A town guide to Broadstairs

Broadstairs' main beach is the magnificent, family friendly horseshoe-shaped Viking Bay (photo: Manu

Broadstairs' main beach is the magnificent, family friendly horseshoe-shaped Viking Bay (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

It’s like nowhere else in Kent and its seven sandy bays make it the perfect location for a summer staycation. Let’s bask in the beauty and character of Broadstairs

Broadstairs Folk Week (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Broadstairs Folk Week (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

One of our best-loved seaside resorts, Broadstairs has an interesting history - featuring Viking raids, a religious shrine, smugglers and one of our country's greatest authors - as well as some of our county's finest beaches.

Set between Margate and Ramsgate, it's not seen as many of the economic ups and downs suffered by its neighbours, instead remaining a family favourite with an irresistible charm that quietly draws visitors back year after year.

The town's main claim to fame is its exquisite central beach - the sheltered, horseshoe-shaped Viking Bay. With soft golden sands, safe swimming and lovely surroundings, it's only a few steps away from several popular cafés and offers nostalgic children's amusements during the summer season.

Often busy with happy families on fine days, it's a far cry from the incident which gave the beach its name. It was along this stretch of coast that Viking raiding parties first landed in the south east.

It wasn't the only time that Broadstairs provided an important landing place. In 1815 it was where Major Henry Percy landed with the captured French eagle standard - proof of our victory at the Battle of Waterloo. And as a smuggling hotspot, Broadstairs also saw a great deal of contraband come ashore. A network of caves still exists in the area's cliffs today.

Although Viking Bay is its central beach, it's just one of the seven sandy bays that make up Broadstairs - along with Botany Bay, Stone Bay, Louisa Bay, Joss Bay, Kingsgate Bay and Dumpton Gap.

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Each has its own distinct personality, with Joss Bay best known for surfing and Botany Bay known for its caves and stunning white chalk stacks. Blue Flag Awards - only given to the country's best and cleanest beaches - went this year to Stone Bay and Botany Bay, with Dumpton Gap, Joss Bay, Louisa Bay and Viking Bay each receiving Seaside Awards. The North Foreland, with its famous lighthouse, rises between Stone Bay and Joss Bay.

Often said to resemble a West Country fishing village, pretty Broadstairs has been casting its spell over visitors for centuries, but undoubtedly the most famous person to fall for it was author Charles Dickens.

Viking Bay is an RNLI lifeguarded beach (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Viking Bay is an RNLI lifeguarded beach (photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

Having holidayed there as a child, he would later go on to spend his summers at the property now known as Bleak House, looking out over Viking Bay. Considering it a refuge from hectic London life, he described the town as his family's 'English watering place' and even wrote much of David Copperfield during one of his stays.

Fans of the writer can explore the Charles Dickens Museum, housed in a little cottage on Victoria Parade, which the man himself knew well and used as the inspiration for the home of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. And every June the town celebrates this special connection with the colourful and costumed Broadstairs Dickens Festival.

Another big celebration is being held in August. The incredibly popular Broadstairs Folk Week (9-16 August) has been attracting music-loving visitors since 1965 and offers hundreds of events in various venues across the week (see our Postcard from Broadstairs).

Exploring the town is a delight in itself, with the attractive Victoria Parade and Victoria Gardens, and the grid of little streets above the promenade peppered with eateries and independent stores.

The majority of the pubs and restaurants can be found on Albion Street. Look out too for Harbour Street, which leads down to the sea and passes through the medieval York Gate arch - which once held huge wooden doors to be closed in times of threat from the sea.

Heading off along Viking Bay for a fish and chips lunch - what could be nicer? (Photo: Manu Palomequ

Heading off along Viking Bay for a fish and chips lunch - what could be nicer? (Photo: Manu Palomeque) - Credit: Archant

Shopping and eating

There are plenty of interesting stores to browse, including Kit, La De da Boutique, Serendipity interiors, Bumble's Antiques, Arrowsmiths, Sweet Yesterdays and the Broadstairs Book Shop.

Out-of-town shopping centre Westwood Cross has all the expected big brands and plans for a massive new housing development, Westwood Village, have been approved for just opposite the centre.

Eat out at places like Posillipo, Wyatt & Jones, Aqua 43, The Yarrow, Samworth & Mee, Restaurant 54, Albarino and Chiquito. For coffee and a snack, visit Kafiene, Smiths, The Funicular Coffeehouse or Bessie's Tea Parlour.

Fine dining can be had at tasting kitchen Stark, which is one of the top-rated restaurants in Kent. Morelli's Ice Cream Parlour on Victoria Parade is practically legendary, having opened in 1932.

And enjoy a drink at Houdini's Magic Bar, The Tartar Frigate, The Charles Dickens, The 39 Steps Brewhouse, The Four Candles, The Chapel, Mind The Gap, Yard of Ale or Neptunes Hall.

Postcard from Broadstairs: Broadstairs Folk Week

My name is Jo Tuffs and I'm Festival Director for Broadstairs Folk Week. I joined the committee as a volunteer in 1995 and when the previous director left in 2003 I took the plunge and became Folk Week's director.

Folk Week has grown enormously since it was founded by Jack Hamilton 54 years ago. He got off the train in Broadstairs and decided it was the best place to start an English traditional dance festival.

It now offers around 450 events - concerts, workshops for all ages in music, song and dance, ceilidhs, late night dances, free music in pubs, a craft and music tent, festival bar, campsite, Morris dancing displays, a parade and a full range of activities for families. The festival takes over almost every venue in the town.

Some of this year's acts will be familiar faces that have been coming for years - Simon Care and the band Banter spring to mind, and of course our festival patron Tim Edey is always amazing.

Out of the new performers this year I'm really looking forward to seeing Amythyst Kiah from America, fiddle player Ryan Young from Scotland and also Kitty Macfarlane.

What I love about Broadstairs is how you can stand at the top of the High Street and see the blue horizon of the sea and a white ship usually sailing by. It's basically a Cornish fishing village stuck on the end of Kent, with amazing beaches. When it comes to shops, Arrowsmiths has a lovely range of jewellery, clothes, gifts and cards, and brand-new shop Plantlets is fantastic - full of cacti and succulents.

Albarino tapas bar and restaurant is a real treat (try their chickpea and fennel chips!) and there's a great choice of pubs, including Folk Week singalong venue the Neptune's Hall and micropubs galore - try Mind The Gap with its train theme and the newly revamped Magnet.

Visit: www.broadstairsfolkweek.org.uk