Charles Dickens, sticks of rock and the Clangers...... does it get any more English?
I can see why Charles Dickens fell in love with Broadstairs. Beautiful views across sandy Viking Bay, waves were crashing the shoreline and an elegant clifftop promenade.
If you are in need of some quaint seaside nostalgia, then Broadstairs is waiting for you.
Spending my early childhood growing up in Kent, I remember visiting Broadstairs with my family. I’m not too sure if Dickens was at the forefront of my mind; however, ice-cream and crabbing from the harbour indeed were.
Victoria Parade and Gardens
Enjoyable recollections of dangling hooked orange twine into the quay, with the expectation of a great catch. Only to lasso some seaweed onto a barnacle on the harbour wall. Oh, yes “the one that got away” was huge…..
Charm whatever the weather
Today, Broadstairs still hasn’t lost its bucket and spade charm with the young and old. The summer sunshine may not be beating down on the golden sandy beach. Nonetheless, there is something quite special in visiting these seaside towns on a bright crisp winters’ day.
Viking Bay, Broadstairs
Children are running up and down the sand chasing their dogs and couples promenading along the clifftops, snuggled up in their hats and gloves.
Broadstairs still has the rustic charisma of centuries gone by. You could almost envisage smugglers drifting around the bay under the flicker of dim light, ready to unload their bootlegged rum and doubloons. Or is it just me.
Around the harbour
We take a stroll around the little harbour, keeping an eye out for that seventh wave to come tumbling towards land. Is this just an old wives’ tale, or is there some truth behind it, I’m not too sure although there definitely appears to be a pattern.
Crashing waves in Broadstairs
I also love those distinctive sounds and smells that leave you under no illusion that you are at the seaside. The unique aroma of seaweed washed up against the shore and seagulls squawking overhead ready to steal your fish and chips, from right under your nose.
The Harbourmasters office and old boathouse are full of so much character. The folks in this charming building must be able to tell a nautical yarn or two. Along with the salty seadogs that would have shared an ale in the flint fronted Tartar Frigate.
The Tartar Frigate
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A stroll along Viking Bay is a delight, with the attractive multi-coloured beach huts lining the cliff wall. The lovely sound of the waves lapping onto the beach and children were running back and forth dodging the waves before their wellies are covered in seawater.
Beach huts on Broadstairs beach
From the beachhead up the zigzagging stairs to the cliff tops, you’ll keep stopping to soak in the view below.
Colourful beach cabins in Viking Bay
Good to know!
The main bay in Broadstairs is Viking Bay, there are others dotted around the coastline, two of which are Botany Bay and Joss Bay. These also beautiful, although the parking facilities are not so readily available.
What I love about some of the seaside towns in this part of Kent are the walks along the high chalky clifftops. The views from above are magnificent with the English Channel stretched out beyond.
Clifftop view of Viking Bay
At the top of Viking Bay in Broadstairs, are Victoria Gardens. The gardens are wonderfully kept and have plenty of seating for you to just sit and watch the world go by.
Victoria Gardens overlooking Viking Bay
Royal Albion Hotel
There are some beautiful buildings all along Victoria Parade, many with lovely arched bay windows and attractive wrought-iron balconies. Just a little further along you’ll find Morelli’s ice-cream parlour which has been serving delicious gelato since 1932.
Morellis Ice-Cream Parlour
Something to make your travels easier?
Charles Dickens loved the charm of Broadstairs and regularly visited from 1837 to 1859. Gathering inspiration for characters and locations for his novels.
Bleak House on the clifftop in Broadstairs
Dickens stayed at Bleak House which stands pride of place on the cliff edge, with undoubtedly one of the best views across Viking Bay. Bleak House was originally named Fort House, and it was from here that he penned ‘David Copperfield’.
Dickens House, Broadstairs
There are many other references of Dickens visit throughout Broadstairs, along Victoria Parade there is a museum dedicated to him in ‘Dickens House’. This house is believed to inspiration for the home of Betsey Trotwood in the novel ‘David Copperfield’.
Dickens plaque on the Royal Albion Hotel
Charles Dickens also stayed in the Royal Albion on many occasions and wrote part of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ from there.
A little more Dickens
Stroll around the town
Another thing I really enjoyed about Broadstairs was the old town. It’s reasonably small; however, I was surprised at the number of independent shops there were. It appears to have been able to fend off many of the high street chains.
That little something different
There are quaint little galleries, family-run jewellers, antique shops and locally run butchers and bakers. Even the old character buildings that used to house British banks have been converted for other use.
H.E. Harrington, Ironmonger
It was like we stepped back a couple of decades in places, there are not many occasions you now see a wool shop or an ironmonger anymore.
You won’t go thirsty or hungry
As Gary and I strolled around Broadstairs, we were amazed at how many pubs, bars, brewhouses, tea rooms and restaurants there were.
You were spoilt for choice, and they all looked really welcoming.
The Old Bake House - Bakery & Tea Room
Osteria Pizzeria Posillipo
So, just for research purposes (honest), we headed into The Chapel.
Yes, it is on the site of what was once a chapel. The original shrine dates back to the 1350s it has since been replaced and then befallen disaster. However, the current building dates from 1601 and is one of the oldest buildings in Broadstairs.
Janis in The Chapel
In more recent years the Chapel became the Albion second-hand bookstore. Then in 2012, it became a combination of a bookshop and craft beer pub. So, while you are sitting at the bar enjoying your ale, you can also educate yourself.
Visit some of Kent’s coastal towns?
Amongst the lanes
With so many old historic towns like Broadstairs, there are always some intriguing little lanes and side streets. We kept strolling off in different directions discovering more of this charming town and wondering why we hadn’t visited sooner.
York Gate arch
All your seaside needs
Whenever we visit a new town or city, we are always on the lookout for historical blue plaques. Some can be a little tenuous; however, it’s still interesting to read the little snippets of history.
We found a couple of blue plaques; one was in Chandos Square dedicated to the animator and author, Oliver Postgate. He created some classic British children’s programmes, which I remember when I was growing up. A few of which were the Clangers, Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine (now I’m showing my age).
Oliver Postgate blue plaque
The other blue plaque was dedicated to a hotel that British Olympians stayed at, prior to heading off to the 1924 Paris summer Olympics. These games were immortalised in the movie ‘Chariots of Fire’. I told you some were tenuous.
Historic British Olympians
Another claim to fame that Broadstairs can boast about is that a young Princess Victoria often holidayed in the town at Pierremont Hall. This is now council offices.
Inspired to visit Broadstairs?
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