Sure, Canterbury is known the world over for its Cathedral. Today, it is the seat of the Church of England, boasting magnificent architecture and a colourful history. This makes it a 'must visit' attraction and key stopping point on any visit to England.

But whilst everybody has heard about Canterbury's Cathedral, few have heard about its Castle and the fascinating glimpse it offers, not only into the city's history dating all the way back to Roman times, but also the history of England over the centuries.

From the city walls lining Dane John Gardens, to the clear water chalk stream of the River Stour, this unique part of Canterbury invites visitors to wander aimlessly and endlessly, discovering not only its past, but also its vibrant present. Today's Castle Quarter is made up of award winning restaurants and bars and independent retail outlets, specialising in everything from rare vinyl's, to weddings, to fashion and jewellery. There's plenty to be discovered aside from its fascinating history.

Canterbury's Castle is the perfect backdrop and fitting icon for the Castle Quarter, with its much anticipated restoration, considered a priority in putting the quarter on the map as a key visitor attraction. 

Community Activation & Pride

The idea to develop the streets forming today's Castle Quarter is one that is truly community-driven. Born by gathering local entrepreneurs and businesses, the idea to put the Castle Quarter's more contemporary side on the map, by highlighting its many fascinating stories past and present, is rooted in encouraging locals, visitors and businesses to truly love where they live.

A neighbourhood which is fondly considered by those who live and work in it as a 'hidden gem', deserves a little discovery and this starts by encouraging those who live and work in the Castle Quarter to discover what's right on their doorstep.

In October 2021, the team from the Digital Tourism Think Tank, one of the key instigators behind the initiative, invited more than 50 businesses from the Castle Quarter to come together and pool ideas on how the initiative could become a reality.

One of the fun parts of the morning was asking everyone to draw a business which inspired them in the Castle Quarter, inviting a little creativity but also helpful in encouraging a little inspiration.

As we warm-up the launch of the Castle Quarter on all channels, we've been posting these on Instagram and Facebook as part of our pre-launch activities.

Aside from a bit of networking, a little human-centred design helped get ideas flowing with an exercise known as 'Rose, Bud, Thorn', used to gather thoughts on what people love, 'the roses', what people saw opportunity in, 'the buds' and the pain-points as 'the thorns'. This served as a great starting for things to come - a handy research exercise and a great way to use co-design to gather hundreds of ideas effortlessly. The contributions gathered through this session, now provide a foundation for things to come.

Looking Ahead

Looking forward, this important ground-building exercise has garnered very strong support from a community of passionate businesses throughout the Castle Quarter, with a shared belief both in the potential it holds, as well as the strength of doing it together.

Significant support and resources contributed by the Digital Tourism Think Tank includes, a multi-disciplined team behind the initiative made up of Nicholas HallRomy Cywie Jess Humphrys and Dan Hopkins who are working around the clock to bring everything to life. They're supported by Emma B. from The Cook's Tale Restaurant and Charlotte Emma Whiting from Superdry who are busy activating businesses, together with support from Rachel Scott Pilard and Canterbury Business Improvement District.

One of the highlights is a new podcast series 'Stories from the Castle Quarter', featuring intimate interviews with local entrepreneurs, historians and storytellers, to delve behind the scenes of some of the quarter's history.

A new Instagram community is offering both a home for business focused groups, enabling collaboration to thrive, whilst a public-facing community deals initiative will eventually register loyal visitors to be first to get access to exclusive invite-only deals, invites and activations. 

Pre-launch the team have already succeeded in building an enormous database of more than 120 businesses based in the quarter, with an extensive events listing identifying opportunities for future storytelling, collaboration and promotional initiatives in the process. 

All of this, with the aim of getting people to shout about, learn about and discover what's happening in this lesser-known part of Canterbury. The quiet charm of the quarter's streets may be part of its appeal but there's a lot more happening than meets the eye.

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