Two of Canterbury’s three World Heritage Sites are located just a short walk to the east of the Cathedral and city centre. St Augustine’s Abbey ruins and St Martin’s Church are sites integral to the story of Christianity’s reintroduction in Southern England and to the history of first Archbishop Augustine. Both were established by the missionary shortly after his arrival in Canterbury in AD597.
St Augustine’s Abbey
St Augustine’s Abbey ruins (English Heritage) sit just outside the city’s old medieval walls. St Augustine founded the abbey here shortly after his arrival in AD 597, originally as a site of burial for Kent’s Anglo Saxon kings. A free audio tour is included in entrance price and visitors are then free to explore the ruins set within peaceful gardens. Plaques give detail on certain ruins – one marks the spot of St Augustine’s grave whilst others mark the spot of ancient chapels and monastic buildings. A fascinating museum exhibit is onsite displaying many of the finds unearthed here and detailing the story of the Abbey from St Augustine’s arrival to recent excavations. Objects on display span many centuries and include a skeleton and many stone carvings. Dogs on leads are permitted in the grounds and an onsite gift shop sells a variety of heritage gifts, books, guides, food and drink. Pleasant picnic areas are also dotted around the grounds.
St Martin’s Church
Canterbury’s third World Heritage Site is St Martin’s Church, the oldest church seeing continuous use in the English speaking world. The oldest part of the St Martin’s dates from the Roman occupation and St Augustine established his mission here to convert the English to Christianity shortly after arriving in 597 AD. The church welcomes visitors free of charge on designated days and times (visit the website for entrance details). St Martin’s is located just a little further east of the Abbey ruins off St Martin’s Hill (A257), within easy walking distance of the city centre.