A town guide to Sandwich

The quay at Sandwich

The quay at Sandwich - Credit: Archant

Stunning Sandwich is a delight, packed with ancient buildings, secret gardens and charming places to eat and drink

1 Ancient buildings

With a history stretching back to the Romans, this charming little Cinque Port is packed with ancient buildings and landmarks. A real treat to wander through its narrow streets on foot, things to look out for include the ancient town walls – the path of which makes for a lovely circular walk – as well as some of the original gate buildings.

The Fisher Gate on the quay dates from 1384 and the nearby Barbican is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Sandwich. Others include The Sandwich Weavers, a beautiful building used as a home and workshop for Dutch refugees in the 16th century, and the magnificent Guildhall, built in 1579 and housing the Sandwich Guildhall Museum. And look out for a plaque above a door in New Street marking the former home of Thomas Paine, author of The Rights of Man, which inspired the American Declaration of Independence.

2 Secret gardens

The centre of Sandwich is an unlikely spot for one of the finest gardens in Kent but it is here, encircled by the town’s walls, that a little bit of paradise awaits. The Secret Gardens of Sandwich surround The Salutation, a Grade I listed manor run as a fabulous boutique hotel by Dominic and Stephanie Parker (of Gogglebox fame). Originally designed by Edwin Lutyens in 1912, the gardens were neglected for 25 years until their restoration began in 2003. Now open to the public , the 3.5 acres include several different ‘rooms’ of planting, a lake, an oak walk, tropical specimens, a popular tea room and a plant nursery. Visit: www.the-salutation.com3 Nearby beaches

Sandwich is well placed, with easy access to some great stretches of the Kent coast. Whether it’s a bracing walk with the dog, a summer paddle with the family or a wildlife spotting trip, there is a beach for every occasion within a short drive of the town centre. Sandwich Bay is a long and quite remote sand and shingle beach, popular with dog walkers, while nearby Deal offers a pebble beach with a 1950s pier. Pegwell Bay, north of Sandwich and close to Ramsgate, has a family friendly sandy beach at one end and a marshy nature reserve at the other.

4 Relaxing river

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One of the best ways to see the sights near Sandwich is to take to the River Stour. Thanks to the local Harbour Master and his Sandwich River Bus, visitors can book a range of trips including a mini cruise along the town’s boundary, a visit to the ruins of Richborough Roman Fort, a trip upriver as far as Fordwich and the popular wildlife cruises.

Not only are there opportunities to see all kinds of birdlife on the trips but there’s also a good chance of seeing some of the seals in the estuary’s thriving colony. With a maximum of 12 passengers and slow and steady progress down the scenic river, it’s all about taking a couple of hours out of your hectic day-to-day life and drinking in the peace and quiet. Visit: www.sandwichriverbus.blogspot.co.uk5 Dine and unwind

Sandwich is the kind of place to take your time over. With plenty of good pubs, coffee shops and restaurants, the options when it comes to unwinding over a drink or a meal are great for such a small town.

Take a break at places such as Goats That Dance coffee house, The Sandwich Shop (which does exactly what its name suggests) or the No Name Shop and Bistro; or relax at pubs including the Hop and Huffkin and the George and Dragon. Great restaurants include The Bell Hotel (01304 613388), Elizavet Greek restaurant (01304 619899) and The Brasserie on the Bay (01304 611118) at nearby Prince’s Golf Club.

6 Bird spotting

This area draws birdwatchers from all over the country. The Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve is on its doorstep, and is a great place to spot all sorts of waders and waterfowl. It’s the Kent Wildlife Trust’s largest and one of its most important nature reserves, with the only ancient dune pasture in Kent.

The reserve attracts migratory birds and is at its best when visited during the spring and autumn migrations.

Also nearby is Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory and Field Centre, a ringing station with several nature reserves and a range of talks, classes and guided walks for those wanting to know more about the local birdlife. Visit: www.sbbot.org.uk.

7 Rural heritage

The White Mill Rural Heritage Centre is set in another of the town’s landmark buildings. A windmill built in 1760 and still featuring most of its original wooden machinery, it was restored and opened as an example of how we used to live off the land. Alongside it can be seen a restored engine house, a miller’s cottage and a few other original buildings, including a complete wheelwright’s workshop and a blacksmith’s with forge. Visit: www.whitemillheritagecentre.org.uk.

8 Get golfing

As if one world-class golf course wasn’t enough, Sandwich boasts two. Championship links courses which have both been host to the British Open, Royal St George’s and Prince’s Golf Clubs allow paying non-members to play their famous holes. James Bond author Ian Fleming loved the area and wrote about Sandwich in more than one of his novels. A resident of nearby St Margaret’s Bay he was a member of Royal St George’s and famously created a scene where Bond plays golf there in the 1959 novel Goldfinger – under the guise of Royal St Mark’s.

9 Silver screen

Sandwich is home to one of Kent’s most interesting cinemas. Situated on Delf Street, the Empire Cinema was originally opened in 1937. With a striking Art Deco design and a refurbished auditorium, it’s like stepping back in time to cinema’s golden era. It even has a vintage ticket machine and retains the traditional-style intermissions during screenings. But although classic movies are regularly screened, don’t be fooled into thinking this is an old-fashioned cinema. It has digital projection equipment, Dolby surround sound and shows the latest blockbusters.

Visit: www.empire-sandwich.co.uk.

10 Sandwich celebrations

Sandwich Festival takes place over the Bank Holiday weekend (27-29 August). A real extravaganza of free entertainment which takes over the town centre and the green near the quay, highlights will include a carnival queens’ parade, barn dancing in the street, an Italian market, dog show, classic car show, duck race and the finale of an illuminated boat parade with fireworks.

September sees Arts Week (17-24), where a week-long exhibition of the work of local artists will be at St Peter’s Church, with an arts trail around the town. It also features film nights, concerts and a poetry workshop.

Visit: www.sandwichevents.org.uk w