On my frequent visits to Kent, I’ve seen a huge amount of fuss being made about the regeneration of Margate – some of it well deserved, some of it over-hyped. But just travel a few, short miles along the coast and you’ll find a little, seaside town called Ramsgate which has been quietly, and without fanfare reinventing itself.
It has to be said, that in the seven years I have been visiting, Ramsgate has spiraled downhill. It’s empty, scruffy shops, lack of decent amenities and the seeming ineptitude of the local government all contributing towards it’s ‘used-to-be-a-really-nice-town’ status. However, my love affair with the town is so firmly embedded in my soul that I’ve stuck with it, and I’ve watched.
I’ve watched as artists and musicians have relocated from London and Brighton, as new businesses have opened, as boutique hotels have flung open their doors and as this quirky town, rich in maritime heritage, has become a popular retreat for those seeking the offbeat.
What do I mean by offbeat? Being shaped by a creative culture has allowed Ramsgate to flex it’s character – it is a town filled with eccentricity. Which means, that with my slightly broken brain, I fit in extremely well.
What to do
Without a doubt the heart of the town is the stunning, arched marina. Take a wander and admire the yachts, go to the end of the harbour and take a few snaps of the Georgian lighthouse, stop for a coffee – Coco Latino is excellent – relax and watch the world go by.
If you really want to stretch your legs then take the coastal walk to Broadstairs – boasting some interesting shops, galleries and a brilliant seafront, or Pegwell Bay Country Park.
Try not to miss the Sailors’ church, filled with model ships and an altar decorated with starboard and port lights.
Take a boat trip and do some seal spotting on Goodwin Sands, or take a rib ride – not for the faint hearted.
Jump in the car and explore; Whitstable is only 30 minutes away and is crammed full of unusual clothes shops (and oysters of course). Canterbury is again under 30 minutes away but beware the parking – it’s expensive and hard to find – try catching the train from Ramsgate station instead.
Where to eat
If you after amazing Italian food, or some of the finest seafood this side of the med, then La Magnolia has to be on your ‘must visit’ list. Wonderful views overlooking the harbour / marina, check out their lunchtime specials (usually only run on weekdays), I can guarantee you’ll go back for more.
Restaurant 66 has some brilliant lunchtime and evening specials – think upmarket pub grub with some pretty innovative dishes thrown in for good measure – their Friday steak night and Sunday lunch both deserve a shout out.
If lobster is your thing then head over to Miles Bar, very reasonably priced and decently cooked. It’s reputation does mean that it can get really busy, so booking is advisable. I have seen a marked downward turn in the quality of food here over the years, I think it’s resting on its laurels and it can be a bit hit and miss. However, for around £9 (depending on the season) for half a lobster, potatoes and salad it is worth the punt. UPDATE: The prices have at least doubled for lobster. It’s still good but not the bargain it used to be, especially as the surroundings are now looking downright scruffy.
The Saffron dishes up pretty decent Indian meals, although a tad on the pricey side. There are other Indian restaurants, but (at time of writing) none that really come up to the standard of the The Saffron. UPDATE: The Saffron has now closed but Flavours by Kumar is exceptional (we hadn’t found it when I first wrote this post) and has some incredible veggie options.
Looking to inject a little oh là là into your lunch or dinner? Bon Appetite offers typical French continental fayre alongside stunning harbour / marina vies. Their oysters are to die for! They also offer melt in the mouth lamb at Sunday lunch.
Make sure you check out all the goings on during the Summer season; lots of street activities pop up, mini beer festivals offer a taste of Kent ales and markets stall selling handcrafted goodies line the streets. Ramsgate week is particularly good for free entertainment. Pop along to the visitor centre and keep your eyes peeled for flyers.
There’s a pretty decent, family friendly beach right on top of Ramsgate town with all the bells and whistles – arcade, ice cream, etc. If you’re after something quieter then head towards the now closed ferry port; you’ll find a stretch of beach that’s almost always quiet.