by Janis on 2nd April 2019 / 12 comments

“Dowwwwwn to Margate”

sung in my best cockney accent

Well, I hope you got the ‘Chas and Dave’ reference, they were singing icons to Londoners in the ‘70s. Gary and I even got to see them at the Margate Winter Gardens a couple of years ago. Poor old Chas is now no longer with us.

Sorry, I digress, let me tell you a little about Margate in southeast England.

If you’re looking for a bit of “bucket and spade” old England, golden sandy beaches and a seaside town on the up, then Margate is for you.

It may seem a little weathered in places but aren’t we all. However, you can clearly see that over the past few years a concerted effort has been made and still being made to bring this slice of Victorian Kent, back to life.

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A row of benches under a Victorian shelter on The Parade in Margate Kent
The Parade
So, I’d say that not only is Margate ideal for a day trip, but you could also turn it into a mini-break and discover more of the region.

Where is Margate?

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Discovering Margate

A little bit of history

Margate can trace its roots back to the 13th-century; however, it was when it became a ‘limb port’ to Dover and formed part of the “Cinque Ports” that it became more prominent.

The Cinque Ports are a small collection of harbours along the Kent and Sussex coast and were protected under the Royal Charter for military and trade purposes. 

A pub sign for the Cinque Ports, featuring the traditional front of 3 Norman Lions and the back of 3 Norman longboats, in Margate, Kent
The Cinque Ports sign
In the last couple of centuries, particularly through Queen Victoria’s reign, Margate made more of a name for itself as a seaside retreat, with visitors from the southeast flocking to its sandy beaches. You can just imagine elegant ladies promenading around the bay.
The golden sands of Margate's beach with the Harbour arm leading to the Turner contemporary gallery in the distance.
The beach and the harbour
To mark Victoria’s Golden Jubilee a clock tower and time-ball were erected on the seafront.  The time-ball has since been restored and now drops every day at 1 pm.
The restored Victorian clocktower & time ball at the junction of Marine Terrace, Marine Gardens & Marine Drive in Margate, Kent
The clock tower
It’s similar to the one in Deal and was used by ships out at sea to set their timepieces.

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Explore Margate's Beach

Feel the sand in your toes
Not all beaches around the Kent coastline can brag about having a sandy beach, but Margate certainly can, so why not show it off?
The view from the Margate's Promenade, featuring it's ornate Victorian street lamps, looking over the golden sands of Margate's main beach.
The Golden Sands
Nowadays, it’s loved by families young and old, you can enjoy building sand castles, lazing behind windbreaks and kicking sand into your brother’s ice-cream (or was that just me?).
The golden sands of Margate's beach with the Harbour arm leading to the Turner contemporary gallery in the distance.
Fish 'n' Chips on the beach

Where to stay in Margate

- The Crescent Victoria Hotel – This charming hotel is just a 5-minute walk to Margate's Old Town and its golden sandy beach. Stylish rooms with views across the bay.
- Angela's Guest Suites – Beautiful deluxe apartments within a short stroll of the Old Town and the Turner gallery. These spacious suites enjoy incredible sea views.

Dreamland, Margate

The fun of the fair
If beaches aren’t your thing, another draw to sunny Margate is Dreamland Amusement Park. With the decline in past decades of traditional seaside fun, Dreamland fell into disrepair and closed in 2006. However, after years of campaigning, in 2015 its doors were flung open again, and thrill-seekers and dodgem fans can now scream to their heart’s content.
The classic 1920's towering brick-built entrance to Dreamland in Margate
Dreamland, Margate
Dreamland is also now staging year-round live music at Hall By The Sea, so I can definitely see this resort becoming livelier during the winter months.

The Jolly Boys Outing

Only Fools and Horses...
For Only Fools and Horses fans, you may remember Dreamland appearing in the "The Jolly Boys' Outing" episode.
The street mural to the Only Fools & Horses 'Jolly Boys' Outing' episode on some hoardings on the seafront of Margate
The Jolly Boys' Outing

 A bit of UK TV gold, which screened as the Christmas Special back in 1989,  saw a group from the 'Nag's Head' take a beano down to Margate on a charabanc (Okay, coach to you and me.)

The gang have a great day out in Margate, including a ride on Dreamland's famous wooden rollercoaster, that ends with a bang.

A great reason to visit Margate

The Old Town
Now, I’m not saying I’m not a roller-coaster fan, but I do enjoy strolling through the old streets and lanes. Discovering quirky little independent shops, and I’m pleased to say that Margate is embracing this more and more.
People sitting at tables & chairs outside The Cupcake Cafe in the old town of Margate, Kent
The Cupcake Cafe
The traditional frontage of a shop that is now a toy store in the old town of Margate, Kent
Quirky Old Town Shops
Head around Market Street, Market Place, Duke Street and King Street, and you’ll find some interesting little places. Galleries have sprung up, along with antique shops, jewellers, cafes & bars. 
Boutique shops in the centre of Margate's now trendy old town
The quaint Old Town of Margate
After you’ve enjoyed your al-fresco dining in Market Place, pop into the Old Town Hall and visit Margate’s Museum. It’s open at weekends and you can catch up on more of Margate’s heritage and maritime history.
The beautiful Victorian Old Townhall of Margate, Kent
The Old Town Hall

If you continue along King Street, you’ll stumble upon the 16th-Century timber-framed Tudor House.

It was built in 1525 it was once home to mariners, Flemish weavers and cordwainers.

This is also open to the public at weekends.

The 16th-century, two-storey timber-framed Tudor house in Margate, Kent
Tudor House

Visit some of Kent’s coastal towns

Kent is not short of picturesque historic towns, particularly along the Kentish coastline., and we have a collection of posts you may enjoy - why not check one out?

Margate Coastline

I can hear the harbour calling!
If you’ve had the chance to catch up on some of my other posts, you’ll know how I love the draw of water and a harbour, oh and also fish and chips by the seaside.
A lone small sailing boat anchored in Margate's harbour with a view overlooking the steps at the edge of The Parade
Bobbin' in the bay
However, before Gary was to treat me to lunch, we took a stroll to Margate’s harbour arm. 
A collection of small boats anchored in Margate's harbour overlooking the Turner Contemporary Gallery
Looking across the bay

Modern Margate

A little bit of culture
Now, if you’re an art fan, you’ll probably already know, but just on the shoreline here is the Turner Contemporary Gallery which opened in 2011. This beautiful gallery is dedicated to the English painter J.M.W.Turner, who lived in Margate. And was erected on the site where his landlady’s B&B once stood.
The white modernist building of the Turner Contemporary Gallery on the harbour's edge in Margate, Kent
Turner Contemporary Gallery
Another famous artist that was brought up in Margate is Tracey Emin, a few Tracey’s exhibits have been on display in the gallery.

Gratis!

As with so many of the UK’s galleries, a visit to The Turner Contemporary Gallery is free of charge. 

Margate's Tourist Information

The Harbour Arm
As you wander around the harbour, you’ll first arrive at Droit House, which was once a customs house and now home to the local tourist information. Above the main entrance in pink neon is one of Tracey Emin’s works “I Never Stopped Loving You” in reference to her time growing up in Margate.
Driot house, the former 19th-centurey customs building that is now Margate's tourist information centre at the edge of the harbour arm
Droit House

We stroll further around watching the boats bobbing in the harbour, and we pass by new “pop-ups” of a cafe, gallery and a microbrewery, no, we’re not allowed to stop for a beer yet.

 We head to the end of the Harbour Arm by the lighthouse and come across the shell lady. Curious to find out more about the 9ft bronze statue, we discover that she was created by a local sculptress, Ann Carrington. It was in honour of JMW Turner’s landlady Mrs Booth. There’s certainly a theme here.

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A bronze statue of a woman made of shells, known as 'The Shell Lady of Margate' by Ann Carrington at the end of the Harbour Arm in Margate's Old Town.
Mrs Booth in shells
Rather than head back along the same path, there are steps up to the top of the harbour, you’ll also catch some incredible views across the bay.
The view from Margate's harbour to its main beach and the town beyound
The view across the harbour

How to get to Margate

You can catch a train from London St. Pancras International direct to Margate Station, which takes around 1 hour 30 minutes, on the Highspeed service.

Or alternatively, you can do it all on a road trip, the car hire comparison website Rental Cars covers all budgets and allows you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

Wandering Margate's Seafront

The Parade
Heading back towards The Parade we wander by a shellfish stall; I don’t mind some shellfish/seafood, but I draw the line at jellied eels. As mentioned before Margate attracts a Londoner or two and some of them do have a penchant for jellied eels, my parents certainly do. I can’t see the attraction personally, but each to their own.
The Mannings seafood stall at the edge of Margate's harbour
Fresh seafood from Mannings

Across from here is the Old Kent Market, on the site of the old Parade Theatre.

It’s now been lovingly restored and houses independent local stalls

The Bright salmon pink former theatre that is now the Old Kent Market on Margate's Marine parade
The Old Kent Market

Where have you been?

Have you visited any of England’s old seaside towns, drop a comment below to tell us where you enjoyed visiting?

Margate Winter Gardens

Let's be entertained
I couldn’t write a post on Margate and not include the Winter Gardens. Yes, it is looking a little tired now, but this theatre is an icon to the town. Many famous faces have passed through these doors and entertained the masses over decades, including Dame Vera Lynn, The Beatles and Laurel and Hardy to name a few.
The 1930's entrance to Margate's Winter Gardens Theatre
The Winter Gardens Theatre Entrance
Both Gary’s and my families have laughed, joked, smiled and sang here. And as I mentioned above, there’s nothing quite like singing “Down to Margate” with Chas and Dave whilst in Margate.

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Kent's Strangest Tales Cover

Where to eat & drink in Margate

Our sustenance
Now it’s time for a well-earned rest, we sit on the harbour steps gazing out to sea and enjoy our fish and chips with lashings of salt and vinegar.
A small portion of Fish 'n' Chips in a cardboard container by the sea at Margate, Kent
Fish 'n' Chips by the Sea
Ok, so I let Gary have sneaky half of Milk Stout in the Cinque Ports pub, and I had the Cinque Ports lager only for research purposes of course.
The exterior of the Cinque Ports Pub on Marine Terrace, Margate, Kent
The Cinque Ports Public House
Janis standing at the bar of Cinque Ports Pub, Margate, Kent
Inside the Cinque Ports

A famous Margate resident

A bit of a carry on

Another couple of Margate’s well-known residents during the 1960s was Hattie Jacques, famed for the “Carry-On” films and her English actor husband, John Le Mesurier.

They lived in Trinity Square.

The gorgeous powder blue and white Albion Lodge, a Victorian end of Terrace home, in Margate, Kent
Albion Lodge

Our video of Margate

The view of this coastal town through our eyes

We have created a little YouTube video of Margate  Why not take a look?

Also, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

The Thumbnail of our video - ' Our visit to Margate, a gem on the Kent coast '
Click on the image to open our YouTube video of the experience.

Margate Cemetery

Well I had to visit

Now, you didn’t think I’d visit Margate and pass up on the chance of visiting another cemetery.

I thought we’d quickly pop in as there’s an area dedicated to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which is always very poignant to wander around. Also, here are graves to those who lost their lives in the Dunkirk evacuation.

The Commonwealth War Graves section of Margate Cemetery with the Cross of Sacrifice in the far corner
The war graves in Margate Cemetery
One grave that caught my eye was that of John Sanger a circus proprietor and his forlorn-looking pony. During the mid-19th-century, John and his brother George used to tour the country with their performing act. 
The sculpture of a life-size marble mourning horse with drapery and bowed head. It stands on a tall pedimented marble plinth of John Sanger's grave in St John's Cemetery, Margate, Kent
Mourning Pony, for John Sanger

A love of Margate

I’ll be back!
We’ll certainly be returning to Margate, since when we visited it was high-tide and we were unable to see Antony Gormley's sculpture standing out to sea. The Turner Contemporary gallery announced that it will now be staying until November 2020

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  1. I LOVE a dollop of bucket and spade England, especially when you throw in a side of Victorian history. And of course, Turner was a Margate man, I loved all those scenes from the film. I will have to pop by and say hello to Mrs Booth one day. #farwayflies

    1. It does feel very traditional and the town is certainly making an effort to revamp its image. Have a great time when you do visit.

  2. I really want to visit Margate! You’ve managed to get some lovely blue sky shots, it looks lovely in the sunshine. So much quintessential Englishness on display! #FarawayFiles

  3. I really want to visit the Tate there and I’m a little obsessed with the British seaside too. You had another amazing day for your trip too, didn’t you? You’ve certainly made me think about a trip to the coast. Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles

    1. Yes it was a fantastic day, there are some really lovely towns around the Kent coastline and they’ve all got something a little bit different.

    2. Pleased to see this write up of my old home town where i was born and educated and trained in the electrical industry with a local margate firm still going today E saunders back in 1963. Left years ago through my work, but revisited visiting family many times and got quite depressed to see margate so derelict at one time. But now. Wow factor has struck. Turner contemporary is responsible for Margates success. It turned margate into a Niche area for the arts which blend in nicely with its old vicorian architecture. Margate is alive, rebirth of my past. My late Father was chief electrician at the winter Gardens theatre, so as a child I remember meeting several of the old iconic characters all sadly gone. Danny laroue to Kenny lynch and lonny donegan. Certainly good times. Margate now the Hotspot of the south east. Thanks to all those who have invested in the area and may it continue as more silk to be done. Good to see far fewer empty shots.

      1. Author

        Thanks for your comments, Kenneth. I think you’re right about the Turner Contemporary, it has certainly given Margate a new lease of life. It’s just wonderful to see investment into an area with so much to offer, and it’s sometimes the simpler things, like regenerating the harbour arm into a social location.

        It’s great to hear your memories, particularly meeting the old greats at the Winter Gardens. We are back there in a few weeks to see Dr John Cooper Clarke.

        We visited Folkestone recently, and that has also been transformed. The old Harbour Station, viaduct and harbour arm are incredible. They also have the UK’s largest urban contemporary art exhibition on display all through the town. Certainly worth a visit if you are in the area.

  4. We went to Margate many many years ago now, before the current sprucing up, and it really was a particularly English seaside experience, complete with highly quirky B&B owner. Good times, good times. I’d really like to go back because it does look as though there’s been some interesting developments there, especially the Tate.

    1. It’s great having theses memories, nowhere is perfect and its encouraging to see the improvement. I’ll bet you’ll notice some differences, it’s still a fun town though.

  5. Loved this article on Margate. I lived at Fort Mansions, a block of flats along from the Winter Gardens from around 1991. I lived in Margate for around 20 odd years. Lots of great memories. The town gets in your blood.

    1. Author

      Thanks very much, you must have seen a few changes over the years. We saw Chas & Dave at the Winter Gardens, that was great fun.

      It’s strange at times living in a seaside town, I used to live in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, and the soul of the town changes so much through the seasons. I loved it though, I imagine it was similar to living in Margate.

      Pre-Covid I noticed that there were some great independent eateries popping up, I’ll have to go back and check a few out.

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