims’ Way.

Look and listen out for the line of Springs which follow all along the chalk ridge of the North Downs.

From Eastwell to King's Wood

From Eastwell to King’s Wood (map from

At EastwellSt Mary’s Church –the illegitimate son of Richard III (also called Richard) is buried. Richard Plantagenet was hidden ready for potential royal office until his father lost the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. When the Tudors took over the Kingdom, poor Richard became a bricklayer.

On Eastwell lake Queen Victoria went ice-skating.

Follow NDW signs left to Boughton Lees. Take a swift half at the Flying Horse Inn if you build up a thirst.

Follow the track to Boughton Aluph, whose 800 year old church is the burial site of Alfred Deller, singer.

From King's Wood to Chilham

From King’s Wood to Chilham (map from

Ascend the hill to Kings Wood, a 1500 acre forest. Don’t get lost. Look out for deer, adders & woodpeckers. It’s a great venue for foraging wild fungi in Autumn. A Norman royal hunting ground, the Wood also hosts Bronze Age burial mounds.

Out the wood you hit Chilham Village. This was a film set for Miss Marple, Poirot, & a BBC adaptation of Austen’s Emma. It’s a 15th century square, a 13th century church and a 7th century Yew tree. There’s a tea-room and a pub for quick refreshments.

From Old Wives Lees to the A2

From Old Wives Lees to the A2 (map from

Follow lanes to Old Wives Lees.

Through orchards, cross a railway line, into Chartham Hatch. For the hungry, extravagant and quick, the Chapter Arms pub here offers a Pilgrims Menu for lunch before 2:30 – three courses for £12.95.

Next walk through Bigbury Hillfort, an Iron Age British defensive settlement, where Julius Caesar and the VII Legion won their first decisive victory against the locals in 54 BC, to kick off the Roman Invasion of Britain.

From Harbledown to Canterbury (map from

From Harbledown to Canterbury (map from

Cross the A2 to Harbledown (‘Bobbe up and down’ in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). Branch off the NDW here to wash your face in the Black Prince’s Well, favourite spring water of the Black Prince, eldest son of Edward III, a military hero at Crecy and Poitiers.

This water was so famed for its curative properties, he even asked for it on his deathbed. If you drink it today, best use a WaterStraw (

Alongside the well are almshouses for lepers dedicated to St Nicholas. The lepers possessed a slipper once worn by Thomas a Becket, which made them money from all passing pilgrims. But since leprosy (and pilgrimage) disappeared from England, the almshouses became a refuge for the merely elderly.

King Henry II walked barefoot from Harbledown to the Cathedral, in penance for Thomas Beckett’s death in 1170. From here you have your first view of Canterbury Cathedral.

In St Dunstans Church Thomas More’s head is buried. From here enter Canterbury through the Medieval West Gate. On the High Street, visit the Eastbridge Pilgrims’ Undercroft, where pilgrims used to stay in their hundreds on the stone floor.

Check out the Greyfriars secret garden, first Franciscan building in Britain. If you have time, look for St Martins, the first church in England. St Augustine’s Abbey, destroyed by Henry VIII, is also worth a visit.

But Canterbury Cathedral is your ultimate target, where at 5:30pm, the choristers sing Evensong. Don’t miss it.

The Black Prince's Well, Harbledown

A sovereign leprosy cure

First new stained golass in 50 years...

The Cloisters’ new stained glass

Congratulations – you are a Canterbury Pilgrim.

If you cut and carried a wooden staff, the river Stour is a good place to give it back to Nature…

Farewell Walking Staff

Stop at the Goods Shed for supper, a converted train storage building next to Canterbury West train Station, before taking the train back to London, and an incredible well-deserved night’s sleep…


good food, goods shed…


Technical Help

To download the following files, right-click on the links and press ‘save link as’, before choosing a target directory location.

Download the .KML route file (for Google Maps/Earth) HERE


Download the .GPX route file (for GPS devices, including Anquet OMN) HERE


Practical Tips for One Day Pilgrims

Carry a small water bottle to refill regularly. Churches have outdoor taps for gardeners. For the more adventurous, carry a water-straw ( – or buy from Amazon here) and drink direct from streams and lakes with no risk.

Carry warm clothing and waterproofs. A backpack is the best method. A hat can be very useful in the sun. Decent footwear is recommended too – something well-fitted and tested on long walks. Leather boots with ankle support are always a safe bet. This is England, so anything can happen, but it’s also the South East, so don’t worry too much…

Try not to wear cotton t-shorts – cotton holds moisture and gets smelly quick. Merino wool is much better. Carry a jumper in case you get chilly. If it looks like rain, don’t wear jeans. They will hold the water and cling uncomfortably. Many a pilgrim has been stopped by improper legwear. Don’t be one.

For your maps, either buy 3 OS 1:25 maps – or 2x 1:50 maps – or make your life easy and download the Anquet OMN programme and app (or Routebuddy if you run Mac) – get the whole route in HD quality on your PC and smartphone for under £5, using the Cut Your Own function) The little GPS ‘You-Are-Here’ button makes navigation incredibly easy…

On country lanes, there may seem to be no traffic, but beware of drivers making the same assumption. Learn to listen out for cars from a long way off, and always walk on the side of the road where you will be visible from the furthest distance away.

Take plenty of rests, keep hydrated, and make sure you eat lots of healthy snacks – fresh hedgerow fruit if you walk at the right time of year – otherwise carry your own dried nuts, seeds and fruit.

Go slowly – though you have a target to reach, there is no hurry! Experience deeply the journey you make, don’t rush toward somewhere always further on…

Symbol of the British Pilgrim

Symbol of the British Pilgrim


The British Pilgrimage Trust
If like us you feel that Britain needs more pilgrimage, please help us to make this happen. Our charitable trust is striving to make pilgrimage accessible and inclusive, but we have a long way to go. Your help on this journey is vital. Thank-you for your support.