Visit the areas that inspired Fleming to create one of the most thrilling spies the world has ever known.
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Ian Fleming loved Kent. You only have to read one of his books to experience the great adoration he had for his home county. He made his home in a beautiful house on the beach of St Margaret’s and wrote many of his novels looking out over the English Channel.
His most famous creation, James Bond, known to all the world as 007, inspired 12 novels and two books of short stories, which, in turn have been adapted into 22 films so far.
Directors: Val Guest, Ken Hughes
Writers: Ian Fleming (Novel) Wolf Mankowitz and John Law (Screenplay)
David Niven – Sir James Bond
Peter Sellers – Evelyn Tremble, James Bond 007
Ursula Andress – Vesper Lynd
Based on one of Flemming’s short stories, this early spy spoof, features the aging Sir James Bond who comes out of his retirement to take on SMERSH.
Locations Used: Mereworth Castle
This location features as Sir James’s home.
Director: Guy Hamilton
Writers: Ian Fleming (Novel), Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz (Screenplay)
Sean Connery – James Bond
Jill St. John – Tiffany case
Charles Gray – Blofeld
Synopsis: A diamond smuggling investigation leads James Bond to Las Vegas, where he uncovers an extortion plot headed by his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Locations Used: Port of Dover Ferry Terminal
Bond outwits Peter Franks, the known diamond smuggler at passport control and boards a hovercraft bound for Amsterdam in his place.
Director: Michael Apted Writers: Ian Fleming (Novel) Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Screenplay)
Pierce Bronsan – James Bond
Sophie Marceau – Elektra King
Robert Carlyle – Renard
James Bond uncovers a nuclear plot when he protects an oil heiress from her former kidnapper, an international terrorist who can’t feel pain.
Locations Used: The Historic Dockyard Chatham
The Historic Dockyard was used as the location for the action packed boat chase whereby the boat goes across a road, through a boat house and down an arched alleyway. If you look closely you can see Chatham High Street just before Bond sails past the O2.
Director: Lee Tamahori
Writers: Ian Fleming (Novel) Neal Purvis (screenplay)
Pierce Brosnan – James Bond
Halle Berry – Jinx Johnson
Rosamund Pike – Miranda Frost
James Bond is sent to investigate the connection between a North Korean terrorist and a diamond mogul who is funding the development of an international space weapon.
Locations Used: Kent International Airport – Manston
The Antonov cargo plane scenes were filmed at the Kent International Airport – Manston.
Although not a Bond film this film features a young Ian Fleming during his young days in the war.
Director: Adrian Vitoria
Writers: Ed Scates and Adrian Vitoria (Screenplay)
Starring: Sean Bean, Izabella Miko, Danny Dyer, James D’Arcy
The true story of the formation of Ian Fleming’s 30 Commando unit, a precursor for the elite forces in the U.K.
Ian Fleming and Kent
Ian Fleming lived in Kent and used its unique landscape as the backdrop to Bond’s adventures. Many of the novels have scenes devoted to his favourite places within the county. An example:
“…they stopped for a moment on the edge of the great chalk cliff and stood gazing over the whole corner of England where Caesar had first landed two thousand years before. To their left the carpet of green turf, bright with small wildflowers, sloped gradually down to the long pebble beaches of Walmer and Deal, which curved off towards Sandwich and the Bay. Beyond, the cliffs of Margate showing white through the distant haze that hid the North Foreland guarded the grey scar of Manston aerodrome above which American Thunderjets wrote their white scribbles in the sky. Then came the Isle of Thanet and, out of sight, the mouth of the Thames.” (Moonraker)
In connection with Visit Kent, Kent County Council developed two driving tours based on the novels Goldfinger and Moonraker, so you can step in the footsteps of England’s favourite spy.
THE GOLDFINGER ROUTE
From St. Margaret’s go via Deal and the A258 to Sandwich. Follow the A256 to Ramsgate harbour, then the A253 and A299 to Reculver. Then take the A2 to Faversham, Chatham and Rochester. James Bond drove from London to Sandwich in the reverse order of course.
Download the The Goldfinger Route
“He came up with a crossroads. To the left the signpost said RECULVER… Bond slowed, but didn’t stop. No hanging about. He motored slowly on, keeping his eyes open. The shoreline was too exposed for a trawler to do anything but beach or anchor. Probably Goldfinger had used Ramsgate. Quiet little port. Customs and Police who were probably only on the look-out for brandy coming over from France.”
Behind Auric Goldfinger’s house at Reculver, The Grange, was the factory from which he ran his gold smuggling business. Here the gold imported from India by his trawler into Ramsgate was moulded into new door panels for his Rolls Royce Sliver Ghost.
May really does seem to have been Ian Fleming’s favourite month in East Kent. The bluebells and celandines still flower on the high road to Challock and the larks still sing over the links at Sandwich Bay.
Royal St. George’s was Ian Fleming’s Golf Club. In Goldfinger it features as Royal St. Mark’s. The golf match between Bond and Goldfinger is one of the most memorable scenes in all the Bond books. It was written from the heart and occupies two whole chapters of Goldfinger stroke by stroke, hole by hole. Fleming describes it simply –
“a game on a beautiful day in May with the larks signing over the greatest seaside golf-course in the world.”
Ian Fleming had played at Royal St. George’s since his bachelor days. Then he stayed at the now demolished Guilford Hotel at Sandwich Bay with his bridge and golf friends who formed a group called Le Cercle – or more significantly for the plots and detail of many of his future James Bond books – Le Cercle gastronomique et des jeux de hasard, to give it its full title. After the war he would drive down from London in his Ford Thunderbird to Royal St. George’s on a Friday and play 9 or 18 holes before tea.
Everything at Royal St. George’s is much as it was in Ian Fleming’s time. As with the name of the club, he barely bothered to disguise the name of the professional – Alfred Whiting in real life, Alfred Blacking in Goldfinger.
The golf game in Goldfinger is a classic and, luckily, can be traced well enough from the public footpath which runs across the course from the town of Sandwich to the sea. The course itself is the private property of the club, but from the footpath enough can be seen to provide a very enjoyable walk.
Royal St. George was central to Ian Fleming’s later life. He had been elected to Captain of the Royal St. George’s for 1964/5 and had attended a committee meeting there on 11th August 1964 when he had a heart attack. He died in Canterbury the following day aged 56. The club’s flag was lowered to half mast.
THE MOONRAKER ROUTE
From London, turn off the M20 junction 8 for the A20. Follow the A252 up Charing Hill to Chilham and the A28 to Canterbury. Then the A2 to Dover.
Download the The Moonraker Route
Download an accessible Word Document of The Moonraker Route
Maidstone to Charing
“At six o’clock that Tuesday evening towards the end of May, James Bond was thrashing the big Bentley down the Dover road along the straight stretch that runs into Maidstone.”
For this, take junction 4 off the M20. You might identify the Thomas Wyatt Hotel where Gala Brand tried to outwit Sir Hugo Drax on their way back to London. The duel between Bond in his Bentley and Drax in his white Mercedes took place on the A20 between Leeds Castle and Charing –
“The Mercedes was a beautiful thing…it was a type 300s, the sports model with a disappearing hood.”
They were unexpectedly joined by a supercharged straight-eight red Alfa Romeo, which Drax edged off the road to crash and kill its young driver.
These extracts from Moonraker echo Ian Fleming’s own favourite spots on the way to St. Margaret’s.
“Bond did a racing change and swung the big car left at the Charing Fork, preferring the clear road by Chilham and Canterbury. The car howled up to eighty in third and he held it in the same gear to negotiate the hairpin at the top of the long gradient leading up to the Molash road….accelerating down the stretch of road past Chilham Castle…Bond took the short cut out of Canterbury by the Old Dover Road and looked at his watch. It was six-thirty. Another fifteen minutes to Dover and then another ten minutes along the Deal road.”
Just south of Canterbury, best approached from the A2 at Bridge, lays one of the few clues to James Bond’s early upbringing, recounted in his Times obituary in You Only Live Twice. He
“came under the guardianship of an aunt, since deceased, Miss Charmian Bond, and went to live with her at the quaintly named hamlet of Pett Bottom near Canterbury in Kent. There, in a small cottage hard by the attractive Duck Inn, his aunt, who must have been a most erudite and accomplished lady, completed his education for an English public school…”
The Duck Inn was one of Ian Fleming’s favourite pubs and can be identified, as well as the aunt’s cottage, now part of the pub.
Just off the A20 east of Bridge is Highham Park, home of the cars on which another Ian Fleming creation, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was based. There were three such cars, still legendary in East Kent in the 1950’s when Ian Fleming was writing. Count Louis Zborowski inherited Higham Park and was a motor-racing fanatic who fitted aeroplane engines to automobile chassis, testing these monsters down the A2. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang II had a 18,882 cc Mercedes Benz aero engine. After Count Zborowski was killed at Monza in 1924 the car was owned locally and kept near St. Margaret’s.
The Count also had a private light railway to bring his guests from Bekesbourne station to Higham and two 15 inch gauge 4-6-2 pacific locomotives based on the ‘Flying Scotsman’ type were sold after his death to the owner of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway.
Between 1960 and 1962 Ian Fleming owned the Old Palace at Bekesbourne, just north of Higham Park, which he used for long weekends of golf with his wife Ann and son Caspar.
Turn off the A2 at Lydden to follow the old road into Dover.
“Bond concentrated on his driving as he coasted down into Dover. he kept left and was soon climbing out of town again past the wonderful cardboard castle…he motored slowly along the coast-road, the ruby spangled masts of the swingate radar station rising like petrified roman candles on his right.”
Sir Hugo Drax’s rocket research establishment is “on the edge of the cliffs between Dover and Deal.”
The World without Want Inn is “on the edge of the site” three miles north of Dover. Perhaps Ian Fleming had the Swingate Inn in mind. What is clear is that he pictured the rocket site between Kingsdown and St. Margaret’s Bay.
“On the edge of the trees there were the lights of a large house half hidden behind a wall six feet thick”
– perhaps Drax’s house is one of those in the middle of the Kingsdown Gold Course. The steep cliff path can easily be found at Oldstairs Bay in Kingsdown, leading down from the golf course.
“They scrambled down a steep cliff-path to the beach and turned to the right beside the deserted small-arms range of the Royal Marine Garrison at Deal. They walked along in Silence until they came to the two-mile stretch of shingle that runs at low tide beneath the towering white cliffs of St. Margaret’s Bay.”
St Margaret’s Bay
St. Margaret’s Bay is central to the James Bond story. It was here that Ian Fleming brought the house called White Cliffs in 1952. The house, white with lime-green shutters and a red roof can easily be identified at the north end of the beach. It was his weekend and holiday home for the crucial decade in which he conceived and wrote the James Bond books. It was close to his golf club, which he describes as
“the best seaside golf course in the world.”
When he edited the Atticus column in the Sunday Times, Ian Fleming’s long weekends ran from Friday afternoon to Monday night and were invariably spent at St. Margaret’s where Ian and Ann Fleming hosted friends such as Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward, Evelyn Waugh, Patrick Leigh Fermor and the Duff Coopers. He was fascinated by the shipping in the channel and erected a telescope on the terrace of the White Cliffs to watch the procession of the ships. The relationship with Noel Coward was a special one. Coward had been the previous owner of White Cliffs and there was a good-humoured exchange over the price and condition of the house when it was brought. The close friendship had started in Jamaica, where they were neighbours at Goldeneye, and Noel Coward was Caspar Fleming’s godfather.
“They both felt keyed up and in high spirits. A hot bath and a n hour’s rest at the accommodating Granville (hotel) had been followed by delicious fried soles and Welsh rarebits and coffee.”
Alas the Granville Hotel no longer exists but the new block of flats at the end of Granville Road occupies the same splendid site and outline. Bond’s other famous meal in the area took place in the Cafe Royal in Dover – based on the now vanished Royal cafe in Bench Street. Its owners too were Italian Swiss –
“In Dover Bond pulled up at the Cafe Royal a modest little restaurant with a modest kitchen but capable, as he knew old, of turning out excellent fish and egg dishes. The Italian-Swiss mother and son who ran it welcomed him as an old friend and he asked for a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon and plenty of coffee to be ready in hour an hour.”
Both of these establishments were favourite local haunts of the Flemings and their weekend guests. Did the Royal Cafe or the Cafe Royal lend its name to Ian Fleming’s first book, Casino Royale?
The Pines Garden Museum
The Pines Garden Museum at St. Margaret’s Bay has an exhibition of memorabilia relating to both Noel Coward and Ian Fleming and their associations with St. Margaret’s, as well a cafe. This makes an excellent halfway stop on the James Bond Country Tour.
Keep strictly to the paths on the cliff top walk between St. Margaret’s and Kingsdown. The chalk is unstable and James Bond and Gala Brand were lucky to survive the landslide engineered by Sir Hugo Drax. Dogs should be kept on leads as they tend to chase the sea-birds which glide over the cliff edge on the thermal breeze.
To see how to visit some of the movie location on your bond trails, go back to our MovieMap.