This is a short but sweet rollercoaster ride through magnificent Kent countryside packed with heritage and fresh sea breeze. Three medieval and Tudor castles are situated along this 10-mile route, which, I'm sure you'll agree, is pretty impressive! But most importantly, I picked this route because it reminds me of a race track - sweeping bends and frequent change in elevation makes it a wonderful experience, especially if you catch the right time and get the road to yourself to enjoy. It's best to try this route around the mid-morning - after the rush hour traffic has quietened down and before the sleepy tourists begin to trickle in.
The journey begins near the Dover marina as you find your way towards the bottom of the East Cliff. I did mention that there were a lot of elevation changes taking place but this one is the biggest. In a space of less than a mile we ascend from the Zero-level to whopping 408 feet above the sea level. The serpentine leading to the medieval Dover Castle is thrilling even though you're still within Dover town and limited by the 30-mile speed restriction.
Once you reach the hilltop, you're greeted by the coveted National Speed Limit sign. It's time to put the foot down as this is the fastest section of the route. Caution should be taken when approaching the downhill S-bend. It's very tight and unpredictable. Switch on the headlamps. The thick foliage of the century-old trees makes it dark as night even when the sun's out. It's a bit slippery when wet and not the widest of the roads, so be careful.
After you pass the roundabout, the speed limit is reduced to 50. Don't ask me why - the road is as wide as the previous stretch. I'll blame the tractors - they do pop up from time to time. Nevertheless, I'm not complaining. The slower the speed the more of the countryside you can take in. The seemingly endless wheat and corn fields meet the hazy sea shore at the horizon and you feel as if you're at the top of the world.
Right before you approach the village of Ringwould, there's another exciting S-bend. Not as dark as the first one but it does look as spooky! Now that we're out of the woods and ascending uphill towards Walmer, it's worth dropping the speed and checking the scenery. There's a magnificent windmill on the left and far-fetching views across the English Channel to the right. No need for speeding. There's a 30-mile speed limit sign approaching anyway. This is allegedly where Julius Caesar disembarked from his ship - a historically important place!
We're approaching the slowest part of our journey. Take the right turn into Walmer Castle Road and appreciate the architecture with one eye as you mind the mirrors with the other one. This is a narrow street but it is a beautiful one and it takes you to the Walmer Castle. There are two parking lots opposite the castle. Both are free and I've always managed to find a space even during the busy tourist season. If you're a member of English Heritage, entry is free to all three castles.
The last leg of the route follows along the seaside. You find yourself on the Strand - historically a traditional fishermen community. Not as fashionable as the world-famous Strand but still a very beautiful place with quirky shops on one side and a wide pebble-beach on the other side. If you're in hurry, parking is free for one hour all along the Strand.
The towns of Walmer and Deal are adjoining so unless you work for the district council, you don't really know the moment you leave Walmer and enter Deal. Another mile along the beach and we've reached our destination. There are three large long-stay parking lots within the heart of the town. If you ask me, it's worth it to stick around and enjoy the town!
The A258 is not the fastest of the routes that you could take, nevertheless I'm sure you'll be glad to have driven along it. The shaded S-bends, breath-taking elevations and fast sections alternating with slow scenic sections makes this road a must-drive if you want to soak in the Kentish way of life. There's also a lot to see and many places to visit for such a short stretch of road.
About the Author
Arvid Linde is an author and journalist who recently relocated to Kent. He spends most of his spare time exploring the county. When he's not driving, he writes for Creditplus.co.uk blog.
At a glance
Things you'll love
Amazing scenery, tight bends, food.
Look out for
Slow tourists, sharp S-bends, farm vehicles.
In and around Dover to Deal
The Roman Painted House
If archaeology is your thing, you'll love the Roman Painted House in Dover. It's one of the best-preserved Roman houses in Britain. It's a shame it's almost never open. Check the website for opening dates and call beforehand to make sure you get in.
A splendid medieval castle, also known as the Key to England. Especially famous for the wartime tunnels and the recreation of medieval interiors. Castle Hill, Dover, CT16 1HU
An important coastal defence fortress. Particularly known for its gardens and the famous armchair in which the Duke of Wellington died. Kingsdown Road, Deal, CT14 7LJ
Compare this to the Walmer Castle and you'll realise that it?s been masterminded by the same bunch of people. It's a unique architectural object. See if you're lucky enough to gain access to the underground tunnels. They're usually kept closed due to risk of flooding. Marine Road, Deal, CT14 7BA
One of Kent's finest traditional bakeries. Their London cheesecakes taste much better than the ones that are baked in London (sorry, Londoners!). Al's is closed on Sundays. Deal High Street 50, CT14 6HE, 01304 380100
Whitebait at Kings Head
Deep-fired battered young herring - it's been a favourite snack of both smugglers and gentlemen. The number of establishments serving proper whitebait is continuously dwindling. Kings Head is one of the few let. They also serve local Kentish ale, and while you won't be able to enjoy it (drinking and driving = bad) I'm sure your passengers will appreciate it. 9 Beach St Deal, Kent CT14 7AH
Charles Hawtrey's House
Although the house is not publicly accessible, the hardcore 'Carry On' fans tend to visit this place anyway. 117 Middle St, CT14 6JW
Does it look a bit 1950s to you? That's because it is indeed from the 1950s era. Although it's in sharp contrast to the traditional seaside cottages, there's something endearing about this pier - no wonder it's received a listed building status. And they sell real ice cream on the pier!
Driving in Britain
The UK is the only country in Europe to measure their speed in Miles Per Hour, not Kilometers. Along with Malta and Cyprus they are the only country in Europe to drive on the left hand side. The UK speed limits range from as low as 20mph in built-up city areas up to 70mph on the motorway. It's understood that Police will allow you to drive 10% over the speed limit but it's the speed cameras you need to look out for. They are scattered everywhere and will take a picture of your car / plate while speeding. If you're driving a hire car when caught by a speed camera you'll probably be tracked down through your rental agency and issued with your ticket! Speed cameras are always accompanied by warning signs so look out for them while enjoying your drive.
The law states that it is illegal to ride a motorbike or drive a car while you are using a hand held communication device. Hands free phones may be used, but they are ultimately a distraction and you are still open to a charge of careless driving should a police officer think you are driving poorly while using one.
Things you might want to have with you
Driving licence (if from UK both card and paper licence)
Vehicle registration form
Headlight beam deflectors
First aid kit
High visibilty jacket
For more information on driving in Europe visit the European Traffic Police Network website www.tispol.org