Walk the Via Francigena

The 2000-km ancient pilgrim way from Canterbury to Rome follows the route of the North Downs Way through White Cliffs Country to Dover seafront.

Walk the Via Francigena is an Experience. Area Dover

Via Francigena (meaning 'the road from France') is the 1200-mile (2000-km) ancient pilgrim route from England, through France and Switzerland to Rome. Starting from Canterbury Cathedral, the first two stages of the walk take you 20 miles (33 km) along the North Downs Way into Dover. 

A group of walkers crossing a green grass field with far-reaching views across the countryside.
The Via Francigena route from Canterbury to Shepherdswell crosses the beautiful Kent Downs National Landscape.

This part of the 10th-Century route passes through the villages and beautiful countryside of White Cliffs Country and is relatively flat in comparison to the rest of the journey! The path takes you through parkland, pastoral landscapes and picturesque villages, passing through Shepherdswell and skirting Snowdown and Eythorne.

Along the route, you'll come across artworks created for the North Downs Way Art Trail including 'After the Black Gold' by Channel near Aylesham, 'Monumenta Romana' by Charles Holland Architects near Shepherdswell and 'We are all Winners' by Alma Tischlerwood on Dover Seafront, which marks the start/finish of the English section of this ancient route. The approximate location of this is marked on the map at the bottom of this page.

Two people beside a black granite sculpture of a winners podium on Dover seafront.
'We are all Winners', marking the start and finish of the English section of the Via Francigena on Dover seafront, is a granite sculpture of a winners' podium.

Once you reach Dover, it's worth exploring the town's medieval architectural treasures, before crossing the channel to France for the onward journey.

The Maison Dieu

Dover’s Grade I Listed town hall was founded by Hubert de Burgh, Constable of Dover Castle, Earl of Kent and Justiciar of England, in 1203 to provide hospitality for pilgrims travelling to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury, and to care for wounded and destitute soldiers. The building is currently undergoing major restoration - due to reopen in 2024, it will be permanently open to the public for the first time in its 800-year history.

St Edmund's Chapel

One of the smallest working churches in England, Dover’s Chapel of St Edmund of Abingdon is also the only church still in existence that was dedicated to one English saint by another. It was consecrated in 1253 by Richard, Bishop of Chichester, who dedicated it to his friend St Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had died in 1245 and was canonised in 1247; Richard himself was canonised in 1262.

The stone facade of tiny St Edmund's Chapel in Dover flanked by modern buildings.
St Edmund's Chapel is open for Mass at 10am on on Saturdays and at other times when volunteers are available. Look for the 'Open' sign outside.

St Mary's Church

The parish church of St Mary-the-Virgin, in the heart of Dover just along from the Market Square, is nearly 1000 years old. Dating from Saxon times, it was originally built by the secular canons of St Martin Le Grand and rebuilt by the Normans. St Mary’s is one of the three Dover churches mentioned in the Domesday Book.

Pilgrim's Passport

Call in at the White Cliffs Country Visitor Information Centre, based at Dover Museum in the Market Square, to have your Pilgrim’s Passport stamped with the crest of St Martin, Dover’s patron saint. You'll meet our friendly and knowledgeable team of staff who can help you with any questions you might have about the area, accommodation or your onward journey.

Francigena Britannica

The Francigena has been extended from Canterbury to London. The Francigena Britannica route is a four-day pilgrimage from Southwark Cathedral to Camberbury, the route described by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th-century Canterbury Tales.

The new route is designed with the long-distance walker in mind, from Southwark Cathedral through the Darent Valley, along the North Downs Way and Stour Valley Path to Canterbury.  The route takes in the Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site, Eynsford Castle, Otford Palace, Aylesford Priory and tranquil chalk grasslands, woods and orchards.