So, we meet again, Mr Bond.
For those who don’t know, the far side of Kent is Bond country. It’s where Ian Fleming had a house, and where he came up with the code name for the world’s most famous secret agent. The code 007 is the number of the National Express coach, which takes passengers from Dover to London.
En-route to Sandwich
Kent is home to two of Bond’s foe, Hugo Drax and Auric Goldfinger. The latter, in the 1959 novel, is the richest man in England and secretly the treasurer of a Soviet counterintelligence agency. Following a meeting in Miami with Goldfinger, Bond is invited for a game of golf at the Royal St Mark’s golf club near Sandwich. Fleming based the club on the real course, Royal St George’s golf club in Sandwich.
"...as he coasted down into Dover. He kept left and was soon climbing out of the town again past the wonderful cardboard castle." - Goldfinger, 1959
Gathering intelligence at Reculver & Herne Bay
Before Bond pitches and putts with the title character, he detours to Herne Bay and Reculver to gather intelligence on the home of Goldfinger’s factory, Thanet Alloys. It is here that we start our ride. No wonder Goldfinger chose this spot for his uber-baddie projects; Reculver is a remote and windswept location. So, like Bond, in his battleship grey Aston Martin DB3, we hot-footed it across the Isle of Thanet to Ramsgate (where Bond finds accommodation ahead of his gold game) and then we continue south using a coastal path to Sandwich.
We grab a slice of history and eat a sandwich in Sandwich at the Fleur-de-Lis pub, then ride down to Sandwich Bay and the shorefront road to take a look at the golf course Fleming described as “the greatest seaside golf course in the world”.
The path along the front doesn’t link up to any other roads so we have to double back and continue on Golf Road towards Deal. It is here we cross into the territory of our other supervillain, Hugo Drax.
" 'Sir Hugo's expecting you sir. It's the big house up in the woods there.' He pointed to lights further on towards the cliffs." - Moonraker, 1955
In the 1955 novel, Moonraker, we meet Bond paired with Special Branch undercover policewoman, Gala Brand. The duo go snooping along the cliffs near Kingsdown, where Drax has a rocket research establishment. Unfortunately, our spooks are caught up in a mysterious cliff-side explosion and retreat to St. Margaret’s Bay to recover with “two stiff brandies-and-sodas for Gala and three for Bond”.
Ian Fleming's House at St Margaret's Bay
St Margaret’s Bay is a quiet enclave of coast where Fleming bought his house – White Cliffs – from Noël Coward. We speed down to the sea through the village and then climb back up and out on small gravel-dusted roads to Dover. There is a pub in St Margaret’s Bay where you can grab refreshments and fish and chips. Dover itself is a busy port and doesn’t get much of a mention from Fleming in many books, so we continue inland on quiet but hilly country roads in the direction of Folkstone and then swing back into the heart of Kent towards Canterbury.
We are heading for Pett Bottom, a sleepy hamlet, home of The Duck Inn, where Ian Fleming wrote You Only Live Twice . It is in this book that Fleming names Pett Bottom as the fictional home of a young Bond. Then it's just 10km to Canterbury, where we hoped to spot the 007 bus, before boarding a train back to London.
If you don’t fancy returning to Canterbury, you can continue on along the coast, passing through Folkstone on the seafront cycle path and take in some ultra-cute, well-paved lanes to Lydd, and Lydd Airport. It is here where Bond, following Auric Goldfinger in his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, sees his car loaded into an aeroplane at Lydd airport bound for Switzerland. From Lydd, there is a straightforward route to Rye and various transport options.
Cliff-side Kent is full of hidey-holes and secret rambles, quiet paths and blue sea views. They were good enough for Bond and bad enough for Goldfinger, and perfect for our 70 mile mission on two wheels.