Who can enter?

Absolutely anyone can take part in the Folkestone Downs Challenge, though a good base level of fitness is recommended for the most enjoyable experience as the course contains a number of challenging hills. Whether you’re new to long-distance walking or a seasoned rambler, the sense of achievement will be the same; setting yourself a personal challenge, walking in memory of someone, having a day out with your friends, or enjoying a team-building day with colleagues.

You must be 16 years and over to enter the Folkestone Downs Challenge and be accompanied by an adult at all times if you're under 18 years old. 16 and 17 year olds must have a signed parental consent form.

You must be at least 16 years of age to participate in the Folkestone Downs Challenge and walkers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a participating adult.

  • Early bird entry: £35 (closes 30 June 2024)
  • Standard entry: £40 (closes 11 August 2024)
  • On the day entry: £45

A maximum of 600 participants are able to take part in the Folkestone Downs Challenge 2024, so early registration is advised to avoid disappointment.

If capacity is reached before the event, on the day entry will not be available.

Entry to this fully supported event includes regular rest stops with drinks and snacks, a fully signed route, medical cover, training app, and an event T-shirt.

Much of the entry fee goes towards running the event and making sure that you have an enjoyable and safe experience. Therefore, we ask that you pledge to raise at least £100 sponsorship for your challenge (after all, it’s no easy feat to hike all that way!) Alternatively, if you'd rather not ask your friends and family to sponsor you, we hope you might consider making a personal donation towards the care we provide. This can be done at any time on our website, by phoning the Supporter Relations team on 01227 782062 (9am-4pm, Mon-Fri), or on the day of the event.

It costs Pilgrims Hospices just over £11,000 a day to run the full range of services at each of our hospices, and events like these help us to continue caring for local people as they near the end of life. Please download a sponsorship form, set up your own online fundraising page with Just Giving, or call 01227 812609.  

Don’t forget to encourage your sponsors to tick the Gift Aid box if they’re eligible to do so; for every £1 donated, we’ll be able to claim an extra 25p from the Government at no cost to you or your sponsors. It makes a huge difference.

The Folkestone Downs Challenge will begin from our Start HQ at Folkestone Harbour Arm, Harbour Approach Road, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 1QH. Please arrive during your allocated 30-minute starting wave. This will be communicated to you 3 weeks before the event. We operate starting waves to avoid congestion at the start venue and on early stages of the trail. Please do not arrive before your allocated wave. 

Ample parking is available at the Folkestone Harbour Car Park and nearby street parking (pay and display). Free street parking can also be found a short distance away. We recommend that you are dropped off or met by family or friends that can take you home after such a tiring challenge. The best place to be dropped off is along Marine Parade.

If you're relying on public transport to get to and/or from the event, these transport links may be useful:

  • Folkestone Central Train Station: Serviced by trains running twice per hour from the directions of Ashford and Dover; the station is a 20-minute walk from the start venue at Folkestone Harbour Arm.
  • Folkestone Bus Station: Buses run into the centre of Folkestone from surrounding towns. You can plan your journey online here. The bus station is a 12-minute walk from the start venue at Folkestone Harbour Arm.

To avoid congestion at the start venue and early stages of the trail, you will be allocated a 30-minute check-in window and start wave, during which you should aim to arrive at the start venue. Your start wave will be allocated based on the estimated pace you provided when you signed up for the event. Please note that arriving outside of your designated start wave could mean you are unable to enter the venue and delay your start.

The start waves are as follows:

Start wave A: check in between 07:30 – 08:00hrs
Start wave B: check in between 08:00 – 08:30hrs
Start wave C: check in between 08:30 – 09:00hrs
Start wave D: check in between 09:00 – 09:30hrs

Trail completion

All participants must have completed the trail and checked in at our de-registration desks by 7:00pm. If you haven't completed the trail by this time, the event organiser will attempt to contact you and you may be withdrawn from the challenge due to safety and control issues.

Inevitably, there are several points where the trail either crosses or follows a section of road for a short time. Walkers must be vigilant at all times when navigating these sections and adhere to the Highway Code for pedestrians. Specific sections where great care should be taken will be outlined in the pre-event information sheet emailed to participants. We advise walkers to wear an item of fluorescent clothing during the day to assist with being seen.

The route map for the Folkestone Downs Challenge 2024 can be viewed here.

The route will be clearly signed with orange fluorescent signs with black arrows marked with the Pilgrims Hospices logo.

It is recommended that you download the free Pilgrims Hospices Events App for iOS and Android smartphones as it contains a detailed route map with gps tracking.

You will also receive a walker lanyard that contains printed maps of the route.

Yes, the Folkestone Downs Challenge will be clearly marked with bright orange signs with black arrows on them, marked with the Pilgrims Hospices logo (as shown below). A downloadable map will be available for you to use in advance of the event.

It is recommended that you download the free Pilgrims Hospices Events App for iOS and Android smartphones as it contains a detailed route map with gps tracking.

You will also receive a walker lanyard that contains printed maps of the route.

East Kent has a fantastic variety of terrain and the Folkestone Downs Challenge showcases this as much as possible. This inevitably means there are a good number of uphill sections for you to conquer along the way. Over the course of the event, you will achieve a total of 460m of elevation gain, much of which takes place in the first half of the event when you are feeling stronger.

But remember, this is not a race and it is perfectly acceptable to take your time on challenging sections. Please be aware that the route requires the navigation of several stiles.

You certainly can! The Folkestone Downs Challenge is primarily a walking event. However, participants can test the limits of their endurance by running or jogging the route as a trail run.

Remember, this is not a race and it is perfectly acceptable to take your time on challenging sections. Please be aware that the route requires the navigation of several stiles and the crossing of several roads.

Runners and walkers are welcome to use their own devices to record their personal times but no official timing system is used.

There will be regular rest stops providing water and snacks along the way, as well as first aiders and medical response vehicles positioned to respond in case of an emergency. Long-distance walking can take its toll on the body; we strongly recommend that you carry with you a small first aid kit containing blister plasters, additional socks, and enough food and water.

If you have any health concerns please consult your GP before taking part. It's recommended that you're able to walk at least 75% of the trail distance comfortably beforehand. If there is a medical emergency you should call 999. The emergency services are aware that the event is taking place.

Absolutely! The Folkestone Downs Challenge is a fully supported hiking event and this includes regular rest stops (typically 6 - 8km apart) stocked with a variety of catering including bananas, flapjacks, cakes, crisps, rolls, water and hot drinks.

It is recommended that participants bring a packed lunch and preferred snacks to supplement event catering, particularly if you're used to eating certain foods during your training walks that work for you.

Participants are responsible for making sure that they remain hydrated throughout the day. It is recommended to bring a full water bottle (or two if you can carry it) there will not be any water available at the start. Water barrels will be available to refill at rest stops. 

Participants are encouraged to spend as little time as necessary at each rest stop (ideally a maximum of 15 minutes unless you need to see a medic) to avoid congestion and to ensure you finish the event in good time.

Portable toilets will be available at each rest stop. 

Rest stop information

Rest stops are at the following locations:

  • Start venue: Folkestone Harbour Arm, Folkestone, CT20 1QH
  • Water station 1: Castle Hill, Crete Road West (at 6.3km)
  • Rest stop 2: Tolsford Hill, Etchinghill (at 13.4km)
  • Rest stop 3: Lympne Village Hall, Lympne, CT21 4LE (at 20.8km)
  • Rest stop 4: The Tin Tabernacle, Hythe, CT21 6BD (at 28.8km)
  • Finish Venue: Folkestone Harbour Arm, Folkestone, CT20 1QH

We're looking for volunteers to help with registration, route marshalling and refreshments at each location. Contact Supporter Relations on 01227 782062 or email fundraising@pilgrimshospices.org for more information. You can also complete and return our volunteer application form.

This fully supported event includes:

  • Pre-event pack
  • Event T-shirt
  • Regular rest stops with complimentary drinks and snacks
  • Fully signed route
  • Event medical support
  • Recovery vehicles
  • Event lanyard with printed route maps
  • Free use of the Pilgrims Hospices Events App for event information, training and gps tracking
  • Finisher’s medal

Everyone will be sent an event T-shirt and participant lanyard containing a unique number that identifies them as a participant. You must wear this number visibly to the event so that you're easily identifiable.

If you have raised sponsorship in the form of cash and cheques, may we ask that you forward this to Pilgrims Hospices before 19th October 2024 in one of the following ways:

1) By post to Folkestone Downs Challenge, Supporter Relations, Pilgrims Hospices, 56 London Road, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 8JA (sponsorship forms and cheques only)
2) By making a website donation for the equivalent amount and then sending in your sponsorship forms to the address above in order for us to claim any Gift Aid. (Remember to select 'Folkestone Downs Challenge' as the reason for donation within the donation form)

NOTE: If you have raised sponsorship purely online via a JustGiving page, we will send you an official thank you letter for your total after the above hand-in date.

Suitable clothing for spending many hours outdoors in changeable weather, including a waterproof layer, suitable backpack/daypack for supplies and comfortable walking footwear that you have tested and worn in.

A full list of recommended kit is available here.

Dogs are not permitted to take part in this event.

This is for several health and safety reasons:

  • There are many narrow sections of the route where it can be difficult to overtake dogs on leads. There are stiles, kissing gates and some walkers will be out well into the evening and walking with headtorches. It is a long way.
  • The hike walks immediately through farm lands and fields with many livestock present, including horses, sheep and cattle.
  • Some of the rest stops are on private land – including a private garden.
  • We cannot cater for dogs as part of this event. We already have to supply thousands of litres of water to 5 rest stops without full facilities.
  • Our recovery vehicles cannot carry dogs and neither can the medical support.
  • Some people have allergies and are not comfortable around dogs.
  • We have a responsibility to these people and those who have signed up; where our website clearly states that no dogs will be allowed. This includes Therapy and Emotional Support Dogs.

However, the only dogs allowed are registered and trained Assistance Dogs and the relevant status documentation must be provided.

The charity are dog lovers at heart. However, this is for the health and safety reasons listed above. Thank you for your understanding.

There’s no denying it – walking 36km is a tough challenge by anyone’s standards. It will be physically and emotionally demanding. You'll have to overcome fatigue and tiring limbs as you battle to complete the challenge!

You'll need to prepare; training advice will be issued and you should read this carefully. The more comfortable you are with walking long distances for sustained periods, the more comfortable you'll be on the trail.

View our six-week training plan here.