I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Margate but my cousin Sarah who has written today’s travel guide takes regular trips to the town when she’s not at home in East London. With the August bank holiday fast approaching, we couldn’t think of anything better than to share a tour of a truly timeless English seaside holiday town in case you fancied taking a trip. Take it away Sarah…
Before we start I need to provide a disclaimer. I am not a writer, in fact I haven’t provided anything with a word count requirement since uni (barely a few years ago, honest), but I am a Gautier, which tends to mean headstrong and happy to take on the world. So when Lolly (my cousin and Rock My Ltd superstar) asked me to write about Margate I jumped at the chance.
I have always enjoyed a faded seaside town, but since my first visit in 2011, there has only been one seaside town for me – Margate. I first came down on a whim, mainly to check out The Reading Rooms, and it certainly did not disappoint. We always stay in Room One, floor to ceiling windows are a life goal, and it can’t be beaten – it is one of the nicest places we have stayed, and we return whenever we can. Each of the three rooms has an entire floor of a Grade II listed Georgian town house, which has been renovated to expose the original Georgian plasterwork – it’s a stunner, and don’t get me started on the epic breakfast…
Should you not be staying at The Reading Rooms, head straight to Fort’s Cafe for brekkie, personal favourite is scrambled eggs with chorizo, and you will be set for the day (I am very much looking forward to checking out the donuts next time I am down).
Alternatively, you may check out HotelsCombined to find and compare accommodation rates in Margate.
Whilst up in Cliftonville take a stroll along the seafront, taking in the expansive sea views – when I ship out of East London and move full-time to Margate this is the spot I will be living in, and for these views. Whilst up here, you should check out Plinth for their awesome collection of crafted products and ever changing showcase of artists – window displays are pretty fly too… Next door is Haeckels, which looks, and really is a Victorian apothecary. They are a natural fragrance and skincare brand that use hand harvested seaweed to create amazing skin, face and body products, as well as location inspired perfumes. It is worth heading in to check out the amazing shop fittings and for the testers. For a splurge they also offer custom perfume creation – one day, one day… The last must do stop for me up here is Transmission Records, worth it for the floor alone.
Now to head back towards the Old Town, via the Ice Works that hosts RG Scotts and Junk Deluxe. Missing part of a chandelier, want a chewing gum stand, need door handles or vintage tea cups? Then Scott’s your man (well family), they are a Margate institution who have been trading since 1969 and in the Ice Works since the 70s – you will loose a number of hours in here and a joy of rummaging is essential. Some of the younger Scott clan have set up Junk Deluxe which stocks anything industrial, metal, and modernist, and I nearly always have some items waiting for me when I pop down (currently a 75cm flamingo and art deco gold chandelier – standard). Make sure to avoid lunch time for visiting these two shops as they close to have lunch together [hearteyes].
On your way back into the Old Town check out the Victorian Shell Grotto and the Tudor house that is often decorated to suit the season. Head over to Love Lane (what a name!), first stop is etcetera a flower, plant and accessories shop run by the lovely Shelly – she has an amazing eye and there is always something beautiful I ‘need’. Parallel to Love Lane is King St, my number one stop here is H.B.Smith. With a stunningly restored shop front and fantastic high end range of vintage clothes. I am still smarting about the fur lined, blue wool hooded coat I found in the middle of summer and didn’t buy – the time to buy is when you see it! Breuer and Dawson have two shops in the Old Town, both with amazing selection of vintage menswear and possibly the nicest guy in Margate. The ladies in Madam Popoff are super fun and is the place for go should you need a frock.
What I really spend my money on in Margate is furniture, the midcentury and modern selection is second to none and no-one has higher quality stock than Fleming at Danish collectables (who also has a store shop up in Cliftonville). Other haunts I always check out are Paraphenalia (lovely cutlery and kitchenalia), Margate retro store (for a step back in time, neon and fairground items – last purchase was a 3ft fiberglass Pluto), and Hunkydory 24. No trip to Margate is complete without heading up to the Fort Yard Market to see what Charlie (friendliest man I know) has to offer – we have quite the collection with seven of his prints up in our house at the moment. The Old Kent market is always full of treasure and a new haunt for me, across the road from the Turner.
The Turner Contemporary is a stunning exhibition space, from the jaw dropping picture window, to the calming gallery spaces and the stunning use of concrete. All the exhibitions are free and also have lockers you can stash your haul in – remember to donate what you can as the entire space is run on donations and I for one never want it to close.
I am custom carpet lover, Margate doesn’t disappoint on this front. Personal favs are Bugsy’s bowling alley and the arcades on the seafront – most notably the Flamingo carpet in Funshine Amusements – confusing but hey. All the arcades have the same combos of games, and who doesn’t love the 2p falls…
No trip to Margate is complete without a visit to Dreamland. I challenge anyone to not smile whilst at Dreamland, it is pure joy and brings the child out in everyone. The vintage rides, the colours, the enthusiasm of the staff, the roller disco and pinball machines – there is no place like it and don’t be surprised if you see see a mermaid or two. The view from the big wheel is second to none, aside from Arlington House, and so calm and peaceful.
I can only assume you are starving after all this treasure hunting. For classic seaside fayre its has to be Peter’s Fish Factory eaten on the steps overlooking the amazing golden sands of Margate Main Sands, followed by some whelk shell hunting at low tide. If it’s wholesome home cooking you are after, head straight to Roost for the absolutely best chicken, chips and slaw or try the Harbour Cafe right on the seafront. My death-row dinner would be jerk chicken (or pork), rice and peas and Mullins in the middle of the Old Town is possibly the best Caribbean food I have eaten, the lunch menu offers amazing value as well. Riz, a short walk out of town, is the best Sri Lankan outside of Sri Lanka, highly recommend the chicken curry, dosas and kottus. Finally, for a fancy meal check out modern Indian Ambrette – worth it for the popping candy sorbet between courses alone.
Time for some refuelling, Margate has plenty of lovely pubs like the Rose in June, London Tavern and The Lifeboat – who often have local bands playing in the evening. The sunsets in over the sea are amazing with two spots that I chose from – Two Halves and look out to sea or the Harbour Arm and look back at Margate, as well as popping by to say hi to the shell lady – she sells, seashells, on the seashore 🙂 Newish kids on the block include Sink the Pink at Dreamland (I’m a regular at the Bethnal Green nights), The Bottle shop and Margate Arts Club, which had all sorts of interesting nights – I’m straight there!
All The Extras
Phew, think that is enough to keep you busy, there is still so much to tell, the trad jewellery shop, Hornby Train Museum, Margate museum, crazy golf and the golden sands, nevermind nearby Ramsgate and Morelli’s in Broadstairs still in all its 1959 glory – Bacio Sundae all the way (and enough for 3!).
I hope you love Margate as much as I do, well to be honest I hope you don’t – I want to keep it all for myself! See you on the beach x
Phew! There’s so so much to see and do that I think a family trip is very much in order at some point this year. I just know that Hector would adore the seaside and Ste would be in his element in Dreamland and I’ve always wanted to check out the Reading Rooms too. Have any of you visited Margate before? Did you love it? Why not share your thoughts in the comments box below…