tested George Clode explores the evolving seaside towns of the Kent coast

Thanet’s thrilling cultural coastline

Thanet is becoming a must-visit destination for tourists keen to explore beyond London. Just a two-hour drive from

the capital, it has cultural spots, museums, trendy attractions, restaurants and quirky hotels. I began in Broadstairs, an

archetypal seaside town with seven sandy beaches and a world of dinky shops. Walking the cobbled streets from my base at The Yarrow hotel, I came across quaint cafes, galleries, and shops such as the Broadstairs Bookshop.

Winds of change

A five-minute train journey brought me to Margate, which has shrugged off the ‘old-fashioned’ reputation hampering so many seaside towns. The winds of change whistled in around the same time as the Tracey Emin- backed Turner Contemporary gallery opened in 2011. The gallery is home to an

impressive number of temporary exhibitions and hosts educational programmes, sessions for families and platforms for emerging artists – plus an excellent restaurant. There are micro-pubs and

interesting bars along the main strip, but I’d recommend a rosé cider in The Two Halves and a

Viking Bay, Broadstairs, Kent. (inset) Harbour Arm, Folkestone

Crab and cocktails

glass of prosecco at the gorgeously- designed Cinq Ports. After watching live music at

mega-popular amusement park Dreamland, I returned by train to Broadstairs to stay overnight at The Royal Albion, once frequented by Charles Dickens.

Try the Triennial

On the second day I explored Folkestone’s creative quarter and the Triennial – an annual two-month arts project at the Harbour Arm, which aims to regenerate the town through creative activity. Arriving at Folkestone’s old

high street is like stepping into a gloriously English version of Paris’ Montmartre. Art and fashion shops spill out onto the narrow pedestrianised street, with vibrant coloured murals and cosy cafes playing obscure music. It’s very bohemian, and it would

be easy to spend time discovering the hidden gems on the short, steep walkway leading to the sea. I headed to the Harbour Arm,

Antony Gormley Statue, Margate TravelGBI | October 2017

a recently restored promenade bristling with street food vans, pop- up music stages and tearooms.

A covered area hosts small units offering everything from dressed crabs and fish chowder at Cockles, to powerful gin cocktails at Bathtub & Gun. I had fish and chips from Sole

Kitchen and sensational halloumi fries from The Big Greek Bus. Down a set of stone steps

stands one of sculptor Antony Gormley’s cold, cast-iron figures

staring out to sea. It is part of the Another Time 1999-2013 series. At the tip of the Harbour Arm

stands the Folkestone Lighthouse, a champagne bar with tables and chairs outside and excellent views along the coast. At the end of my weekend

at this idyllic spot, I had only scratched the surface and knew

I’d be back for another visit.

Top tip

Visit the Lilford Gallery in Folkstone. Installations by international artists feature upstairs, and eye catching wall displays by local artists hang in the downstairs grotto.


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