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  • Writer's pictureMary Smith

The Viking Coastal Trail

Much of the trail is off road and well signposted. Image: E Duffy

Please adhere to the national Covid-19 guidance, which you can read here. A fantastic way of experiencing the beautiful Thanet coastline and countryside is by bike, so much so that this little corner of north-east Kent enjoys its very own 32-mile leisure cycling circuit. The Viking Coastal Trail circles the Isle of Thanet, passing through all of its seaside towns and inland country villages. You can pick it up at various points and much of the circuit is on traffic-free promenades or quiet country lanes so is suitable for all abilities. Depending on how adventurous you are, you can either choose a part to do in one day or try the whole loop in one go!

The Viking Coastal Trail covers some 32 miles around the Isle of Thanet

So why is our beautiful region named the Isle of Thanet, when it's not actually an island? For thousands of years it was separated from the Kent mainland by the river Wantsum, which gradually silted up.  The Wantsum Channel was an important maritime trade route, the last ship sailing through in 1672. 

When the Isle of Thanet really was an island

You will find regular stop-off points all the way round, the most frequent being along the main towns of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. Using the train to take you to particular starting points is an interesting way of getting the most out of the route. You are advised to check ahead that the particular service you want to travel on is able to accomodate bicycles (most do.) 

King George VI Memorial Park marks the boundary between Broadstairs & Ramsgate. Image: E Duffy

We've mapped out a suggested circuit for you. It starts and finishes in central Broadstairs, travelling clockwise. Cycling out of Broadstairs you first go through pretty clifftop King George VI Memorial Park, which marks the boundary between Broadstairs and Ramsgate. Here you will find the Italiante Greenhouse if you are looking for an early stop-off somewhere nice or to adjust your saddle for the ride ahead!

The Viking Coastal Trail takes you through some of the older parts of Thanet, such as Pegwell. Image: E Duffy

Past Ramsgate Harbour and on to quaint Pegwell village you will arrive at the Viking Ship above the wildlife nature reserve. The trail goes inland at this point and roughly tracks where the ancient Wantsum coastline would have been, skirting the historic villages of Minster, Monkton and St. Nicholas-at-Wade (the 'wade' referring to the shallows of the river it once sat next to.) At Pegwell Bay you can also go 'off route' and carry on down to historical Sandwich and its nature reserves if you feel like a detour. 

The Viking Ship replica at Pegwell Bay. Image: E Duffy

All of the inland Thanet villages have friendly pubs with gardens to stop off at before you strike out to Reculver Castle. A medieval church and ruins, Reculver sits on the very edge of the North Thanet coast and is well worth a visit. As a country park it's also a great place for a picnic, with fantastic views out across to the start of the Thames estuary. The circuit continues round to Birchington and Westgate, with plenty of coastal geography to enjoy before you arrive in Margate. There you can lock your bike up at the secure cycle racks outside the Turner Centre and enjoy a couple of hours mooching. After that it's a ride along the wide open space of the clifftops, past the Walpole Bay tidal pool and onto the stunning Botany and Joss bays. 

North Foreland lighthouse, at the top of the Joss Bay hill. Image: E Duffy

A short steep hill follows, with the North Foreland lighthouse at the top. You will be treated to a welcome downhill ride into Broadstairs after that. The trail takes you past historic Bleak House, down through beach-side Harbour Street and along Viking Bay promenade with lots of cafe's, bars and ice-cream parlours to refresh you before heading back home. 

Broadstairs promenade is a good finishing point. Image: E Duffy

Whichever directions and sections you take, the Viking Coastal Trail has plenty to see and experience. You will find various places to hire bikes as well, if you do not bring your own with you. The multitude of different stop-off points means it is so easy for you to make a day of it too. With so much scope for outdoor activity, Broadstairs Apartments hopes that you will come and visit soon!

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