Last Updated on July 26, 2021 by Lucy Foxell
Following in Dickens’ Footsteps – From Broadstairs to Ramsgate
My trip to Thanet began in Margate where I spent a fantastic couple of days, Next, my travels took me just a few miles down the coast to Broadstairs and Ramsgate. It was my first time visiting both of these Georgian and Victorian resorts which sit prettily on the Isle of Thanet also known as the ‘Kent Riviera’.
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An Introduction to Broadstairs
Broadstairs is famous for having inspired Charles Dickens who was a regular visitor during the mid-19th century. He is known to have spent time writing in the many pubs and hotels of Broadstairs and you’ll find plenty of places paying tribute to this famous author.
On the short walk from our hotel, The Bay Tree (see below) to the town centre and beach, we passed Bleak House which overlooks the harbour and is where Dickens wrote David Copperfield. Unfortunately, it is not open to visitors so we couldn’t explore further. For Dickens, Broadstairs was “the freshest, freest place” and, since 1937 Broadstairs has hosted its annual Dickens Festival every June. Although this year’s event was cancelled, the Dickens Festival for 2022 is already scheduled to take place.
You can understand why the quintessentially British seaside resort of Broadstairs has become such a popular destination with its picture postcard setting, pretty cottages and sweeping sandy beaches which are dotted with instagrammable beach huts.
There are plenty of places to explore. When we visited there was a bustling street market with stalls selling local produce, takeaway food and crafts. Alongside the traditional arcades, there are some lovely antique shops, kitchenware shops and boutiques.
There are several art galleries, plus a small independent cinema called the Palace Cinema which shows the latest arthouse movies. Galleries to look out for are The Broadstairs Gallery, New Kent Art, and The Little Art Gallery.
Places to eat in Broadstairs, Isle of Thanet
You certainly won’t go hungry as there’s a great selection of arty cafes, cosy pubs and some very good restaurants indeed, including Stark, which was recently awarded a Michelin star. It’s owned and run by talented Ben Crittenden who previously cooked at the Michelin-starred West House in Biddenden….but be sure to book ahead.
Other popular choices are Wyatt & Jones, a fabulous family-run neighbourhood restaurant that serves locally sourced food and overlooks Viking Bay.
Or if you fancy some excellent seafood – Samworth & Mee on Albion Street is definitely worth a visit.
The Old Bakehouse is a traditional bakery and tea room, situated in the heart of the town on pretty cobbled streets, perfect for enjoying a leisurely afternoon tea.
If fresh fish is your thing head to Fruit de la Mer along The Broadway (the High Street). This popular shop is run by local fisherman, Jason Llewellyn. Stop off here on the way home if so if you fancy taking a slice of the seaside home with you.
And for the best ice cream in Broadstairs go to Morelli’s. It’s undoubtedly a hugely popular spot, when we were there, it regularly had a long queue outside.
The town beach – Viking Bay is absolutely stunning; the crescent-shaped bay is cupped by the white chalk cliffs and its beautiful sandy beach is lined with colourful beach huts, cafes, bars and ice-cream stalls. It has a clifftop promenade and a boardwalk. Ideal for the family days out, with a tidal pool, children’s rides and surf school.
Stone Bay Beach
Stone Bay, where we were staying, was named among the 40 best beaches in the UK in a recent Sunday Times’ guide. This Blue Flag beach is quieter than the town beach but equally appealing with its sweeping sands, rockpools and multicoloured beach huts, the perfect location for blowing away the cobwebs and listening to the lap of the waves. But do check ahead as, during high tide, this particular bay is totally underwater.
Facilities include beach chalets and toilets nearby and the beach is also listed as wheelchair accessible. There is limited free parking on the clifftop on Broadstairs’s Eastern Esplanade.
Joss Bay is reputedly named after an eighteenth-century smuggler, Joss Snelling, who was notorious for importing a variety of contraband to the various beaches of the Isle of Thanet in the late 1800s. It is located halfway between Broadstairs and Margate. A good starting point for coastal walks and cycle rides.
It is sheltered by steep chalk cliffs which back onto the North Foreland golf course. This popular sandy beach stretches for around 200 metres, there is a car park, beach cafe, toilets and deck-chair hire if you really want to go for the full English seaside experience! Joss Bay is also known to be one of Kent’s best-known surfing beaches, with a well-established surf school.
For something more theatrical where you can see soaring white cliffs and another attractive Blue Flag beach, take a walk (or hop on the bus) along the coastal path to Botany Bay which is the northernmost of seven bays in the resort of Broadstairs. It was named after Botany Bay in Australia as local smugglers were caught on the beach and deported to Botany Bay, hence the name.
Botany Bay boasts lovely golden sands and some rock pools. it’s popular for sandcastles, swimming, fossil hunting and beach sports, including kayaking, canoeing, bodyboarding and kite-flying.
Nearby coastal walks offer superb views of Botany Bay from the Viking Coastal Trail and Kent Coastline Walk.
If you want to take a walk, I can recommend following the Viking Coastal Trail – this 8-mile walk links the towns of Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Margate along the cliffs and beaches. strolling along the dramatic chalk cliffs provides impressive sweeping views across the English Channel.
We walked from Broadstairs to Ramsgate, depending on the tide, you can either follow the route up onto the cliff top or down onto the beach at Dumpton Gap. On our way back along the Thanet Coastal Path, we walked through King George VI Memorial Park, a lovely green secluded area just a short walk from Ramsgate Harbour.
We didn’t stay in Ramsgate but spent the day exploring this beautiful seaside town. You can’t help but fall in love with the picturesque Royal Harbour which is bordered by a yacht-packed marina and boasts its own Meridian Line. This historic port is brimming with vibrant continental charm, the waterside is lined with funky looking cafés and there’s a fabulous looking cliff lift that was built in 1910 but is no longer in use. We took it all in as we sat outside and in true seaside spirit enjoyed fish and chips from Peter’s Fish Factory and watched the world go by.
The town itself is just up the hillside, there is some stunning architecture and houses to lust after – elegant Georgian terraces and impressive Regency villas. We walked up the hill to Albion Place – a beautiful Regency square overlooking the harbour.
The lively town centre has a regular traditional market, alongside the central shopping area. There are plenty of options for eating out in Ramsgate, with little cafes, friendly pubs, some excellent restaurants.
Places to eat in Ramsgate, Isle of Thanet
Arya – Foodies will undoubtedly want to seek out Arya which was awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand 2020. It is tucked away in a room above Ravensgate Arms Pub on King Street. This hidden gem serves Modern European-inspired tapas-style small and large plates, in a warm relaxed atmosphere, with an extensive choice of beers and wines.
Archive is situated underneath the arches overlooking the harbour – a lovely stylish café called which is also a shop selling stylish Scandi style kitchenware. Archive is run by farmer’s daughter Naomi Grady. She offers breakfasts and lunch serving smashed avocado, bacon, Moroccan lamb wraps, Buddha bowl of the day, handmade quiches and cakes, all from ethically sourced local ingredients.
The Greek Arch – is a family-run restaurant which is located underneath the arches with a great view of the Royal Harbour. The Greek Arch serves authentic Greek Cypriot cuisine and hosts ‘Greek Night’ events featuring live Greek entertainment and Greek Meze.
Vinyl Head – for vinyl lovers and vegans – this great café in Addington Street offers the full combo.
Albion House is a beautifully styled Regency-style hotel on the corner of grand Wellington Crescent, overlooking Ramsgate’s harbour. Albion House is perfectly positioned for a fabulous view of the harbour with its wraparound terrace. This nine bedroomed hotel also has its own elegant bar and restaurant – Townley’s which serves small plates, meat and fish dishes, healthy salads and sliders.
Margate and Broadstairs are not the only Thanet towns that are attracting Londoners, Ramsgate is becoming increasingly popular with its emerging arts scene and creative residents and there are lots of small businesses and galleries cropping up in and around the town.
Places to visit in Ramsgate
Ramsgate is steeped in history and is known to have been a landing place for the Anglo-Saxons, Romans and Saints, it is also part of the historic Confederation of Cinque Ports.
Please note some of these attractions may still be closed because of Covid so please check ahead if visiting.
The Ramsgate Tunnels
These historic tunnels are definitely worth a visit. When you go along to Ramsgate Tunnels you will discover an extraordinary slice of history. You can take an underground tour in the unique civilian wartime tunnel complex to find out about a hidden underground city that evolved from the largest and only known Civilian Deep Shelter Air-Raid-Precaution scheme authorised by Central Government. The town above was devastated by heavy bombing raids during WW1, so inhabitants took up residence in the tunnels, and in 1940, over 300 families were living permanently in the evolving underground city.
Visit The Grange, to see the first so-called ‘modern’ house, which was built in 1843 by influential Gothic revival architect Augustus Pugin, who built it as his family home, to live out his idea of living in a medieval, Catholic community.
Augustus Pugin is regarded as being one of Britain’s most influential architects and designers, he designed Big Ben and the interiors of the House of Parliament as well as many other impressive churches and buildings.
The Pugin and St Augustine Visitor Centre and Shrine
The first Archbishop of Canterbury – St Augustine – landed at Ebbsfleet in 597AD bringing Christianity back to England. St Augustine’s was also designed by the renowned Gothic Revival architect Augustus Pugin, it was the only church Pugin built with his own money. He died in 1852, in his house next door (The Grange) and is buried in the church, beneath an effigy designed by his eldest son, Edward.
The Ramsgate Maritime Museum
This museum is situated in the Clock House on the quayside at the Royal Harbour. The Ramsgate Maritime Museum focuses on Ramsgate, its immediate environs, and the region’s maritime past. The Clock House is also the site of the unique Ramsgate Meridian – from which Ramsgate’s own particular Mean Time – 5 mins 41 secs ahead of Greenwich- was calculated!
The Micro Museum
For all computer enthusiasts’ The Micro Museum, is the perfect place to go to discover the history of computing and video games. It showcases the private collection of the Deer family, who founded the museum. There are vintage home computers, games, and more – brought together over 45+ years. There’s also a unique collection of hundreds of devices from the 1940s through to the early 21st Century. Currently closed.
Petticoat Lane Emporium
This is Kent’s largest indoor market, Petticoat Lane Emporium roofs over 200 independently rented stalls selling vintage, retro collectables, fashion, art and antiques. Just a short drive outside of Ramsgate town centre. Great for those who love a rummage, you’re sure to find a bargain to take home with you. https://www.petticoatemporium.com
Where to stay in Broadstairs, Isle of Thanet
The Bay Tree Hotel
The Bay Tree Hotel in Broadstairs is located in a conservation area upon the chalk cliffs which overlook Stone Bay providing a stunning vista of the coastline. It’s ideally situated, just a few minutes walk from Broadstairs harbour, beach and town centre, with a car park at the rear.
This large red-brick Victorian house hotel opened in 2017 having been lovingly restored to its former grandeur by the hotel owners, Alistair Dixon and Robert Stone, who six years ago left London in search of pastures new.
Robert was responsible for much of the design, working closely with Suzy Nina Interiors to turn his inspiration and ideas into reality. Painstakingly they replaced all the aluminium windows with wooden sashes. Skirting and cornicing was carefully copied to ensure everything was in keeping with its original style. The result is a charming and elegant hotel with a touch of flair, you can really feel just how much love the couple have put into it.
The colourful hallway boasts a beautifully tiled Victorian floor with rich terracotta walls and checked carpets running up the stairs. A comfy and characterful living room overlooks the sea and houses unique pieces of up-cycled furniture.
We received a warm welcome from Alistair and Robert who provided a great personal touch to our stay.
Our room was overlooking the bay. In fact, eight of the 10 hotel bedrooms have sea views. Each room is named after British woods, ours was the Chestnut Room which was stylishly decorated in a subtle palette; muted green wallpaper, a chestnut-coloured carpet and upholstered headboards, a brown checked chair, walnut furniture and the cream print curtains, and to finish the look a splash of colour from the purple scatter cushions.
The beds were super comfy and the linen fresh and white. We were provided with a kettle, tea, coffee and biscuits, a mounted TV and a hairdryer. The contemporary en-suite shower room had personalised Bay Tree products.
The desk at the window was perfectly placed for gazing out to sea, the view really is idyllic. So, if you’ve got a novel in you, like some famous visitors to Broadstairs shores, this might just be the place.
Dinner and breakfast were served in the hotel dining room which houses a large Mahogany dresser at one end. Decor is bright and vibrant with deep turquoise and mustard yellow walls, tables dressed with coloured table cloths and rustic floorboards. A collection of vintage mirrors hang on the wall and a brass chandelier takes centre stage. The doors open onto the seated terrace area with a lovely view out to sea.
Chef Alison prepared our evening meal. The menu offers a selection of traditional home-cooked dishes using locally sourced ingredients and herbs from the hotel garden.
We started with a cheerful bowl of rustic Italian style tomato soup laced with fresh herbs. This was followed by a hearty Kentish Fisherman’s Pie made with local cod, smoked haddock and salmon chunks bathed in a creamy white sauce… delicious, unfussy and satisfying homecooked food.
Dessert was a Gypsy Tart, an indulgent rich black treacle tart made with condensed milk which was invented and made by Mr Crusty the local baker. It is apparently unique to Kent. This age-old recipe is a favourite with the locals but I have to confess, we weren’t so keen.
I have really been enjoying Kent local wine during my stay in Thanet and the Barnsole Dry Reserve was particularly quaffable – a delicious crisp and vibrant wine with good minerality, fresh and full-bodied with aromas of crisp apple and gooseberry.
This is a lovely stylish hotel with a warm and welcoming atmosphere, perfectly placed for exploring this beautiful part of the world.
The Bay Tree Hotel,
12 Eastern Esplanade,