A town guide to Margate
- Credit: Archant
This seaside favourite has been through its share of ups and downs but it’s back on top again to claim the crown as the coolest place in Kent. Let’s take a look at what’s going on in magical Margate
The days of mods and rockers may be long gone but Margate still appeals to the young and trendy.
Often described these days as ‘Shoreditch on sea’, the seaside resort has become the hang-out of creative Londoners keen to make the most of the fresh sea air and the affordable housing.
And with them has come an influx of art galleries, boutique hotels, quirky independent shops, vintage retailers and a superb range of eateries.
But it wasn’t always like this. Margate became one of Britain’s biggest holiday destinations 250 years ago, and was at its peak in the 1960s. However, after the 1970s and the arrival of cheap foreign holidays, it fell out of favour and the local economy suffered.
It’s taken a monumental effort from the community, the council, local societies and businesses to reinvent Margate’s image over the past few years.
The regeneration was kickstarted by the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery in 2011, after many years of planning. Built on the site of JMW Turner’s former home, it overlooks the beach with fabulous panoramic views of the sea and the Thanet skies the artist famously called ‘the loveliest in Europe’.
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In the run-up to the Turner’s opening, an initiative was set up to transform some of the previously neglected and empty buildings in the Old Town quarter, close to the site of the gallery.
The scheme created a vibrant new setting for the niche boutiques, exciting restaurants and creative businesses we see there today. And in 2012, Margate also became one of the towns chosen in the Portas Pilot Scheme, aimed at regenerating its flagging High Street.
Now the seaside town – and its outlying areas of Cliftonville, Garlinge, Palm Bay and Westbrook – are booming, with an above-average raise in property prices and new businesses springing up all the time.
Even Dreamland, for so long the jewel in Margate’s crown but which sadly stood derelict for years, has come back like a phoenix from the ashes. It’s just one of the many attractions that bring visitors flocking.
Margate has beautiful beaches and sea swimming pools for lovers of the outdoors, the Tom Thumb Theatre, the Winter Gardens and the Theatre Royal for lovers of the arts, while history buffs can explore Margate Museum, the Tudor House and the beautiful Shell Grotto.
Eating and shopping
Margate is now firmly on the foodie map, with dozens of excellent cafés, restaurants, bars and pubs to choose from. Just a small selection of the restaurants on offer include Buoy and Oyster, The Ambrette, Hankverk & Found, GB Pizza, Mullins Brasserie, Giorgios, The Old Post Office, Angela’s seafood restaurant and Roost, winner of the family dining award in Kent Life’s Food & Drink Awards 2017.
Excellent cafés can be found all over the town, with a few to look out for including The Bus Café, Cheesy Tiger, The Greedy Cow, Forts Café, Cliffs, The Grain Grocer, Batchelor’s Patisserie, The Curious Cupcake Café and The Kentish Pantry (stockist of the artisan breads produced by Margate company The Baker’s Bicycle). Visit the historic Old Kent Market for everything from coffee and pizza to records and clothing.
And it’s not just a foodie heaven, as Margate has some of the best vintage and quirky independent shops in the county. Explore places like vintage emporium RG Scott’s Furniture Mart, Margate Retro and Junk Deluxe, along with vintage clothing stores Madam Popoff, Breuer and & Dawson and Peony Vintage (see our postcard from Margate).
Other shops not to be missed are Mor, The Shop, The Light Keeper, Etcetera Interiors, Little Bit, Urchin Wines and Artisans & Adventurers. Art galleries feature heavily too, so don’t miss Lombard Street Gallery, Resort Studios, Lovelys Art Gallery, Margate Art and many more.
One of Kent’s property hotspots, it’s not as cheap as it was here a few years ago but it’s still a very affordable place to buy a house, especially compared to London prices. Expect to pick up a one-bedroom flat for anything upwards of £90,000 and a two-bed flat from £110,000. Three-bed houses start at £200,000 and substantial four/five-bedroom Georgian and Victorian terraced houses are plentiful - priced between £225,000 and £425,000. Larger properties were available at the time of writing right up to £570,000.
Margate has fast rail links to London, getting you into the city in around 90 minutes, plus links to Chatham, Ramsgate, Canterbury, Dover and Ashford. There are also good road links via the A299 Thanet Way and M2. It’s a short drive from its neighbouring towns of Broadstairs, Birchington and Ramsgate and around 40 minutes from Canterbury.
Sat nav: CT9 1HG
Dreamland looks to the future
After an uncertain year, Dreamland bosses announced in November that its owner, Sands Heritage Limited, had officially come out of administration. This came after a £25m investment earlier in 2017 which allowed for the park to be re-landscaped and more of its vintage rides to be restored.
Commercial director Jennie Double said: “It means that we can look forward with real confidence as we continue to deliver the Dreamland experience to our guests. We are really excited for the future and we are building strong foundations across the entire business.
“Dreamland is committed to delivering even more events in 2018 and this, together with an increased ride line-up, will ensure that we are widely recognised as a unique entertainment venue in the south east.”
• Events announced so far include a 1960’s-themed party weekend called Hipsville (4 to 6 May) and a gig from The Levellers (14 June), with plenty more to be announced throughout the year.
Margate Caves update
Thanks to the hard work of a team of local campaigners, last year saw Thanet District Council agree a long lease on the site of the abandoned Margate Caves on Northdown Road in Cliftonville.
Now under the care of the Margate Caves Community Education Trust, and with funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund, work will be carried out to make the caves safe so they can reopen to visitors.
As well as the chalk cave system, which opened as a tourist attraction on and off between 1863 and 2004, the trust has gained permission to build a landmark, architect-designed visitor centre with community facilities and a café.
Earlier this year an archaeological team spent time at the sight, hoping to unearth more of the site’s history before the visitor centre is built. Walls and floors from Bryan House, a Georgian schoolhouse that was once on the site, were found, as well as some much older pieces, including Iron Age pots and jugs.
But by far the most impressive find was on the final day of excavation, when an Iron Age skeleton was unearthed.
To keep up to date with progress at the site, visit: www.margatecaves.co.uk
Postcard from Margate
I’m Georgina Roberton and I am the founder of Peony Vintage, in Margate’s Old Town. I stock and sell handpicked women’s and children’s vintage clothing dating from the 1930s to the 1970s. I source globally and pick it all in person to be cleaned, restored, mended and styled. I have also recently designed my own jewellery collection which is vintage inspired and hand made by me. I also sell on online and at fairs.
I think Margate has a really lovely vibe about it and people feel that they can be themselves here. I’ve noticed it’s very much an escape and retreat for many living and working in London and I think that plays together with the whole non mass-produced element of vintage. Everything is pre-loved, unique and often hand made, meaning everyone’s style is very individual.
I moved here as an escape and for me it’s where I feel my most free. There is something for everyone here, for all ages and all interests and the passion behind everything is so great.
I’m a big foodie so it’s the perfect place to be. There are many excellent independent coffee shops to choose from now and I have to say that I love them all. They all have very different offerings. For food, it has to be all the Cs - Casa Pizzeria, Cyrils and Cheesy Tiger.