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Article by Sarah Hamilton-Walker | 20th July 2018

Fall in Love with our Kent Coast

This part of the country has it all: glorious coastlines, historic towns and the city of Canterbury plus rural beauty in abundance.

The Strait of Dover is the narrowest crossing point to the continent. This meant that for centuries East Kent was perfectly poised to both observe and play its part in British history, whether it’s Roman forts and invasions, strategic Cinque Ports, or Victorian watering holes. Not for nothing is Dover Castle, with its Roman lighthouse, Tudor chambers and Second World War tunnels known as the ‘Key to England’!

But times change. Today there is less fishing and fighting, and more time to delight in entertainment. Our modern way of life has expectations of art, fun, leisure, education and rest. We also appreciate unusual and quirky attractions that are found nowhere else – and East Kent has plenty of those, too, so it’s no wonder both UK tourists and those from abroad love to spend their time here. However, it’s easy to be complacent and take your home patch for granted – or not look up to see the changes taking place. Read on and take a fresh look at our amazing corner of the country and just a few of its many glittering gems that shine from this part of our ‘sceptered isle’.

Head for the coast – the East Kent Coast!

Taking the water for your health goes back to 1750, when people entered the sea in bathing machines, helped by ‘dunkers and dippers’ into the water before being given a pint of seawater
to drink.

Victorian London was a dirty, smoggy place to be and Thanet a ride away by steamship. The oldest surviving amusement park in Britain today dates back to the railway boom of the 1870s. Renamed Dreamland in 1920, it drew crowds looking for excitement and an escape from the city.

Due to cheaper flights and the rise of foreign travel to hotter destinations East Kent went into decline. Now, however, it’s on the upsurge, with a wealth of accommodation and huge range of entertainment on offer – whether it’s the arts, wildlife, city life, beach life, fine food and drink, or rolling open countryside. We have it all – and it’s waiting to be explored!

• For more information, visit www.visitkent.co.uk and www.visitthanet.co.uk

From the quaint to the quirky.. Our pick of hidden gems

Italianate Glasshouse

Once a feature in the grounds of East Cliff Lodge, Sir Moses Montefiore’s 22-acre estate (now demolished), this sparkling gem was sadly neglected – and then lovingly restored with help from Thanet District Council and English Heritage. Since then, Janice and Phil Dadds have carefully tended to the existing agaves and vines as well as introducing a variety of plants and shrubs to the Glasshouse and gardens. During the summer months it is open for all to enjoy cream teas and home-made cakes in relaxing surroundings. Open for visitors from 1st April-30th September.

• The Italianate Glasshouse, Old Stable Block, Montefiore Avenue, Ramsgate CT11 8BD, visit www.italianateglasshouse.co.uk or call 07868 722060.

Hythe Seafood Restaurant

“Quality not compromise” is the motto that the Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant brand is proud to uphold. Three restaurants (Hythe Promenade, Dover Esplanade, and Deal Quarterdeck) each offer a warm welcome, and a fresh feast of 5 star cooking the whole family will adore – not to mention complimentary fresh baked rolls and smoked mackerel pate. Surely it’s time to get to the East Kent Coast to taste for yourself?

• Visit www.hythebay.co.uk

Folkestone Creative Quarter - The Quarterhouse

In the heart of Folkestone’s Creative Quarter, the Quarterhouse is a contemporary venue with a packed programme of events including theatre, music, dance, comedy and festivals throughout the year. Located on the first floor, The Clearing cafe-bar is open from 10am-5pm, Monday to Saturday and event nights. The perfect space for a relaxed lunch, meeting, or a quick coffee, The Clearing serves up delicious home-cooked dishes, made with seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients.

• Visit www.creativequarterfolkestone.org.uk and www.quarterhouse.co.uk/

Coastguard Lookout, Dungeness

You don’t need to go far in East Kent to feel you have travelled to a different area. Why not book a break close to home, and enjoy a holiday vibe without the miles and time involved crossing the country or nipping abroad? We live in a popular tourist area, but sometimes forget what we have under our noses and right on our doorsteps. There’s no shortage of holiday accommodation, but properties like Coastguard Lookout are true original gems. Get away from it all in this beautifully converted tower, originally an HM Coastguard radar monitoring station for shipping in the Channel. Thoughtfully converted to a contemporary building with modern furnishings and high-end comforts, imagine waking to the sound of the sea, blissfully putting the rest of the world aside, with a dramatic view in every direction.

• Visit www.mulberrycottages.com

Samphire Hoe

A new piece of England created from an incredible 4.9 million cubic metres of chalk marl dug when the Channel Tunnel was created, Samphire Hoe is a wonderful place to take a fresh walk right by the sea and enjoy wildflowers, sea angling and picnics. There’s nothing else like it. Mostly accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs it can be calm and peaceful but be prepared to be blown away! Owned by Eurotunnel and managed with the White Cliffs Countryside Partnership.

• Visit www.samphirehoe.com

Walpole Bay Hotel

Built in 1914, this hotel is being restored to its glory days. Step back in time to spacious lounges, an Edwardian restaurant, snooker room and even a 1920s ballroom. Not surprisingly, it’s in high demand for TV and the media – you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in a vintage Agatha Christie!

An Otis Trellis gated lift from 1927 serves all five floors, and with abundant memorabilia and attention to detail, you’ll soon work out why it’s described as a living museum.

Play vinyls in the lower bar, take dance classes in the ballroom – or sign up for a murder mystery! Restaurant, Bar Room and Terrace are open daily; traditional Sunday Luncheons served at 1pm accompanied by the resident pianist on the 1908 pianola.

• Visit www.walpolebayhotel.co.uk

Sands Hotel, Margate

Bought in an auction by Nick Conington with the original plan of turning this beautiful building into luxury apartments, when he heard that at the close of the 1800s it had been a hotel, Nick spent two years lovingly restoring it to its former glory.

With Margate’s marvellous seascape used as inspiration to its interior, who says glamour is a thing of bygone days? For a splash of local decadence, you could stay in one of 20 luxurious rooms, or simply enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Contemporary Bay Restaurant (which boasts two AA rosettes) – or soak in sea views and sip a carefully selected drink at the hotel bar.

• Visit www.sandshotelmargate.co.uk

Folkestone Harbour Arm

After a £3.5 million renovation, the harbour arm is unrecognisable from its previous drift into dereliction. The improvement is part of a wider rejuvenation and now an exciting selection of independent cafes, bars and restaurants (there really is something for everyone!) draw people together to socialise, hang out with friends and family, or simply to soak up the atmosphere next to the sea. Weekends will find the live music, pop-up stalls – and at the end of the arm is the Lighthouse Champagne Bar where customers cluster, perhaps toasting, amongst other things, the sea and its charms.

• Visit www.folkestoneharbourarm.co.uk

Shell Grotto

A shroud of mystery surrounds this unique chalk cave embedded with shells. How old is it? Who built it, and why? Whether or not you’ll find out the answers, you’ll still get to see 4.6 million shells and 70ft of underground passages leading to a chamber and 2,000 square feet of mosaic.

• Grotto Hill, Margate CT9 2BU, www.shellgrotto.co.uk

Betteshanger Sustainable Parks

A scheme to regenerate the former mining community in East Kent includes a 3.5km road cycling track, 10km of mountain bike trails, leisure paths, woodlands, wetlands and reed beds that are home for wildlife. The scheme will eventually see the 121-hectare site transformed into a Country Park and a Visitor Centre that will encompass the Kent Mining Museum.

There are adventurous and imaginative events all year long: don’t miss the return of The Beast (the world’s largest inflatable obstacle course) from 26th- 28th May. This year’s beast is a world-first, 384m long course – making it over 100 metres longer and a length that has never been attempted before.

• Visit www.betteshangerparks.co.uk

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