The lure of the sea has been a fundamental part of the British way of life. Margate offers more than most; home to one of the leading art galleries in the UK, the Turner Contemporary is a staple part of the landscape along with amusement park Dreamland, housing Britain’s oldest roller coaster. Bathing machines were also first seen here, where people changed their clothes before heading into the sea in Victorian times. You can find The Shell Grotto, a subterranean passageway whose mosaics created entirely of seashells don the walls and ceilings. There is also nine miles of sandy beaches, And JMW Turner isn’t the only arty wizard to make the town famous for its creativity, with renowned contemporary artist Tracey Emin spending most of her youth in this seaside town. Full of cobbled streets and boutique shops it was dubbed a ‘hipster paradise’ and also ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’, so let’s take Chas and Dave up on their advice and all ‘get down to Margate’.
EAT: CARBS & MORE CARBS
No trip to the seaside is complete without fish & chips and even though Margate has been spruced up a bit, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a good chippie, just check out Peter’s fish factory opposite the harbour. But chips aren’t the only thing Margate do well and it’s worth grabbing a slice of the action at GB Pizza or a doorstop sandwich from The Greedy Cow Deli. If you’ve got room left after all of that grab a scoop from Melt Gelato – hands down some of the best ice cream in town, the only problem you’ll have is choosing from their 32 flavours!
DRINK: ALE & CIDER
Margate is overflowing with micropubs, those small pubs with just one room, and The Two Halves is no exception. Serving up some of the best cask ales around this place is all about the booze and good chat with no music or TV to distract you – it’s the perfect place to grab a pint and make some new friends. And if you can’t squeeze your bum on seat in there, try the Harbour Arms, all the same rules but this one has board games and pub piano to keep you entertained too, plus it’s got bangin’ views across the harbour.
SEE: ART, ART, ART
Margate is all about the art – when you’ve got connections like JMW Turner and Tracey Emin that’s not surprising. There’s plenty of places to take in works by up-and-coming local artists, like the Pie Factory, and the town also happens to be home to the swishy Turner Contemporary; one of the best galleries in the country. Not only does it feature bloody good contemporary art, it also hosts major exhibitions on the guy it’s named after. You’d be a fool not to go and have a look. And make sure you take in the seafront view…you might get a little inspired after looking at the sea and sky that caught Turner’s eye. If you’re looking for something more weird and wonderful, head to the Shell Grotto. It’s exactly what it says on the tin…winding underground passageways and chambers covered in 4.6 million shells. No one knows exactly how the grotto came to be there or what it was used for, but that’s all part of the fun isn’t it?
DO: GO RETRO
Going to Margate and not going to Dreamland is like going to Margate and not going to the Turner Contemporary…it’s pretty much mandatory. Restored to all its retro glory, it’s got a helter skelter, a roller disco, a chair-o-plane, a big wheel…even the rickety old Grade-II listed scenic railway has survived…so turn back the clock and have some good old-fashioned fun at the fair. If you want some vintage goodies to take away with you, have a spin around Junk Deluxe, which is full of modern, quirky and one-of-a-kind designs. Continue on the throwback theme by taking in a little comedy, cinema or live music at the Tom Thumb Theatre, which has been transformed from a Victorian coach house into one of the smallest theatres in the world.
STAY: ON THE SEAFRONT
There are a number of B&B’s, hotels and cottages to rent. There’s an option to go retro in a mid century styled apartment right in the heart of town, a minute’s walk from the beach. Sands, is a boutique hotel with 20 modern contemporary designed rooms and offers amazing views. Or if you are looking for something a little more quirky, that has a jukebox called The Firebird, roller skates, a fancy dress box and THE copper roll top bath, then check in to Radio One’s Gemma Cairney’s flat on the seafront with Airbnb.
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