7 Things we love about Deal

Deal with the pier in the distance

Deal's brutalist pier is an unexpected find in this historic town - Credit: Deal District Council

Between Dover and Sandwich, this little seaside town has a huge character, with thriving independent businesses, a close-knit, creative community and fascinating historic attractions.  

Deal is full of pretty period houses

Deal is full of pretty period houses - Credit: G Goodun/Deal District Council

1 Eating and drinking
Deal pulls off the fine balancing act of remaining relatively undiscovered while fully embracing foodie culture. For a small town, the array of cafés, coffee shops, pubs, bars and restaurants here is impressive. In fact the biggest challenge if you’re only visiting for the day is choosing from the long list of highly recommended eateries. Suggestions include 81 Beach Street, Frog & Scot, Victuals & Co, Salentino’s, The Court Yard and The Lane. Drink at places like The Bohemian, The King’s Head, The Just Reproach micro pub and Le Pinardier wine bar. Plenty of local pubs hold live music evenings, but this town also features its own independent music venue, The Lighthouse, and the area even has its own tiny, eclectic music festival each year. This year’s Smugglers Festival will be held 1-4 September in a secret woodland location. 

2 Brutalist pier

Concrete pier, Deal, Kent, UK

Seeing the world from a different angle: beneath Deal's brutalist pier - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

You can’t miss it. It’s one of the county’s most unique sights and a popular spot for photographers. Kent’s last remaining fully intact leisure pier is in fact the third version to have stood on the site, having been opened in 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Built from concrete-clad-steel, it’s a striking piece of modernist design. The Victorian pastime of walking along it to take in the sea air is still very much a thing here, and visitors who take the time to stroll all the way are treated to the best view of the town and coastline. It’s also a nationally important angling site, with a lower deck at the end of the pier allowing for fishing. And a recent refurbishment meant the creation of a new, stylish restaurant. The Diel Pier Kitchen is dog-friendly, serves great food and has amazing sea views.   

3 A brace of castles

Deal Castle

Deal Castle: just one of two royal bases to explore within the area - Credit: G_Goodbun/Deal District Council

Built on the orders of King Henry VIII, both Deal Castle and nearby Walmer Castle are forts designed to fight off any potential naval invasion from across the Channel. They’ve both stood the test of time, with Walmer having become an elegant coastal retreat for politicians and aristocrats over the centuries. In fact, it’s the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports – a ceremonial role that’s included names like Sir Winston Churchill, the Duke of Wellington and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Today English Heritage care for the castles. The contrast between the stone storerooms and tunnels of Deal and the regal living quarters and beautiful gardens of Walmer makes for an excellent day out – or two.

4 Shop independent
This town has won awards for its high street, thanks to its numerous independent stores and traditional family-owned businesses. Here you can browse gift shops, antique stores, art galleries and clothing boutiques, as well as buying produce from local bakeries, greengrocers and butchers. A few popular spots are the Linden Hall Gallery and Don’t Walk Walk Gallery, Smuggler’s Records, Mileage Vintage, Taylor-Jones & Son, Hoxton Store and Tamarisk. And Deal’s Saturday Market is a must each week – it’s been held here since 1699.

5 Exciting new park
Spanning 250 acres and built on the site of a former colliery, Betteshanger Park offers outdoor fun for every age, with walking routes, archery, geocaching, fossil hunting, den building and much more. Particularly likely to appeal to keen cyclists, it has miles of safe cycling routes, including a 3km road track, perfect for families, and 10km of mountain biking trails for all abilities. Having been delayed, work continues on its new visitor centre and mining museum, while its owners have also sought permission to create a huge, inland ‘wave garden’ surf centre. Also included in the new plans are a new five-star hotel and an outdoor swimming pool.

6 Caring community 
A group called Deal With It have made it their mission to make the town a greener place to be. They hold regular beach cleans, which anyone can join, and hold ‘gleans’ where they pick unwanted crops like cabbages from local farms and distribute them to charities, as well as seed swaps and other events. Best of all, members of the group are using private gardens and pieces of unwanted land across the town to grown an annual crop of hops and create a community beer. Called Deal Hop Farm, they have more than 250 sites, with more than 400 people involved. The fruit of their labour is brewed by their partner Time & Tide Brewing in the town, resulting in beers such as their popular Green Hop brew and the new Patchwork Deal & Walmer Pale Ales.

7 Local theatre
The history of Deal’s Astor Community Theatre is a fascinating one. Originally opened as the Stanhope Hall in 1906, it was later leased to John Jacob Astor, the local MP at the time. It served then as both the Astor Hall, for events, and the Winter Gardens with a roller skating rink. During the war it was used as Women's Voluntary Services canteen and in 1944 it was gifted to the people of Deal as a theatre. After years of neglect, and thanks to pressure from the community, it was restored in 2009 and reopened. Now, having survived thanks to donations during the lockdowns, it’s back as a venue for the arts, with a programme of music, theatre and comedy, and a hub for local community groups. 

For another great Kent seaside town to visit, see here