A section of the Becket Way from Southwark to Canterbury – Southwark to Kemsing, 35 miles, 3 days. The full route from Southwark to Canterbury takes 11 days (i.e. an extra 8 days), and for the section from Kemsing to Canterbury click here. The Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury Cathedral begins in Winchester, with an alternative starting point at Southwark in London. These ancient paths, which eventually merge at Otford/Kemsing, became famous around AD1200 when pilgrims first started making the journey (on horseback and on foot) to the tomb of martyred St Thomas Becket in Canterbury.
The route from London was first a Roman road much used not just by those passing between the capital and Canterbury but also by visitors to London from abroad who arrived at Dover. The starting point in the capital was always Southwark at the south end of London Bridge. The crossing, with houses and shops, was closed at night so it was considered best to seek a bed in one of the numerous Southwark inns to be ready to make an early unimpeded getaway at first light. This guide retains as much as possible of the first few miles of the ancient Roman road from Southwark. Where the present pilgrim route leaves the old main road it goes, as a pilgrim might have, via Lesnes Abbey which is dedicated to the saint. After Dartford many travellers and pilgrims turned south to join the Winchester–Canterbury Pilgrims’ Way at Otford and so this guide takes the walker down the Darenth Valley where Archbishop Becket held land and first fell out with the king. Southwark is part of Winchester Southwark, in London, can be described as being part of Winchester. It was within the vast Winchester Diocese which lay south of the River Thames and the bishop had his London home next to Southwark Priory (now Cathedral).