Easy escapes: a weekend in Dungeness, Kent

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  • Why go

    If you can’t be bothered with the mountain of paperwork and PCR tests involved with international travel, a staycation is your best best. As it happens, Airbnb recently launched The Great Rebalance of European Travel, a series of commitments to work with communities across the region to ensure that the return of travel is safe, sustainable and benefits everyone – spreading economic benefits to more people and preventing the return of the overtourism phenomenon.

    There has been a shift in travel toward more rural areas and smaller communities, and it’s a great way to practice self-care, while supporting local businesses and enjoying an eco-driven tourism experience. Which is how we settled on our destination: Dungeness, Kent. If it’s an escape you want, then that’s what you’ll get. It might be only an hour from London, but you’ll feel like you’ve landed on another planet.

    If you’re unfamiliar with it, Dungeness is a tiny fishing town on the southernmost part of Kent, and is best described as a wild desert shingle beach. It is a protected area so you won’t find many buildings there, apart from fish shacks and boats, some gorgeous wood cabins and the imposing power station which only adds to the landscape’s mystical quality. I visited Iceland a few years ago, and the wild beauty of the area here reminded me of it.

    The rental

    As mentioned previously, there aren’t many places to stay in Dungeness, but it’s definitely quantity over quality when it comes to rentals. The Airbnb bungalow wouldn’t look out of place in Architectural Digest, put it that way.

    The house itself used to be a pumping station during the war, before being transformed into a school with its own chapel (you’ll notice the church windows remain), and then more recently, a stunning rental property, which has been decorated to a high standard.

    Think Industrialist-meets-Scandi style: natural materials such as wood and polished concrete adorn walls and floors, and picture windows allow you to take in the surrounding marshes from the comfort of every room in the house.

    Furnishings are chic yet cosy, and you could spend hours by the roaring fire, curled up on sofa with a fluffy blanket.

    The food

    With it being a rental, you can of course stay in and cook yourself (Ocado even delivers here), however make sure you stop at the Snack Shack for lunch, it serves up quite simply the best seafood I’ve ever had. Be warned though, it’s so popular, there are queues, and once the freshly caught seafood is gone, you’re out of luck. We had oysters, fresh lobster brioche rolls and scallops with chilli, and came back the next day for some cod and chips. Delicious.

    What to pack

    Carrying on with the sustainable theme, I decided to rent my wardrobe for the trip, since it’s cheaper and more circular than buying a whole new wardrobe if you fancy a change. HURR is a sustainable fashion marketplace that offers access to the latest brands, fashion trends and hero pieces from over 65+ designer partners, and you can now purchase pre-owned clothing from them too.

    We were lucky with the weather, so I chose some summer dresses: a floral maxi dress from Zimmermann, a white linen cut-out frock by Bec+Bridge and some gold jewellery by on of my favourite jewellery brands: Alighieri. They were great to mix and match with items I already own, and worn with chunky sandals or boots, a must when walking on the pebble beach, comfort is key here.

    In the evenings, I just added a chunky cardigan for a more relaxed look for drinks at the local pub.

    More info

    You might be wondering if it’s worth booking anywhere right now, just in case you have to cancel due to possible Covid exposure or any other reason. If that’s the case, be reassured. Make sure you add Airbnb’s flexible cancellation policy as a search filter, so you can find listings that offer free cancellation until 24 hours or 5 days before check-in. You can also search for Flexible Dates to browse even more listings.

    As for cleaning, Airbnb introduced the Enhanced Cleaning Protocol, a set of guidelines for cleaning and sanitisation, which earned the Safe Travel stamp from the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC). So you can feel safe when you book your next holiday.

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