Pilgrims walking on the Via Francigena

Francigena Britannica

A Francigena Extension from London to Canterbury

The number of pilgrims walking from Canterbury to Rome on the Via Francigena has increased markedly in the past decade, and the trustees of the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome (CPR) decided to investigate the viability of re-establishing the historic pilgrimage route from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury.  This route, as described by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th-century Canterbury Tales, is a significant pilgrimage route in its own right, but also a logical extension to the Via Francigena in the UK.

The CPR felt the pilgrim community would appreciate the opportunity to approach the starting point of the Via Francigena on a four-day pilgrimage from London to Canterbury, following in the steps of pilgrims who travelled for centuries to the shrine of St Thomas Becket, rather than travelling to Canterbury by train.

Preliminary investigation found the route excessively urban as it crossed south London with too much traffic and very poor air quality. CPR chair and vice chair, Carlo Laurenzi and Brian Mooney discussed a route which would be longer, greener and less busy. In 2021 we asked members if they would be interested in such a route were it available. 71% of respondents said that they would.

This CPR draft guide has been thoroughly tested, and follows existing and well-waymarked routes as far as possible. Its present published form has space for notes, and we are requesting feedback so that revisions can be implemented. For example, once the bridge over the Darent, close to Dartford is completed, the route will be amended to cut out a long detour.

The final version will provide more options and variants, whether following the North Downs Way from Otford all the way to Canterbury or sticking to the valley route along the Pilgrims Way. We believe that this, our recommended route makes more sense for the long-distance walker, especially one carrying a heavy backpack.

The route

The CPR route knits together a number of established and well waymarked paths:

  • Thames Path
  • Green Chain Walk
  • Darent Valley Walk
  • Pilgrims Way
  • North Downs Way
  • Medway River Walk
  • Stour Valley Way
  • Online Version

An extension of the Via Francigena from London to Canterbury

A new route 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.

Download the current guide and gpx file for free.  This version of the guide is still in draft form and we welcome any comments and corrections in the form below.

You can download the full guide below, as well as the gpx file.