12 Hours in Canterbury

There was one main reason I wanted to visit Canterbury – I wanted to see where my Granny and Grandpa were married in the Cathedral the city is famous for. I was also excited to explore more widely as I’d never been before but heard lovely things about it.

Canterbury is about a 2 hour drive for us from home, but in the Friday post work traffic it took us nearly 4 hours in the baking heat. Not ideal. But we arrived, hot and tired, at The Falstaff Hotel – ready to explore on Saturday.

My mum had also bought us a city treasure hunt for Christmas, which you can activate for any of the major UK cities. So we decided to explore Canterbury via the treasure hunt, popping in to any museums or things we went past that took our fancy. So let our day in Canterbury begin.


A. Dane John Gardens

Our treasure hunt started in Dane John Gardens – a historic park dating all the way back to 1553. On a hot summer’s day it was a nice place to stroll and enjoy the flowers. There is also a little coffee shop, perfect for breakfast, as well as some interesting sculptures to explore.

In the gardens

B. St Augustine’s Abbey

Augustine was sent from Rome to England in the 500s to convert Anglo Saxon England to Christianity. It worked, and St Augustine’s was his monastery in Canterbury, established in 597. It survived until 1538 (Henry VIII again!), and today is largely ruins.

Lovely St Augustine’s

This was the first special spot on my trip because my Great Grandpa Kenneth Sansbury was the first warden of what used to be St Augustine’s Theological College (in the grounds of the Abbey), and so my Granny moved here when she was 14. I felt quite emotional as I walked round the grounds, imagining her in a summer long ago, happy and free. She also only met my Grandpa as he attended a course at the college and I smiled thinking of them so young.

C. Marlowe’s Theatre

Christopher (Kit) Marlowe, was a famous Elizabethan playwright who died a very mysterious death, but was born in Canterbury. Many think that a lot of Shakespeare’s plays came directly or indirectly from Marlowe – and so in Canterbury this theatre now produces modern Shakespeare and other plays. It also sits right on the river so is a nice stop to visit if you can.

D. High Street & Parade

The historic High Street in Canterbury is full of lovely old buildings – even Costa and Caffe Nero are in ancient buildings. There are also lots of nice streets to discover, places to eat and cobbles to tread. I particularly love the views down the street to the Cathedral. There’s also great shopping to be had, and we spent an hour or so in and out of the shops.

E. Canterbury Cathedral

Gah, this one got me. The crypt of Canterbury Cathedral is beautiful, a place closed only for prayer and lit by candles. It’s even more beautiful as it’s the spot where my grandparents were married.

I went down, and I sobbed. I miss my Granny. And somehow I found myself sitting there talking to her (I was on my own). I’m not religious but she was, and in that moment I just told her how we all miss her so much, how we wish she was still there at the end of a phone or email, how I’d love to eat her lemon posset again, or hold her hand again. I told her about my near death experience last year, and my lost babies and I lit a candle and sobbed. Sometimes grief hits us like a wave and we just have to ride it. So I did. In the middle of a crypt – the only thing separating my sadness from one of the happiest days of her life being time. Time is cruel.

The spot where my Grandparents were married

Aside from sobbing in the crypt like a lunatic, the Cathedral is amazing and once I’d pulled myself together I also explored the stunning cloisters, and one of the most notorious spots in English history – where Thomas Becket, then archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in 1170 on the orders of King Henry II. It’s since become a major site of pilgrimage.

Another must see is the tomb of the Black Prince, Edward Woodstock, who died before he could ascend the throne as Edward III’s (one of England’s most successful monarch’s) heir.

F. Tiny Tim’s

After the Cathedral, we decided to visit another famous spot in the city – Tiny Tim’s Tearoom. We sat on the ground floor and ordered some lovely cake and tea (this is the perfect spot for afternoon tea if you want it), and then headed up to the room it’s famous for – the attic. In the attic, the mummified bodies of 3 children were found holding bibles dated 1503. And it doesn’t stop there – on the third floor of the building, behind each of the 186 panels, was a child’s tooth, a ringlet of hair and the name, date of birth and date of death for each.

Since then, various people have reported ghost activity, the sounds of children playing and singing. I didn’t experience anything paranormal – but I did learn some fascinating history and ate some delicious food so it was well worth a visit.

The haunted rooms

G. Westgate Gardens

After cake it was time to walk it off in one of the most picturesque areas of the city, Westgate Gardens. From here you can get a punt (a boat) along the river and just take in the views.

In the Gardens

H. Westgate Towers

To finish our day we visited Westgate Towers, a medieval gate from the 1380. Today there is a museum inside, which cover four themes including City Wars, Crime & Punishment, Westgate Through History and Magna Carta & The Maquettes. Also in the Towers is an amazing escape room experience in what was the old Prison in the towers. There’s also a bar downstairs, which was the perfect way to finish off our day.

We escaped!

I really enjoyed the day exploring Canterbury and had lots of fun completing the treasure hunt along the way. We saw most of the main sites – the only things we didn’t go in which would have been of interest were the Roman Museum and Eastbridge Hospital & Gardens, due to time constraints.

I think Canterbury is a perfect day trip from London, or you could make a weekend of it and combine it with a trip to the beach at Whitstable (this was our plan but my husband was so bad with his hayfever he could barely breathe so we had to come home for the inhaler!).

What do you think of Canterbury? Have you ever visited or would you like to one day? Thanks for reading, as always stay safe and happy travelling.

43 Comments

  1. Your post made me tear up as I fondly remembered my grandparents and how much I still miss them. Grandparents are like a huge tree which always gives us fruits of a life lesson. But many don’t have them right now because they have passed away. Just like you, I’d give anything for one more day with my grandparents.

    I’ve never been to Canterbury but it’s been on my radar for quite some time due to an amazing bookshop – St John Boys House – that’s located in a wonky house. I know it has turned it into prime Instagram fodder, but it raises money to help those living on the streets of Canterbury and Kent.
    I am glad to see you were able to visit the cathedral where your grandparents got married; the beautiful stained-glass windows are quite impressive. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aw Aiva, I’m sorry to make you tear up. But I agree, they can have such a huge impact on our lives. Canterbury is well worth a visit though I he bookshop has now closed I believe….we walked past and it was boarded up 😦 Thanks so much for reading xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Canterbury looks like a marvelous location with such well-maintained grounds, and your inclusion of vintage architecture is always a welcome sight! Thanks for sharing, Hannah & have a nice evening 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve not visited Canterbury yet but I think it’s just edged further up my list after reading your splendid review. The city looks beautiful and I almost started crying myself reading about you speaking to your granny in the crypt.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Canterbury is a place I visited years ago and would like to go back to. So much history in that cathedral. Obviously a very emotional visit for you, but also a beautiful feeling of having your gran there with you. The name Sansbury caught me right away as my family name is Sainsbury on my dad’s side. So interesting!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is such an historic city isn’t it – definitely worth a return visit. Oh that’s so interesting you have Sainsbury’s on your dad’s side. I think the surname Sainsbury derives from Saintbury – i.e. people from Saintbury. Even better, Saintbury is in The Cotswolds so couldn’t be more beautiful 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you are on Facebook there is a group called Sansbury & Sainsbury and also this link to FamilyTreeDNA that my brother is helping with…https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/sainsbury-sansbury/about
        So much history 🙂

        Like

  5. Your visit to Canterbury was definitely an emotional one, and it’s incredible that a place can bring back poignant memories of your loved ones (I have a special place, too, for a close family member). The cathedral is gorgeous, and it’s wonderful you got to go inside. Tiny Tim’s Tearoom looks charming, although the mummified bodies on the third floor are a bit of shock (imagine having a pleasant afternoon tea close by mummified bodies!). I’ve been to Canterbury, but only had a half-day in town, so I only scratched the surface of it all. But it definitely is a quaint place and worth a stop by!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You seem to have been everywhere Rebecca, I don’t think I’ve ever written about a place you haven’t been! It’s amazing how much you’ve seen and done 🙂 Ah yes the mummified bodies aren’t exactly ideal for afternoon tea company are they!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful places! I would definitely love to visit Canterbury (again?) when I get back to England.
    And thanks for sharing your grief . I usually prefer not to be so open in the blog but you described your emotions beautifully and not too profusely. Also I am going to prepare Lemon Posset which looks like a very tasty summer dessert.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah I hope you get to visit soon. I agree on being open on the blog, but sometimes I can’t write about a place totally factually if it’s also emotional. I’m glad I got the balance right between being open but not too much 🙂 Oh yes, Lemon Posset is soooo good as a summer dessert!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a beautiful place and such a fun idea to help in the exploring of all these cities! Canterbury has long been high on my list of places to visit and your post reconfirmed that. The cathedral is so stunning and I’m glad you could have a special moment there with your Granny. Grief comes unexpectedly at times but that outpouring of love from it can be so healing. Love the picture of you and your husband 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I really hope you get to visit one day soon then Meg. Canterbury is a beautiful city and there’s so much to do there. Aww Mr Travelling Han says thank you (he prefers not to be featured but sometimes needs must!!) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a lovely reason to visit Canterbury. I like the idea of doing a city treasure hunt. I’m sure it’s a great way to visit places that weren’t even on your radar. I love the old buildings and architecture around the city. It all looks charming. And that cathedral is gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Canterbury is such a lovely place. And yes, I can just imagine how special (and emotional) it must have been to stand in that very same spot where your grandparents got married. How beautiful are the flowers and river views … oh, and I would love a piece of that cake – looks delish 😉!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Canterbury seems like a very charming place and I love the idea of doing a treasure hunt! I have to see if those exist here in Belgium! Going back to a place where you have family history sure is an emotional thing, but it can also be very positive to let out all these feelings.
    The Tiny Tim’s tearoom seems at the same time very nice and cute and super creepy!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it was a great way to discover the city that’s for sure, so if they do them in Belgium that would be amazing!! Yeah it definitely is, I enjoyed visiting. Totally nice and creepy at the same time haha!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Such a moving story – it brought tears in my eyes when you spoke of your grandmother. You have a deep family connection to this lovely place. I’m glad you could visit and share the experience with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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