Canterbury River Tour

With limited time in the city, would a Canterbury River Tour be worth it?

Canterbury River Tour Photos (c) Donna Dailey, from http://www.beyond-london-travel.com/Canterbury-River-Tour.html

All Photos (c) Donna Dailey

‘I am your guide and engine for the next 40 minutes,’ said George (above), rowing his boat out into the River Stour. ‘The river’s protected by the Environment Agency, and that means there are no motorised boats on it… which is why I have to row. This also keeps the river healthy and in it you’ll find brown trout, eels, pike, dace, herons, cormorants, moorhens, and even otters.’

We found the guys from Canterbury Historic River Tours standing on the King’s Bridge, and before we knew it we were in a boat and our guide, George, was rowing us under the King’s Bridge. It was the start of what proved to be a fascinating glimpse into Canterbury’s history, and from a very different angle: river level.

Canterbury River Tour Photos (c) Donna Dailey, from http://www.beyond-london-travel.com/Canterbury-River-Tour.html

Duck!
We heed George’s warning to duck as we go under the bridges, and float beneath the King’s Bridge that we’d been standing on a few minutes earlier. ‘The middle section of the bridge,’ George tells us, ‘dates back to 1134, and is the oldest road bridge still in use in the UK. Till a few years ago it formed part of the A2 which went right through the centre of Canterbury. Below the bridge on the right is where King’s Mill once stood, one of the city’s earliest and most important mills. It was owned by the King, and city residents could have their corn ground there. The city’s first public lavatory was here, and the city's swans were kept nearby and fattened up for banquets.’

George’s commentary was a pleasant mix of the factual and the fun, with a few corny jokes for good measure. At one point he also demonstrated how the boatmen of old would push their barges under a bridge, where the towing horses couldn’t go. George lay down on his back and, upside-down, walked along the bottom of the bridge to propel the boat along, a feat which earned him a round of applause. Our fellow passengers were a mix of local and overseas visitors, some from Germany, some from the USA, and they were all clearly enjoying it all as much as we were.

Canterbury River Tour Photos (c) Donna Dailey, from http://www.beyond-london-travel.com/Canterbury-River-Tour.html

River Stour
George explains that the name of the river, the Stour, is a very common one in England. There are several of them, and that’s because Stour is a Saxon word meaning fast-flowing water. Not that Canterbury’s River Stour is fast-flowing these days – just fast enough for a gentle journey, and to keep George fit when we’re going up-stream. The Stour splits in two as it flows through the old part of Canterbury, and rejoins again at the other side, giving plenty of variety to this Canterbury river tour.

We learn about the arrival of the Franciscans, and their later departure, and see the oldest remaining Franciscan building in Britain. We hear about the oldest school in Europe, the playwright Christopher Marlowe (born in Canterbury), discover why Assisi Cottage only has one window on each side, and learn that in Canterbury even the Pizza Express is in a 17th-century forge.

It's Witchcraft
As we return to the start there’s one last feature George points out to us. It’s sticking out of the wall of the Old Weavers Restaurant, next to which Canterbury Historic River Tours has its base. The strange object is a ducking stool. ‘Husbands could pay to have their wives ducked in the river,’ George explains, ‘if they were nagging too much. Anyone accused of witchcraft was also ducked on this stool. If they drowned it proved they were human, not witches. But if they survived,’ George adds with a smile, ‘it proved they were witches, so they were dried off and burned.’

Our Canterbury River Tour Verdict

We were delighted to discover how much fun and how entertaining and informative this short river trip was. It was a lovely, relaxing way to learn about Canterbury’s past and present. Definitely recommended as one of the best things to do in Canterbury.

Canterbury River Tour Photos (c) Donna Dailey, from http://www.beyond-london-travel.com/Canterbury-River-Tour.html

More Information
To find out more about taking a historic Canterbury River Tour:
Canterbury Historic River Tours
The Ducking Stool, Kings Bridge, by The Old Weavers Restaurant
St Peters Street,
Canterbury
Tel: 07790-534744




Buy Our Best Day Trips from London Guide


The Ten Best Day Trips from London is a Kindle guide to the most popular attractions in England that can be easily reached and enjoyed in one day. It focuses on the practical information, telling you how to get to your destination by train, by coach, or by driving - and recommends the best choice to make.

For all ten destinations there are direct links to coach and bus timetables, the cheapest fares, and direct booking options for tickets. This travel guide also recommends the best things to see and do in each destination, with links to websites for opening hours and admission prices. 

The Kindle guide includes over 40 colour photos and 11 colour locator maps, showing you where every place is in relation to London.

Buy the guide at Amazon UK, Amazon USA or other Amazon stores worldwide.





Connect with Us on Google+

Recent Articles

  1. Floors Castle

    Dec 26, 16 03:03 AM

    Beyond London Travel visits Floors Castle near Kelso in the Scottish Borders, family home of the Duke of Roxburghe and one of VisitScotland's 5-star visitor attractions, a Scottish Downton Abbey.

    Read More

  2. Beyond London Travel Books

    Dec 04, 16 12:37 PM

    The Beyond London Travel Books page reviews guidebooks, history, mysteries and fiction to help readers enjoy their visits to England, the UK, France, and beyond.

    Read More

  3. Food Trails Book Review

    Dec 04, 16 12:20 PM

    Beyond London Travel reviews Food Trails, a new guidebook from Lonely Planet for the culinary traveller which helps you plan 52 Perfect Weekends in the world's tastiest destinations.

    Read More