Lower Leas Coastal Park is always high on the list of things to do in Folkestone and is popular with tourists and locals alike. As a new resident of the city, I went to see for myself what is so special about this park that keeps it number one time and time again.
After reading some reviews of the park, I knew that it was divided into three zones, the formal zone, the fun zone and the wild zone. It is also home to the largest free adventure playground in the Southeast.
It was a Sunday when I visited and not sure where to start, I parked outside The Grand on the Leas hotel. Parking was free and there were quite a few spaces given that it was hot and there were quite a few people around.
Read more: The 12 best things to do in Folkestone according to TripAdvisor
I made my way along the Leas promenade and was immediately struck by the view, you can see for miles across the sea, there are lots of benches along the way many of which are dedicated to people. I read some of the dedications and imagined how much joy this area must have brought to so many people over the years.
You can’t help but be transported back in time walking here. The beautiful Edwardian buildings and the elegance of The Leas bandstand, which dates back to 1895, made me feel pretty underdressed as I imagined the ladies with their puffy sleeves and parasols, strolling in the sun.
As I approached the bandstand, I saw I was signing for Zig Zag Road to Lower Leas Coastal Park, so I knew I was on the right track and headed there. It’s not the first time since moving to Folkestone that something I thought was nothing special has impressed me.
This path is beautiful. At the top of the trail you will find an explanation of the history of the trail, which was built shortly after WW1 to create easy access from the Leas to the shore. The coastal views and glimpses through the beautiful greenery and flowers that line this path are truly something to behold.
Walking here felt like a little adventure, with the twists and turns and little caves and caves formed from the rocks. With the smell of flowers and plants made all the more pungent in the warm air and the birds tweeting, I felt like I could easily have been on a tropical island. I was almost disappointed when I got to the bottom.
There are plenty of signs scattered around to keep you on track and tell you where you have been. I ventured out from here to my right, I could hear kids playing and figured the ‘entertainment area’ couldn’t be much further, and I was right.
To say that the adventure playground has a large wooden climbing frame is a huge injustice. I haven’t been to many adventure playgrounds, but of the ones I have visited, this is on another level. There were ziplines, slides, tunnels, sandboxes, rope climbs. Obviously it was very hectic, but if you have very young children there was also a small enclosed area with a sandbox and a small climbing frame for them.
Parents will be delighted to know that the playground is a stone’s throw from the public toilets and also from the Mermaid café-bar. You could spend a whole afternoon here with the kids, and if by any chance they get bored (which is unlikely), you’re also very close to Mermaid Beach.
Next stop was the Wild Area. This area of the park is described as “a haven for recreation”, and the first thing that struck me was how green this area was. It certainly had a different feel. Considering it was a Sunday afternoon, it was busy, but no place felt busy or crowded.
You can drive and park in this area, which is especially handy if you’ve packed the car for the day with a picnic, and it seems several families have done just that. There are plenty of picnic benches but they are very well spaced out so there is enough room for the children to play football while staying close to the parents. Ideal if you have very young children.
It feels like there is always something to discover in this park, a secret trail or steps leading to a higher or lower level, there is often a plaque telling you a fun fact or piece of history . There’s so much to see and explore, but it’s also a great place to do nothing at all.
The last discovery area for me was the formal area, this is the area of the park that would have “blooming flowers all year round”. I came back to the bottom of Zig Zag Road and then past the Leas Cliff Hall, which cuts a towering figure dominating the trail. I knew I had arrived because I immediately encountered a sea of colors and an explosion of fragrances. The flowers were certainly blooming.
After being surrounded by greenery in the Wild Area, it was a welcome treat. The vibrant scents and colors have people stopping to take photos and trying to identify the flowers. I can imagine avid gardeners taking a particular interest in this area.
At any point of the walk through this park, you have easy access to the beach, and the gentle roar of the sea is just one of the many things that add to the magical atmosphere.
I feel like I say it too often, but there really is something for the whole family here. Children, parents and grandparents. The pace can be as fast or as slow as you want. I came across a father and daughter exploring on a scooter, a lady walking her dog, and a man in his 60s with his sons and their children going up the Zig Zag path.
I could go on all day on this park, it really won me over. I now know why he gets the accolades he does time and time again, and in my opinion, they are all well deserved.
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