With its modern art gallery, classic seaside pleasures and a vintage amusement park opening soon, it's time to make for Margate
With its modern art gallery, classic seaside pleasures and a vintage amusement park opening soon, it’s time to make for Margate
Why go: On the east Kent coast, Margate considers itself ‘the original seaside’. It was one of the first sea-bathing resorts in England with a purpose-built pool as early as 1736. The town’s Theatre Royal (theatreroyalmargate.co.uk) was established in 1786 and in the 1890s it was the first place to offer visitors donkey rides and deckchairs. This traditional side is paired with a modern revival exemplified by its flagship art museum, Turner Contemporary, a good stock of vintage shops, and Dreamland (dreamland.co.uk), a classic amusement park that started life in the 1920s and will re-open on 19 June. In the old days most visitors travelled here by boat (as shown in the film Mr Turner, about the artist JMW Turner’s time here) – now you can whizz in on the high speed HS1 train, which takes 80 minutes from London’s Liverpool Street Station (southeasternrailway.co.uk).
Oh do we like to be beside the seaside: the Stone Pier at Margate © imagepalace.co.uk
Best for: Some sea air, shopping, dancing, rollercoaster thrills, a spot of culture, a dirty weekend…
The look: Opened in June 2014, The Crescent Victoria sits in a terraced row close to the seafront, well-placed for exploring the town. The four-star hotel has 14 rooms with those classed as deluxe seaview, at the top, the largest. All have showers only and while the décor is a bit blingy (expect plenty of silver, grey and white, with mirrors galore) there is a fresh and fun feel to the place with chirpy staff keen to make sure you have a good time. There’s a courtyard at the back that’s handy when the weather’s cooperating, and a basement restaurant where breakfast, drinks and other meals are served.
Nifty shades of grey: a bedroom at The Crescent Victoria
I’m hungry: The Crescent Victoria has a small restaurant open to both locals and hotel guests. Brightly lit with bare tables, a wooden floor and art by local girl Tracey Emin it serves comforting fare such as fish and chips (£11) and sticky toffee pudding. Other places to consider are the cafe-restaurant at Turner Contemporary (turnercontemporary.org) which opens in the evening on Friday and Saturday and serves dishes such as smoked haddock chowder and Kentish fruit crumble, and The Ambrette Margate (theambrette.co.uk) which has a local, seasonal menu with an Indian twist.
While you’re there: Pick up a town map and information on the Margate heritage trail at the Visitor Information Centre (01843 577577) on Stone Pier. The Old Town is worth a potter but be aware that many of its vintage shops don’t get going till 11am – some places worth seeking out are Danish Collectables (danishcollectables.co.uk), which imports mid-century Danish furniture, Haeckels (haeckels.co.uk), an eccentric store that creates bath, beauty and skincare products from seaweed and other coastal finds, and Rat Race (34-36 High St) for retro clothing. The free-entry Turner Contemporary (closed Monday, turnercontemporary.org) is the town’s star attraction with exhibitions that include Grayson Perry: Provincial Punk (from 23 May). Wayne Hemingway is part of the design team behind the re-born Dreamland Margate (dreamland.co.uk) with vintage rides and amusements that include dodgems, a Big Wheel, a roller disco and the UK’s oldest rollercoaster.
Essential viewing: The Walthamstow Tapestry (detail) by Grayson Perry © Grayson Perry courtesy of Turner Contemporary
If the sun’s out hit the beach and seawater bathing pool at Cliftonville, and if you want a walk you can head along to Broadstairs, or get cycling on the Viking Coastal Trail (vikingcoastaltrail.co.uk). Dance fans should make for Morgan’s Dance Hall (morgansmargate.co.uk), where you can get a rockabilly jive lesson for £5; ale-lovers will enjoy The Lifeboat pub (thelifeboat-margate.com) and it’s worth seeing what’s on music-wise at the Black Cat (4 Fort Hill).
Dress code: Easygoing – some hotel guests are in party mode, others keep it casual.
Book now: The Crescent Victoria, 25-26 Fort Crescent, Margate, Kent CT9 1HX (01843 230375; bespokehotels.com). Double rooms cost from £67.50 for two with breakfast, minimum stay two nights at weekends. Wifi is complimentary. The hotel is a 15 minute walk or five minute cab ride (£3.50) from Margate rail station.
lead image: © John Hutchinson Collection courtesy of Dreamland Trust
thumbnail: © Hemingway Branding