Thursday, 14 April 2016

3 Days In Margate


If you follow me on social media you will already know that I had a lovely week away a couple of weeks ago which I spent split between my Mum's place in Eastbourne and a couple of nights in Margate, Kent.

Margate has been on my radar for quite a while now and ever since I saw artist Tracey Emin speak about it on the BBC's One Show a couple of years ago. Emin, who is originally from Margate, spoke about how the opening of the Turner Contemporary gallery in 2011 had put a very neglected Margate back on the map and how it's been a catalyst for the seaside towns recent regeneration. This got me really curious about seeing how Margate has changed since I visited it over twenty years ago as a child.

It was around this time last year when I noticed that the Queen of all things cool, Lucky Dip Club's creator Leona, posted a photo of her swanky looking Margate B&B room on Instagram. Again I logged in my mind that this was definitely somewhere I really wanted to explore and 'visit Margate' got firmly penned onto my 'Things To Do" list. Only now, a year later, I have finally got round to crossing it off my list!

When it came to choosing where to stay in Margate there were only really two main options in my mind. It was either going to be the chic seafront Sands Hotelwhich is rated no.1 on Trip Advisor, or The Reading Rooms B&B which had looked so appealing on Leona's Instagram. When it came to comparing the two I just couldn't resist the allure of the individual boutique luxury rooms on offer at the B&B, and the freestanding bath tubs alone were enough to sell it to me.            


The Reading Rooms B&B is set within a beautifully restored grade II listed Georgian town house which overlooks Margate's pretty Hawley Square. Only a five minute walk from the seafront and the old town, this B&B is the perfect base for exploring everything Margate has to offer. Each of the three guest rooms available occupy an entire floor of the house and all come with their own ensuite bathrooms, freestanding bathtubs and walk in showers. From the outside you wouldn't even know it's a B&B and from the inside you feel as though you have stepped inside one of the worlds most stylish and luxurious five star hotels. 


I spent most of my time here in awe of the renovation work which has taken place within the property. It's such a elegant mix of original features and contemporary comforts, I felt as though I had stepped inside an Interiors magazine. One of my favourite parts of this B&B were the stripped back walls which revealed original Georgian plasterwork.  


Our room (no.3) was on the top floor of the house and it felt extensive in size. In fact i'm not sure if i've ever stayed in such a big room. The ensuite alone was the size of my living room! Everything about it was just perfection from the super king La Maison bed, to the exposed wooden beams and the ornate period cast iron radiators. As soon as we had checked in I was pretty sure I would never want to leave!  


The ensuite bathroom really was a treat with its roll-top cast iron bathtub making it feel that little bit extra special. As if this wasn't enough, we also had the luxury of double basins and a huge walk in shower. Oh how I long for my own bathroom to be this grand!     


I think it's often the little touches that make a hotel stay of any kind memorable and enjoyable and the Reading Rooms really didn't disappoint on any level. We were provided with white bath robes and slippers which made our decision to chill out in the room on both nights all the more comfortable. I was also pretty impressed by the complimentary REN skincare toiletries which just so happened to be cruelty free and gorgeous to use.


One of the first things on our Margate hit list was of course to visit the Turner Contemporary gallery. As you drive into Margate you can't miss it's distinct architecture projecting outwards towards the sea  alongside its aged neighbours. You can't help feeling that it looks a little out of place, but at the same time it definitely makes this little seaside town that little bit more interesting to look at. 



I had no idea what art was showing at the Turner when we visited and I felt a bit let down with myself for not making a point of visiting when the Grayson Perry exhibition was on last year as that's one I would have loved to have seen. That being said, it was good to visit with no grand expectations.  


Two main artists were on display during our visit, Joachim Koester & Yinka Shonibare, and both's work was interesting to view. However, I would say that if you are planning on a trip to Margate it may be worth checking the Turners What's On webpage to see if there are any upcoming exhibitions that you would be interested in seeing. I've already noticed that there will be a JMW Turner exhibition running from October 8th which I hope to go to for a return visit.  


The gallery itself was a lot smaller than I had imagined it would be and we walked around it pretty quickly. It's by no means on the scale of any of the modern art galleries in London so I wouldn't plan more than 1-2 hours here if you are visiting. There's a small gift shop and a really lovely cafe which offers a fantastic view of the seafront so i'd definitely recommend taking a pit stop there if you get a chance. We visited the gallery at the end of the day and were lucky enough to watch the sunset from the cafe which was the perfect end to our first day.  


The main event of our stay in Margate had to be our visit to Dreamland. Having heard so much about the recent redevelopment of the theme park I was beyond excited to step foot inside and re-experience it once again. My childhood memories of Dreamland were pretty bleak to say the least and the last time I visited as a child with my family was when Margate itself really was in the pits of decline. 

From the outside it was difficult to tell that any major refurbishments had taken place and I kept finding myself staring at the beautiful art deco 'Dreamland' building surrounded by a rundown looking tower block, take aways and boarded up shop fronts. If ever there was an example of a  great British oxymoron it was this!   




Once inside the park it was clear to see what an amazing job has been done of bringing Dreamland up to date again. Whilst it all looks new and inviting they have cleverly managed to give it the best kitsch and retro feel which, if like me you're a fan of all things vintage, you will absolutely love!  





As someone who isn't a huge fan of theme park rides I felt extremely at ease within Dreamland and everything that was on offer. There's certainly something for everyone and although there were 2 or 3 rides which I had to decline, the vast majority were suitable for all ages to enjoy. My favourite ride was definitely the scenic railway rollercoaster which has been recreated from the original in timber and, in true vintage style, it's manually operated by a brakeman. Prior to this I hadn't been on a rollercoaster for longer than I can even remember and i'm so glad that I overcome some minor anxieties to be able to enjoy it. I think you can tell from the video below that despite my screams I was having a good time!  







After all the fun of the fair we ventured back inside and headed to the roller disco which really does make you feel like you have stepped back in time. I loved everything about the roller disco, apart from the minor issue of not being able to skate very well! The whole styling of the roller room is just dreamy and it's clear to see that absolutely no corners have been cut to provide the most authentic retro experience. Even the hired roller skates are vintage! The roller room and accompanying American diner style restaurant is the perfect spot to chill out and soak up all of the nostalgia.  



One of my highlights of our entire stay in Margate would have to be the Dreamland gift shop! It was amazing. In fact it was so good I visited it twice! No photos can really do it the justice it deserves. If you love vintage, kitsch and retro accessories then this is the place for you. To me it almost felt as though a Lucky Dip Club box had exploded in there! And of course I came away with a whole heap of stationery I didn't really need, but also couldn't live without. If you're planning a visit then do as the purse says and save up for a little spending spree.  



I think it would be fair to say that Margate has become pretty trendy over the past few years and it now finds itself as somewhat of a hipster hotspot. So much so that I've recently seen it likened to a 'Shoreditch by the sea'. They certainly have their similarities with their vintage shops, galleries and arty types. But maybe don't go there with too many expectations .... Perhaps think more along the lines of Shoreditch fifteen years ago when it was cool before it was too 'cool'. Just like Shoreditch, Margate is still a little rough around the edges and from the small pleasant streets of the old town you can soon find yourself wondering into less charming territories.    

Anyway, with such coolness and hipsters comes an array of independent shops, cafes and restaurants. Margate's old town is where you will find the vast majority of trendy spots to eat and spend your money so exploring this area has to be one of the top 'things to do' if you're visiting.     


One of the first things you will notice when exploring the old town are the number of vintage and antiques shops whose stock literally spills out onto the pavements. It's paradise for anyone who enjoys some bargain hunting or reminiscing about era's gone by. It's also an Instagramers paradise with such varying, curious and eccentric backdrops ready to be captured and shared with those less fortunate.   


In-between all of the vintage goods you will come across the occasional independent shop selling a variety of quirky and cool goods with everything and anything from cacti, handmade homeware and art. 



Being so far into this review I'm surprised that I haven't yet mentioned Margate's main attraction - the sea. After reading all of the above we could be forgiven for forgetting that Margate is also a Great British seaside town and with that comes everything you would expect - fish & chip shops,  ice cream vans, amusement arcades, crazy golf and a beach with sand.   




If you don't choose to stay at Sands Hotel then I would definitely recommend stopping there for a drink or something to eat as the view over the seafront is quite special. Down below on the street level you will also find their very own ice cream parlour, Melt, which has a number of tempting flavours and toppings to choose from. They even stock some dairy free ice cream and sorbet for the vegans!



There's certainly no shortage of places to eat and drink in Margate and before our trip I had noted down a few recommendations for veggie & vegan options which included The Greedy Cow, GB Pizza Co and Be Beached

One place that wasn't on my hit list but we ended up trying was The Diner in the old town. Having spent all day at Dreamland it seemed like the perfect choice for us and I was pleased to find that they offered both a veggie/vegan burger and hot dog. The food was great and the decor didn't disappoint!  



One place that had been on the top of my list for vegan eats was the Seaside Cake Parlour and after having had a sneak peek at some cake photos online before visiting I knew that I couldn't leave town without trying them. I was conveniently able to book an afternoon tea for two by messaging them on  their Facebook page and boy am I glad that I did! Without even realising it I had definitely saved the best until last...


Straight after we had sat down the lovely cafe owner, and fellow vegan, Kim bought over a tiered stand of cakes and we were really in for a treat! No one knows how to do vegan cakes better than a vegan and out of all the vegan afternoon teas I have experienced over the past couple of years I could clearly see from the start that this one was going to kick all the others out of the park! 


Along with the cakes we were served up a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with cream 'cheese' and jam and hot drinks of our choice. And all for only £12.50 each! It almost makes me shudder to think how much I have paid for vegan afternoon teas in the past that weren't a fraction as good as this one. 





The whole experience at the Seaside Cake Parlour was wonderful and I could have easily sat in there for hours. We happened to get chatting to a couple of other customers in there who sat happily chatting away with their adorable dog on their lap and it really did make me wish that I lived closer to make this a more regular occurrence. 





Finally, and one thing I haven't mentioned yet, is how impressed I am by how dog friendly Margate is. We deliberately didn't take our dogs on this mini break because we know from experience how hard it can be to do anything with the dogs in tow. You can therefore appreciate my surprise when I saw dogs inside restaurants and shops there! I was a little taken a back to say the least and I can't wait to return for a day trip with my little boys in tow. 

I managed to snapchat a lot of my Margate highlights which I think gives you an even greater feel for everything, especially Dreamland! You can watch those clips here...



If I was you I would strike whilst the iron is hot and visit now before the 'cool' Margate becomes so cool it's uncool again! 

Happy travelling!  
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1 comment

  1. It looks like you had an amazing time! Such a lovely post.
    Milly x
    milly--writes.blogspot.co.uk

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