A town guide to Ramsgate
- Credit: Archant
Loved by royalty, writers and artists, this seaside town has everything you could want this summer: a sandy beach, a beautiful harbour and buzzing café culture
Ramsgate is home to the only ‘royal’ harbour in the country. Using the harbour in 1821, George IV was so impressed by the hospitality of the local people that he gifted the title to Ramsgate Royal Harbour.
Today it has a busy marina, packed with craft of all shapes and sizes, and surrounded by cosmopolitan cafés and waterside bars.
A good way to explore the seaside town’s important maritime heritage is to visit the Maritime Museum, set in a beautiful old clock house on the quayside. Outside in the harbour it’s hard to miss the museum’s pride and joy - the steam tug Cervia, the last remaining ocean-going steam tug.
The town is also home to the Royal Temple Yacht Club and each July the Ramsgate Week regatta runs alongside the town’s popular arts festival.
For those wanting to get out on the water, the harbour also has several passenger boats offering harbour tours, seal spotting trips, fishing trips and visits to the offshore windfarms.
If paddling is more your thing, then Ramsgate’s sandy beach offers safe swimming, great facilities and water sports for all the family.
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For an adventure on land – or rather under it – the Ramsgate Tunnels offer an unexpected glimpse into the past. From its entrance on Marina Esplanade, visitors descend into the UK’s largest network of civilian wartime tunnels.
Tours begin in the Victorian railway tunnel before heading off to explore the purpose-built underground city, which housed local people during air raids.
There are tours above ground too. A great way to explore the rows of Georgian terraces, squares and Regency villas is to join one of the Ramsgate Costumed Walks. Run by a group of volunteers, there are several historical walk routes guided by important local figures from the past. If you’d prefer to explore without a guide, then Active Ramsgate have a great self-guided route called Ramsgate Town Rounders.
It’s easy to see why this place received the royal seal of approval, and George IV wasn’t the only celebrity to fall in love with the town. Look out for the beautiful Albion House Hotel in Albion Place, where Princess Victoria stayed for several months before she was crowned queen, and for the blue plaques in Spencer Square and Royal Road, where a certain Vincent Van Gogh lived and taught in 1876.
And Augustus Pugin, the renowned Victorian architect responsible for the Gothic interior of the Palace of Westminster, lived here too – designing and building The Grange as his family home.
Restored to its former glory a few years ago by the Landmark Trust, this church-like house is now a holiday home, along with the newly renovated St Edward’s Presbytery that he built at the entrance to the site.
Eating and shopping
Perhaps fittingly for somewhere closer to the continent than to London, Ramsgate offers food from all over the world. Some to try include Italian food at Il Tricolore, French cuisine at Bon Apetit, Greek food at Delphi, sushi at Kyoto, Russian at CCCP and Indian at Flavours by Kumar.
More traditional British options include Shakey Shakey fish bar, The Empire Room and Royal Harbour Brasserie. Café culture is big in Ramsgate, with some of the best including Corby’s Tea Rooms, The Daily Grind, McBride & Valentine’s, Cole’s of Ramsgate and Vinyl Head record shop and café.
For a tipple, try Arch bar, The Hovelling Boat Inn micro pub and The Conqueror alehouse. Plus there’s great nightlife thanks to the town’s independent music venue, Ramsgate Music Hall.
Some of our favourite shops include The Saltworks, Nice Things, Vinyl Head Records and the incredible vintage treasure trove that is Petticoat Lane Emporium. The Military Road arches have been refurbished, allowing small businesses to set up in these interesting spaces. Look out for Something Fishy art gallery, Arch 16 vintage and antiques, Archive homestore and café (see our Postcard from Ramsgate), Ship Shape café and Coco Latino café bar.
This year marked the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen and while she’s not the only author to have known and loved the area, she is probably the most famous.
Ramsgate was a popular place to be during the Georgian and Regency era, and thanks to its architecture it’s easy to see the town as it would have appeared to Jane when she visited in 1803.
At the time it was a garrison town, with the Napoleonic wars raging overseas. Her brother Francis was an important officer in the Royal Navy and had been charged with raising a local corps of naval militia to repel invasion.
Jane visited to meet her future sister-in-law, a local girl called Mary Gibson, and she wrote about the newly married couple in her poem See They Come, Post Haste From Thanet.
Another writer who frequented Ramsgate was Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who spent much of his time enjoying the health benefits of the coastal town – including indulging in sea bathing, which was very fashionable at the time. 4
Plans to regenerate parts of Ramsgate have been gaining momentum, with a bid by the Ramsgate Coastal Community Teams making it through to the next stage of the application process. If successful it could secure £1.7m for a number of projects aimed at developing a corridor of regeneration linking the town centre to the harbour and seafront.
The funding, provided by the Coastal Community Fund, could be used to improve the streetscape of Harbour Street, establish a business hub to provide start-up space for small businesses, restore the iconic arches and historic lighting above the harbour, refurbish the nearby multi-storey car park and provide additional festive lighting for the boats at Christmas.
23-28 July: Ramsgate Week. The annual Royal Temple Yacht Club regatta attracts sailing fans from all over Europe and starts with the famous Round the Goodwin Sands Race. More than 300 competitors are expected. The event overlaps Ramsgate Festival, so there is plenty for visitors to do. Visit www.ramsgateweek.com
22-30 July: Ramsgate Festival. A popular arts festival using culture to contribute to the regeneration of the town. Events include opera on the beach, art installations, a giant water slide, heritage walks and talks.
Property in Ramsgate is still reasonably priced. Expect to pay between £90,000 and £180,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, and between £115,000 and £300,000 for a two-bed apartment. Three bedroom properties start at around £160,000. Four-bed properties are available between £220,000 for a terraced house and £500,000 for a detached. Larger properties are on the market right up to £785,000.
With easy access thanks to the A299 off the M2, the A28 from Canterbury or the A256 from Dover, Ramsgate is set on the Thanet coast between Sandwich and Broadstairs. There are frequent trains from London Victoria and Charing Cross, as well as a high-speed train from London St Pancras (around 80 minutes) and Ashford International.
Postcard from Ramsgate
My name is Naomi Grady and I own Archive Homestore & Kitchen in Ramsgate. Archive opened at the end of October 2015. My philosophy has been to create a Scandinavian-inspired space where high-quality food and drink come together with design-led shopping under one roof. Somewhere you can go for a great cup of coffee but also to browse and buy beautiful books, homewares, gifts and bits and pieces for children.
We are located within one of the brick Victorian arches on Military Road which overlook Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour. Our views of the harbour are amazing, especially from our first floor.
The café counter is always stocked with cakes, bakes, quiches, salads and sandwiches, all freshly made by us in our kitchen. We are passionate about Kentish growers and producers and are proud to source most of our ingredients from local farmers, growers and bakers. We have also just gained our premises license so we’ll soon be offering some great Kentish beer and wine to accompany your brunch or lunch.
I love living near the sea and for me Ramsgate’s best feature is the majestic Royal Harbour. When I’m not at work I like to walk my dog to Broadstairs which often takes us past the Italianate Greenhouse in Ramsgate’s King George VI Park - a hidden gem and a good place to stop for a cup of tea.
For a night out I really enjoy Ramsgate Music Hall, a small but brilliant live music venue, and 26 Harbour Street bar for a few drinks beforehand. For dinner we are lucky to have The Empire Room in Ramsgate and The Corner House in nearby Minster.
Ramsgate has a growing number of high quality independent shops and I love to browse and shop in Nice Things, Saltworks, Elephant in the Room and Fontaine, which are all within a five minute walk of the harbour.