Situated on the north coast of Kent, on a headland that encompasses Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, commonly known as Thanet (actually an island), Margate grew from its origins as a fishing port. It grew into a seaside resort in the 1730s, when it became popular to bathe in the sea. What follows are just some of the things to see and do in Margate. There is so much, I can’t include it all.
There is a lot of history to be seen in Margate. West of the harbor originally stood the Royal Sea Bathing Hospital. It was founded in 1791 by a wealthy doctor who was concerned about the health of poor London children and he believed that spending time at the seaside and in the sea would improve their health. It has since been converted into flats but the original beautiful facade is still in place.
There is also the Harbour Arm, the Shell Grotto, the Droit House and the Tudor House. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal known about the Tudor House, apart from its age, but it’s a good place for school children to visit to study history.
Margate Harbour Arm and Shell Grotto
Back in the nineteenth century the Harbour Arm was the pier. Nowadays it is a great place to visit: there is a gallery that hosts various exhibitions, the Lighthouse Bar (at the end of the Harbour Arm) which is well worth a visit, and a cafe. The views out over the sea are breath taking and there is also a fabulous view back across the town itself.
The Shell Grotto is a fascinating place to visit – 70 feet of underground rooms with 2000 square feet of shell mosaic, it contains 4.6 million shells. It was discovered in 1835 but so far, no-one knows why it was built, although one theory says it was an ancient temple. I fully recommend a visit, and who knows, you may be the person to solve the mystery!
There are a number of beaches in Margate. The Main Sands beach is about 656 feet long and, like all normal beaches it is sandy. You can try water skiing or wind-surfing from here. Further west, at Westgate-on-Sea, there are some slightly quieter beaches and fantastic walks along the hilltops. There is also Westbrook Bay, which again is west of the Main Sands, and features 600-odd feet of soft, pale sand. Walpole Bay is longer (around 1200 feet) and is used for jet-skiing and other water sports. All of these beaches have Blue Flags – which means that they meet high standards of cleanliness and standards.
This is what I remember from the Margate of my childhood: Dreamland’s Wild Mouse. Back in those days, if it wasn’t the only amusement park, the others weren’t well advertised. Nowadays, it is being completely revamped to include cafes, shops and restaurants, as well a cinema. The original Wild Mouse was built in 1960 and surprisingly it is still working. However, currently most of the rides are still being refurbished including the water chute, the Whip and the Scenic Railway (it was damaged in a fire in 2008).
Take a trip to Margate, you won’t regret it.
Margate beach photo by Nigel Chadwick