10 reasons to visit Sandwich
- Credit: Archant
Celebrating 800 years since the Battle of Sandwich this summer, with special events planned as part the annual Sandwich Festival, discover why this plucky little town attracts visitors from all over the world
1. Ancient buildings
Most visitors to Sandwich will have been attracted by its historic streets. Strand Street is thought to be the longest unbroken stretch of timber-framed properties in England and features the Sandwich Weavers building, named after the Dutch refugees who settled here in the 16th century but thought to be much older. Don’t miss The Bulwark, or old town wall, built in 1385 to protect the town from the French, and the Barbican and Fisher Gate, two of its ancient gate houses. The Guildhall, dating from 1579 and home to the excellent town museum, reopened in May after a Heritage Lottery Fund project to revitalise it and now houses the Sandwich Magna Carta and Charter of the Forest. Take a self-guided walk around Sandwich by downloading the Town Trail from www.visitsandwich.co.uk or book a place on a guided Sandwich Town Tour, www.sandwichlocalhistorysociety.org.uk.
2. Rippling river
One of the original Cinque Ports, Sandwich was once a major port. It reached the height of its power between the 11th and 13th centuries but in the 16th century began to decline due to the receding sea. Now two miles inland, it is still connected to the sea by the River Stour, which you can enjoy by boat. The Sandwich River Bus has been operating here since 1999 and offers a range of trips, including short rides staying close to town, a bus service to Richborough Roman Fort and trips down river to the coast to spot the local colony of seals.
3. Peaceful beaches
Sandwich is within easy reach of a number of lovely beaches. Sandwich Bay is a long stretch of sand and shingle beach backed by two golf courses and a private estate – which can make access a bit tricky. Close by is Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust, a must for keen birdwatchers. More accessible is Pegwell Bay, a short drive away and close to Ramsgate. There is a sandy part that’s popular with families and the bay is used for all kinds of water sports. At the southern end it becomes Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve, home to important native wildlife and migrating waders and wildfowl.
4. Food and shopping
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A small and friendly place, filled with small and friendly businesses, Sandwich boasts historic pubs (The 15th-century Admiral Owen, The King’s Arms, The George & Dragon, The Market Inn and The Hop & Huffkin, to name just a few) and great little cafés and restaurants. Try Le Bistro, Luigi’s Italian, Mermaid’s Locker, Charlie’s Bistro, the Beach Hut café, Rosa’s Vinarium, The Sandwich Shop, Goats That Dance, Scrumalicious Cake Company and The Bell Hotel. Browse through shops including Collection, Halcyon Ways, Hazeedaze and Blue Studio Interiors.
5. Popular events
The biggest event in the town’s calendar, the Sandwich Festival, takes place between 25 and 28 August and this year it will also feature a medieval encampment on the Quay Green in honour of the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Sandwich. In September, the town celebrates Sandwich Arts Week (16-23), with a week-long exhibition in St Peter’s Church, as well as cinema screenings, music recitals and book readings.
6. Roman ruins
The landing point for Roman legions during the invasion of AD 43, nearby Richborough became home to a Roman fort called Rutupiae – now known as Richborough Castle – and was in use until the Romans abandoned Britain nearly 370 years later. The remains of this huge settlement include the ditches first dug by legionaries, large stone walls and even traces of wooden buildings. Managed by English Heritage, there is a museum on site showing archaeological finds unearthed here.
7. Superb gardens
The Salutation Gardens are a real surprise, tucked away behind the old town walls. The grounds of a Grade I listed manor house, the 3.5 acres were neglected for 25 years but now the Lutyens and Jekyll garden has been lovingly restored and many original features have been carefully reinstated, such as the double borders.Celebrating 10 years since it reopened this year, and having overcome a devastating flood in 2013, the gardens are at their best at this time of year.
8. Glorious golfing
For golfers, Sandwich is a dream come true. Home to two world-class golf clubs, Royal St George’s and Prince’s Golf, with several more within striking distance, it has attracted golfers to the area for many years. Steeped in history, Prince’s was built in 1906 and has 27 holes, practice facilities and a clubhouse, accommodation and its own restaurant, the Brasserie on the Bay. Royal St George’s was designed in 1887 and thanks to former member Ian Fleming, it featured in a James Bond book (Goldfinger, under the guise of Royal St Mark’s).
9. Historic cinema
Having survived competition from big name multiplexes over the decades, the Sandwich Empire Theatre is a piece of living history, unchanged since the 1930s and still boasting its Art Deco neon lighting. Showing all the latest mainstream movies and monthly classics, its experience is authentic right down to the use of a vintage ticket machine.
10. Rural heritage
With free entry for all in 2017, the White Mill Rural Heritage Centre offers a glimpse of what life would have been like at an iconic windmill dating from 1760. Although no longer a working windmill, it’s kept in working order and visitors are able to view the restored wooden machinery, as well as a collection of agricultural equipment in the base.