What to do, see and eat in Ramsgate
- Credit: Archant
With its Royal Harbour, its sandy beach and its open skies, this is the perfect time of year to see Ramsgate at its best
Unlike many of its neighbours, gentrification hasn’t changed the fabric of Ramsgate quite yet. This neighbour of trendy Margate is no show off, instead it relies on its coastal charm, its Georgian architecture, its important maritime history and its incredible sunsets.
The home of the only ‘royal’ harbour in the country, Ramsgate’s maritime past goes back to the Romans, but it wasn’t until the 1700s that work began on creating Kent’s first true ‘safe haven’. George IV granted its royal status after it impressed him so much. Enclosed by two vast piers, the harbour was completed in 1850.
Later it would go on to play important roles in our wars and it’s famously where the fleet of ‘Little Ships’ bound for Dunkirk assembled in 1940. Around 40,000 Allied troops landed back at Ramsgate.
With much of its architecture being Georgian, Regency and Victorian, it’s also an interesting place to explore on foot and there are tours, both guided and self-guided available. These will take in sites including the former home of Vincent Van Gogh, who lived and taught here for a time, and the Gothic church designed by Pugin. A more surprising tour can be taken below the streets, thanks to the Ramsgate Tunnels. Based around a Victorian railway tunnel, this huge underground complex was used during the war as an air raid shelter and housed around 60,000 people.
And look out for the town’s two museums, the Ramsgate Maritime Museum and the small but perfectly formed Micro Museum, which explores the history of computing. 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 (this year was 22-27 July).
If café culture is your thing then head to the Military Road arches around the harbour, with an array of quirky independent businesses, bars and cafés tucked into some interesting spaces. And if you’re keen to get out on the water, there are plenty of boat trips on offer nearby. If you want to feel the sand between your toes, Ramsgate Main Sands is a delight and attracts lots of visitors over the summer.
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But it’s not just all about the sea. The town also boasts the beautiful King George IV Memorial Park, with its walking trails, coastal views and magnificent Italianate Glasshouse café.
And another local park, Ellington Park, has been given the go-ahead for a new £1.8million café and events centre.
It’s not the only project going on in the town either. Last year saw the refurbishment of the Royal Victoria Pavilion in the harbour, which turned the derelict historic building into the country’s largest Wetherspoons pub. With a capacity of an astonishing 1,500 people, the pub is very grand and has unrivalled views.
But there is still a question mark over some of the other planned developments. The former Pleasurama site has been a derelict eyesore on the seafront for 20 years. Long ago given planning permission for a vast complex with a hotel, apartments cafés and shops, it’s been on and off again for many years now.
The fascinating Ramsgate Tunnels revealed some new improvements earlier this year, including the Home Front Museum with artefacts sharing the history of the tunnels.
Featuring exhibits from the tunnels’ construction in 1863 to its role as a ‘Tunnel Town’ during the Second World War, items include the original piano used underground to entertain people sheltering from the bombs above.
As well as the museum, a new Tunnel Teas Café has opened, serving refreshments to visitors and built out of recycled timber and corrugated steel. There is a new visitor reception and the cinema has been moved and improved.
Ramsgate has become one of the UK’s top kitesurfing destinations and is even hosting the final leg of the National Freestyle Kitesurfing Championships this month.
Following a glowing endorsement from record-breaking kitesurfing champion Lewis Crathern, who broke the British record for the highest jump on Ramsgate beach in 2016, Active Ramsgate successfully talked the British Kitesports Association into making their town one of just four destinations to host this year’s championship.
Active Ramsgate, an initiative of Ramsgate Town Council, is designed to support economic development in the town by promoting Ramsgate’s range of outdoor activities. The final leg of the championships will take place on 18-19 August on Ramsgate Main Sands and around 70 competitors will be competing for the title of National Freestyle Kitesurfing Champion.
Councillor Peter Campbell said: “This event is a major coup for Ramsgate, and we are delighted to be welcoming kitesurfers from all over the UK later this year.
“We also want to encourage local residents to engage with Active Ramsgate too, so there are plenty of outdoor activities for everyone to get involved with throughout the year, such as the free kitesurfing taster sessions for children. 2018 is going to be the year of kitesurfing for Ramsgate.”
Active Ramsgate also offers a range of themed walks, cycle routes, canoe trails, scuba diving, boat trips, golf, geocaching and bird watching tours, all created to capture the interest of locals and visitors alike.
Eating and shopping
When it comes to eating out, try The Empire Room, Il Tricolore, Bon Appetit, Flavours by Kumar, Kyoto Sushi, Townleys at Albion House and the ever-popular Shakey Shakey Fish Bar.
Cafés and bars are plentiful, with Arch Bar, The Mariners Bar, Enoteca, The Galley, Ship Shape Café, Corby’s Tea Rooms and Coco Latino café bar to name just a few.
Enjoy a pint at micropubs The Hovelling Boat Inn and Conqueror Alehouse.
Some of our favourite shops include The Saltworks, Nice Things, Michaels Bookshop, Vinyl Head Records, Arch 16, Petticoat Lane Emporium and Archive home store and café.
With easy access thanks to the A299 and M2, the A28 from Canterbury or the A256 from Dover, Ramsgate is set 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. Sat nav: CT11 8LP
Postcard from Ramsgate
My name is Julian Bigg, known as Jules, and I’m one of the owners of the Ramsgate Music Hall – although my day job is as a designer, branding and interiors for bars, restaurants and cafés.
Ramsgate Music Hall is a small live music venue and we try book the best music we can to perform anywhere between two and sometimes five shows a week.
The idea sprung up one cold Monday morning in 2012, returning with friends from a music festival hundreds of miles away. Why did we always have to travel so far to see great live music? A vague plan was hatched on that long journey to open our own venue in Ramsgate.
The biggest joy about running a venue is that you get to choose the music. It’s like the best juke box in the world. Bringing your favourite music to your own town while trying to encourage others to share in the musical treat. A close second is seeing the joy on people’s faces when they leave after a gig.
We have some amazing regulars who come to the Music Hall. I have been told on more than one occasion how therapeutically wonderful live music is.
Small venues provide a unique, up close and passionate way to engage in live music. The experience is completely different to a large space where acoustics can be iffy and you are far less engaged with the performers.
I love the space and the open skies of Ramsgate. It has a wonderfully relaxed and family friendly vibe which has attracted a nicest people, either new to town or those that were born here.
Some of my favourite places in the town are the Ravensgate Arms (best selection of beer), Vinyl Head Café (ace records and coffee), Kyoto restaurant (best sushi in Kent), the Belle Vue Tavern (best beer garden ever) and Elephant in the Room gift shop (home of banging last-minute gift).