One of the cities we absolutely wanted to visit during our road trip through Kent was Canterbury. When we arrived there we got some typical English weather: heavy rain. This meant we had to make some changes to our program. In the afternoon, it stopped raining and we did manage to visit a couple of ruins.
You can’t go to Canterbury without paying a visit to the cathedral. It’s an impressive building with an even more impressive history.
So much has happened here.
The cathedral was founded by St. Augustine in 596.
One of the key moments in religious history was the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. He was killed as a result of a conflict with King Henry II. Immediately after this event Canterbury Cathedral became a place of pilgrimage. Geoffrey Chaucer based his Canterbury Tales (approx. 1380) on this pilgrimage.
More information and a detailed history is available here.
These tales are so important to Canterbury that they built a museum about it. I can’t post any photos because photography was not allowed, but believe me it is worth a visit. With the help of an audio guide (available in several languages, even Dutch) you are introduced to the life of a pilgrim in the fourteenth century. The museum consists of several rooms and in each room a tale is told.
More information is available at this website
Canterbury Norman Castle
This is one of the oldest castles in England. Construction was begun by William the Conquerer around 1070. By the twelfth century it was one of the three royal castles in Kent. But when in the late 1300s Dover Castle was built, Canterbury Castle lost its significance and became a prison.
All that is left today are ruins. You can visit these ruins daily from dawn until dusk.
You can find more information of the castle and its history here.
St Augustine’s Abbey
St Augustine’s abbey is located outside the city walls, a ¼ mile east of Cathedral close. It was built on grounds donated by King Ethelbert to St. Augustine.
I suppose you’ve already guessed: the founder of the abbey was also the founder of the cathedral: St Augustine. He started building the abbey in 597. Originally the abbey was dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. Only 400 years later the dedication changed to St Augustine.
St Augustine’s abbey and its museum are property of English Heritage. The entrance fee includes also an audio guide to the ruins.
The abbey, the cathedral and St Martin’s church (which we didn’t visit) are UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1988.
This link will provide you more information about the abbey.
Canterbury is a small city. All the sites, even the abbey, are at walking distance. Nevertheless paid parking lots are available at most sites.
We visited every site mentioned in this article on one day. At the end of the day we were very tired though. Canterbury has a lot more to offer. A two- or even three- day city trip is perfect to get a good idea of the city.
If you wish to see more photos of Canterbury, please click here.
Disclaimer: I own the copyright to all photos in this post.