Why not make a weekend of it in modish Margate, rakish Ramsgate, and ‘bad boy’ Broadstairs?
Just over an hour from London by high-speed rail, Margate is a traditional British seaside town that is transforming itself into a cool artistic centre with plenty for everyone to enjoy. Margate has the best of both worlds.
Not only does it have one of Britain’s finest contemporary art galleries in the Turner Contemporary, but Margate can also boast sandy beaches, sparkling bays, and Dreamland, the original British theme-park.
“All tastes are catered for. Everyone is welcome in Margate.”
Margate is the centre of a cultural renaissance. It’s breathtaking, it’s exciting, and we’d love you to enjoy it with us.
- The publishers of the Rough Guides recently ranked Margate seventh of the world’s ‘must see’ destinations.
- Tracey Emin describes her hometown as ‘romantic, sexy and weird’.
- During his exile in Brazil, Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs famously hankered after a cool pint of beer on the seafront at… (you guessed it) Margate.
- As Chas and Dave sang in the hit song they wrote for the classic TV sitcom, Only Fools and Horses: ‘You can keep your Costa Brava and all that palava. Me, I’d rather have a day down at Margate.’
The world-lauded Turner Contemporary is a destination gallery that showcases both ultra-modern and historical art. It’s already brought together pieces by local avant-gardist Tracey Emin and Margate favourite, J.M.W. Turner. Not too long ago, Grayson Perry was the subject of the major exhibition there and I bumped into him at the Turner’s rat her fine public cafeteria.
A stone’s throw away, just past Manning’s seafood stall, is Margate’s rejuvenated Old Town. Here you’ll find acclaimed galleries, vintage shops and chilled-out cafes rubbing shoulders with fish and chip shops, traditional pubs, ice cream parlours, and the Margate Museum. Organisations like LIMBO, RESORT and CRATE encourage and enable a myriad of exhibitions, events, artists residencies, as well as providing studio space for the many artists who are flooding to the area.
A couple of years ago, Britain’s “original Pleasure Park,” the world-famous Dreamland Margate, was reborn, thanks to a loving team of experts, including designer Wayne Hemingway. Attractions include a huge reconstructed wooden rollercoaster, historic sideshows, classic rides, and plenty more.
No one knows who created the eerily stunning Shell Grotto, or why. First discovered in 1835, the underground caves are Grade I listed and decorated with mosaics of almost 5 million shells. Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, investigated the Grotto, favouring a theory that it had supernatural origins, but could find no proof either way.
Most of your weekend in Thanet will be taken up with Wilko Johnson, Lindisfarne, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, and all the other great acts at the delicious Margate Rhythm & Rock 2019. Check out the venue, while you’re there. For over a century, Margate’s Winter Gardens have hosted events featuring huge international acts, ranging from Dame Nellie Melba, to Max Miller, to Laurel & Hardy, to The Beatles, to the Kaiser Chiefs.
A few minutes’ walk away you’ll find the Theatre Royal, the second-oldest working theatre in the UK, and take a walk along the coast to Cliftonville, for Britain’s smallest Victorian theatre, The Tom Thumb (1896), still punching well above its weight.
Other reasons to visit Margate include being able to sit in the Nayland Rock Shelter, where TS Eliot compiled The Waste Land in 1921; marvelling at the 16th-century 2-storey timber-framed Tudor house built on a flint plinth in King Street; witnessing the time ball drop at Margate’s Jubilee Clock at 1pm, one of a handful of working time balls in the world. And let’s not forget the extraordinary ‘Turner sunset’.
Getting around Thanet
…is easy. There’s a frequent bus service called the Thanet Loop that runs every day in a circular journey — both clockwise and anti-clockwise —between Margate, St Peters, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate, every 8-10 minutes (less frequently on Sundays, Bank Holidays, and in the evenings). Unlimited travel on all buses within Thanet costs just £4.20 a day for adults (£14.50 for a weekly pass using the Stagecoach Bus app), and the journey between Margate and Ramsgate takes just over 30 minutes.
Trains run regularly between the Thanet towns, Canterbury, Ashford, Medway, Dover, and London. Check out the Visit Thanet website for more details.
And what about Ramsgate?
Just over 5 miles from Margate, Ramsgate has been described as ‘England’s most Continental town’. Perhaps that can be explained by its proximity to Europe – less than 20 miles across the Channel – or because of its famed Royal Harbour with its rows of pavements cafes, restaurants, and waterfront bars. Ramsgate has a picturesque working fishing harbour nestling next to a marina packed with yachts, with a ferry port to the south.
Washed with history and glistening with charm, there are more listed buildings in Ramsgate than in any other British town aside from Bath. St Augustine landed in Ramsgate and set up the first Christian church in England. Before him, the Romans colonised the area. In the early Middle Ages, the historic Confederation of Cinque Ports rewarded Ramsgate with a Seal.
The Town’s architecture is breathtaking, with rows and rows of elegant Georgian and Victorian houses, complete with balconies, cupolas and much more. Spencer Square was painted by Vincent Van Gogh, who lived and worked there in his early twenties. In nearby St Augustine’s Road, The Grange, (opposite the Monastery), was designed and built by architect Augustus Pugin, who also designed the ‘perfect church’, next door, as well as the interior of the House of Parliament.
South-facing Ramsgate has a micro-climate all its own and the UK’s only Royal Harbour. It surprisingly has its own Meridian Line, which is 5 minutes, 41 seconds ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. You’ll discover it in Ramsgate’s Maritime Museum, along with artefacts evoking the town’s rich heritage of fishing, shipbuilding and shipwrecks. At another end of the scale is The Micro Museum, telling the history and ideas that came up with the invention of PC’s, Macs, and other home computers.
There’s so much more to enjoy in Thanet. Don’t miss a second!