1. Don’t go
Just joking! I love Margate with a passion. A distant relative (they lived in the Orkney Islands which is pretty much as far from Margate as you can get without leaving UK soil) used to own two Victorian villas a hop skip and a jump from the beach where we used to spend many many happy holidays. One of the houses is now owned by the proprietor of the Mad Hatters Tea Shop (9 Lombard Street) and he has redecorated the house in his own unique style. So even though it started raining the minute we stepped off the train a little detour to the houses cheered us right up!
2. Play on the arcades
We used to spend hours and and probably about 25p playing in the Half Penny Arcade situated on the seafront just behind the sea water pool and in front of the seaside shelter where T.S.Elliot wrote The Waste Land (see, culture and everything!) This arcade is long gone but the Flamingo and its neighbours remain on Marine Terrace. The slots have gone up slightly to 2p but there’s still fun to be had on 25p.
As an end of holiday treat we used to visit Dreamland the amusement park. Riding on a giant caterpillar through half eaten apples (my sister thinks it was toadstools) was about as thrilling as it got for us. Though Dreamland is all but derelict now, the sign remains and the brilliant Wayne Hemmingway has got his mitts on it and is working hard to restore it to it’s former glory. Which. Will. Be. Amazing.
3. Go to Primark
I’m not sure what the Primark building was in a former life but the upstairs homeware department has one of the best views over the beach and you can buy a cheap hat, scarf and umbrella to protect you from the downpour happening outside.
4. Visit Forts (but not weekdays after August)
We had been told about Fort’s (8 Cliff Terrace) by a friend who said they’d had ‘the best chips they’d ever tasted’ there and who is to argue with that? We made our way up the hill dreaming of warmth, dryness and vinegar but were sadly met with our first closed sign of the day. Damn.
5. Drink hot chocolate
I had two hot chocolates in our 7 hours in town (needs must). The first was in Lilly’s by the Sea (92 The Highstreet) – not technically ‘by the sea’ but Lilly’s on the Highstreet doesn’t sound quite as good – super friendly staff and super cheap ham eggs and chips. Yum. 4 hours later we were in need of another pick me up (and somewhere for us to dry our sodden toes). Hot Chocolate number two from the cute The Cupcake Cafe (4/5 Market Place) came with all the trimmings and sorted me right out.
6. Visit Scotts and Junk Deluxe
Junk Deluxe was our main goal for the day, situated in the basement of R.G.Scotts (9 Bath Place). It is a treasure trove of 1930’s-1980’s furniture, lighting, ornaments, plastic hands, wire baskets, old museum signs, and many more things of brilliance. They’re open Thursday, Friday and Saturday but the super friendly staff will open by appointment if you phone ahead which we did. We were met by Andrew and had a pretty much private tour of the shop and warehouse. Andrew was also super patient and helpful when I bombarded him with questions about restoring my own skip and charity shop finds. Having spent a nice hour drying off downstairs we spent another poking through the multitude of knick-knackery that Scotts three floors had to offer. From the tinniest hinges to the most massive of armoires it’d be hard to leave without buying something. Both Scotts and Junk Deluxe sell their wares online so if you can’t make it down south all is not lost…
7. Shop in the old town
Set just back from the seafront this little higgledy piggley set of streets has a number of independent boutiques and cafes, King Street is full of retro, vintage and second hand shops and the Market Place is a lovely little square surrounded by cafes and galleries. Though we were greeted with the dreaded closed sign at a few a note on the door of Maxine Sutton’s (2 Market Place) gallery invited us to knock as she was just working upstairs. This we duly did and gained entry to a lovely little gallery and shop full of screen prints and homeware goodies.
8. Visit the Turner (but not on a Monday)
Apparently closed on Monday’s so not much more to say about that. It looked good from the outside (I was too wet to take a photo).
9. Wait till 5 minutes before it’s time to get the train home and see the sun finally come out and prepare itself for an amazing sunset.
Great. Walking away from the seafront back to the station we could see the clouds breaking and the silver linings appearing. We managed to catch a glimpse of the majestic wind farms that had been hidden from us all day by cloud. They always make me smile. Saw a pretty rainbow from the train though.
10. Plan your next trip as it’s brilliant
Never rely on the British weather blah blah blah but I reckon rain or shine Margate will make you smile. For more information click the links above or visit www.margateoldtown.co.uk