Photo: Jordan Gibbons – Cycling UK…

Charity Cycling UK launched its fifth bikepacking route, the Cantii Way, on 26 May 2022: a 145-mile (234km) tour of Kent starting in the village of Wye, near Ashford

Cycling UK has launched the Cantii Way: a new long-distance cycling route in Kent taking people cycling through the diverse scenery and history of the ‘Garden of England’.

The Cantii Way is a 145-mile (234 km) route beginning and ending in the village of Wye, close to Ashford in Kent. It is designed to be a perfect introduction to multi-day cycling and can be ridden in one go over three to four days as it passes through Canterbury, Whitstable, Folkestone and Dover. With regular train stations along its length it can also be easily split up over several weekends.  

The Cantii were an Iron Age Celtic tribe that Julius Caesar encountered on his abortive conquest of England in 54 BCE. The famous Roman described the Cantii as “the most civilised” of the British tribes; it is from them that both the county of Kent and city of Canterbury derive their names. 

Sophie Gordon, Cycling UK’s campaigns officer who is behind the creation of the Cantii Way, said:  “The Cantii Way is a perfect introduction to the wonders of cycling around Kent, and is ideal for those looking to try cycle tourism for the first time. It’s not just great for beginners though, Kent is rich in history, rich in culture and rich in cuisine – it’s a perfect location for cycling, and the Cantii Way gives you the very best of the Garden of England.”

Map of the Cantii Way

May 26 was chosen as the ideal launch date for the route as it is ‘Kent Day’: an annual celebration of the ancient county. It also holds historical significance for the county, as it was on May 26, 1940, that the flotilla of little ships set sail from Ramsgate to rescue the Allied soldiers trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk.

The launching of the route has also been chosen to honour the Platinum Jubilee of Cycling UK patron Queen Elizabeth II and its length makes it ideal for riding over the long Jubilee weekend.

Riders who choose to explore the route in this jubilee year will also be celebrating a significant milestone for the Wye Crown, which sits just a few miles into the route. First constructed in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII, it now also plays host to a stone honouring Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee.

Using a combination of quiet ways, country lanes, byways and bridleways, the route is designed to be manageable by anyone of reasonable fitness on most types of bike. Making use of part of the North Downs Way Riders’ Route that Cycling UK launched in 2018 in collaboration with Kent Downs AONB, the Cantii Way takes riders deep into Kent’s rich history, vibrant modern culture and natural beauty.  

The route is also designed to open up the ‘Garden of England’ to the cycling traveller. As they pass through well-known destinations such as Canterbury, Whitstable and Dover, there are plenty of opportunities to make the most of the local produce available, with the orchards, vineyards, hop-drying oast houses and local farms making the Cantii Way equal parts culinary and cycling tour. 

As part of its role in the European Regional Development Fund’s EXPERIENCE project which is operating in Kent, Cornwall and Norfolk as well as three other regions in France, Cycling UK has worked for the past two years on the Cantii Way. During its development the charity has spoken with the council, Kent Downs AONB, landowners, local businesses and cyclists to link together a route that shows off the best of Kent.  

“Cycling UK wanted to leave a lasting legacy this Jubilee for our patron the Queen, that wouldn’t just be fun to ride, but would also bring real benefit to the local rural economy,” added Sophie Gordon. “The people cycling through Kent’s network of paths and quiet ways will quite literally be fuelling themselves from the local shops, pubs and tea rooms they pass through, and many of these will be off the beaten track.” 

Cycle tourism spending from cyclists in the UK generates £520m per year. There are 1.23 million overnight trips each year, benefiting small businesses in particular, and these contribute £433m to the economy. A survey of riders of King Alfred’s Way, a route starting in Winchester that the charity launched in 2020, shows on average every cyclist spends £83.60 per day on food and accommodation. 

In preparation of the expected increase in cycling over the summer, the charity is already working with the hospitality and accommodation sectors in Kent. Cycling UK is providing businesses with advice and free equipment bundles worth up to £400 as part of its Cycle Friendly Places initiative. 

The new routes sit within Cycling UK’s wider goal to see the creation of a network of long-distance off-road routes across the length and breadth of Great Britain, taking in its amazing places and wild landscapes. 

 The Cantii Way is the fifth long distance cycling route Cycling UK has launched since its riders’ route for the North Downs Way was unveiled in 2018. A sixth route will be launched at the end of summer in Norfolk.  

In 2019, the charity launched the 800-mile Great North Trail which starts in the Peak District and finishes in either Cape Wrath or John O’ Groats. This was followed by King Alfred’s Way in 2020, a 220-mile loop route from Winchester that travels through 10,000 years’ worth of history in the south of England and ancient Saxon kingdom of Wessex, and last year saw the launch of the 150-mile West Kernow Way in Cornwall.  

By Ed

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