A winter visit to Broadstairs in Kent

In Counties, Days Out, Kent, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel by Janis8 Comments

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.

Looking over the Golden sands of Viking Bay in Broadstairs towards the Harbour arm where the sand on the beach group prepared for winter by creating a sandy break water

Overlooking Broadstairs

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.

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Looking over the Golden sands of Viking Bay in Broadstairs towards the Harbour arm where the sand on the beach group prepared for winter by creating a sandy break water

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.

The view from the Harbour arm as the sea meets the shore of Viking Bay, and in the centre are the broad stairs that lead up to the promenade of Broadstairs

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.

Small boats bobbing in the water for the edge of the Harbour in Broadstairs’ Viking Bay

Broadstairs Harbour

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.

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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.

Spray being thrown up as waves crash against Broadstairs sea wall on a bright sunny winter's day

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.

An old timbered boathouse that used to hold Broadstairs’ RNLI lifeboat. It is now home to the lifeboat museum.

The Boathouse

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 pub and seafood restaurant at the entrance of Broadstairs Harbour on a bright, sunny,  winter's day.

The Tartar Frigate

Tempted to?

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Viking Bay

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.

Some brightly coloured beach huts mingle between plain wooden huts on the golden sands of Broadstairs’ beach

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.

At the edge of the sands of Viking Bay is a row of beach cabins built into the cliff face. The doors of the cabins alternate between Bright yellow and a French blue

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.

Clifftop promenade

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.

A view of Viking Bay as it sweeps around towards the harbour. On the left hand side you can see the lift What takes you to and from the promenade.  also stretched out along the sea front you can see the bathing cabins.

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.

The seating shelter in Victoria gardens that also doubles as a clock tower with a weathervane on shaped like a sailing ship.

Victoria Gardens overlooking Viking Bay

During the summer months, you could enjoy live music from the bandstand or even try your hand at sinking a few holes at Lillyputt Mini Golf.
 
At one end of Victoria Gardens is the elegant Royal Albion Hotel which has been overlooking this delightful bay at Broadstairs since 1776.

The rear of the Albion hotel with a glass covered conservatory and seating area that overlooks Viking Bay and the Kent coast.

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.

Morelli's an ice cream parlour and coffee shop dating from the 60s.  Little in this scene seems to have changed from when the shop would have opened

Morellis Ice-Cream Parlour

Something to make your travels easier?

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens loved the charm of Broadstairs and regularly visited from 1837 to 1859. Gathering inspiration for characters and locations for his novels.

The view from the Harbour towards the Tartar Frigate pub with Bleak House on the hillside above.

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’.

The entrance to Dickens house the traditional sea front home of a Georgian style predominately white with black trim features and black railings in front of a small garden.

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’.

A stone plaque on the Royal Albion the states Charles Dickens lived here in 1839, 1840, 1845, 1849 and 1859 where he wrote part of Nicholas Nickleby

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

The Broadstairs Dickens Festival is held annually around the 3rd week in June. If you want to discover more of Charles Dickens in Kent, then the historic town of Rochester is a wonderful place to visit all year round.

A plaque attached to the railings overlooking the see for “What the Dickens!” Digital experience based on Charles Dickens inspirations while staying at Broadstairs.

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.

An ornate shop front in Broadstairs town, edged with green tiles and wooden bay windows,  G.M. Arrowsmiths appears things to sell all manner of curious goods

That little something different

An elderly couple standing outside Sweet Yesterdays’ a traditional confectionery store with windows full of glass jars of different treats.

Sweet Yesterdays

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.

Traditional old fashioned general iron mongers store in Broadstairs Town

H.E. Harrington, Ironmonger

Antiquarian Antiques; a traditional antique and bric-a-brac shop in Broadstairs Town

Antiquarian Antiques

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.

Self-guided Walk?

If you fancy going on your own voyage of discovery, download the Broadstairs Town Trail. This is produced by the Visit Thanet website.

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.

A quaint bakery and tea room occupying the lower floor of a 3 storey flint built town house in Broadstairs

The Old Bake House - Bakery & Tea Room

Osteria Pizzeria Posillipo; A traditional Italian restaurant in Broadstairs.

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.

The Chapel; a bar and book shop built in part of a former church. The church was destroyed a number of times and its final incarnation is a flint built, 3 storey building

The Chapel

Janis wrapped up warmly for winter holding her beer inside the Chapel. The beer pumps are on the right hand side and a bookcase full of books behind her.

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?

Kent is not short of picturesque historic towns, particularly along the Kentish coastline. Take a peek at some we’ve visited, Hythe, Deal, Folkestone, Margate and Sandwich.

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.

The York gate Arch over Harbour Street in front of Wyatt & Jones restaurant and bar

York Gate arch

A traditional Bucket and Spade gift shop occupies the lower half of Albion house in Broadstairs.

All your seaside needs

Two flint built buildings in Union Square that used to be home to fishermen who worked the local waters.

Union Square

Quirky findings

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).

The steps leading to the front door of a terraced house in Broadstairs where the animator and author Oliver Postgate lived, famous for creating the Clangers and Bagpuss

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.

A blue plaque from the Broadstairs and St Peter's town council that tells you that this building was formerly the Carlton Hotel when members of the British athletics team stayed prior to their departure for the 1924 Paris Olympic Games, the story was immortalised in the film Chariots of Fire.

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.

Pierremont Hall; An impressive white Georgian mansion building where the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria stayed in 1826

Pierremont Hall

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Inspired to visit Broadstairs?

Why not stay at the Royal Albion Hotel and enjoy the fantastic clifftop views across the bay.

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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Comments

  1. Oh, it looks wonderful! Just like the visits to Scarborough and Bridlington of my childhood! I’s love to explore those street and stop for a drink in those cafes. I also love the Clangers mosaic under the blue plaque. #FarawayFiles

    1. Author

      We visited Scarborough years ago ourselves, and loved it. I’ve never visited Bridlington, but I’ve heard it’s quite nostalgic, I think it’s about time that we returned to the northeast of the UK.
      Broadstairs is a lovely town and it felt quite unspoilt.

  2. What a charming town. I don’t think I have ever visited but am now putting it on the list for UK travel next year. I didn’t know about all the Dickens connections. #farawayfiles

    1. Author

      Yes, Broadstairs was lovely to visit it had some quaint little unique shops. There are quite a few Kent coastal towns getting a revival at the moment and a few others have connections with Dickens.

    1. Author

      Yes it’s lovely, I can imagine it gets quite busy in the summer months; however, its wonderful in the off season.

  3. Take me to church! I mean the Chapel – second-hand books AND craft beer sounds like the perfect combination. What a cute little seaside charmer and so much history. Looks like a brilliant day out especially with those beautiful blue skies. Thanks for sharing this little corner of England with #FarawayFiles. Cheers from this side of the channel!

    1. Author

      Yes it is just a winning combination, it’s a good job it is not on my doorstep.

      Broadstairs is a lovely town and the beach is amazing, it gets pretty busy in the summer as you could imagine; however, I do enjoy visiting these seaside towns out of season. Even if it is just for an ice cream or fish and chips.

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