The Isle of Thanet – Ramsgate

The Isle of Thanet – Ramsgate

The Isle of Thanet - Ramsgate

The Isle of Thanet – Ramsgate

Ramsgate is still a mixture of goings and comings and stayings. The ferry boats and merchant ships are on the move, the holiday makers staying put on the beach, or around the town. When you start to discover who, apart from King George IV, stayed here you come upon Jane Carlyle, wife of Thomas, who wrote of Ramsgate, ‘noise seems to be the grand joy in life . . . a brass band plays through breakfast’ followed by ‘Ethiopian bagpipes and barrel organs’. W. P. Frith captured in his painting ‘Life at the Seaside’ every single thing that could possibly happen on a Victorian seaside holiday whilst at Ramsgate. It is full of activity – on the sands the ladies wear bonnets and carry parasols, all are wearing gloves, and there are strolling minstrels, sweet sellers, paddling children and the men in deckchairs. Queen Victoria bought the painting for a thousand guineas. Although Van Gogh did teach at a local school in 1876 I do not think I remember him ever putting paint to canvas on Ramsgate Sands. He might well have donel In 1884 Ramsgate received its charter as a borough, the once tiny fishing village having grown from a trading port to a Victorian holiday town. Ramsgate still has attractive enough sands and promenades, a number of pleasant gardens for just watching the ships go by and a good family beach.

Both here, and at Broadstairs, you will find many land-based gentlemen strolling along with binoculars around their necks, looking out to sea. Knowledgeably they avoid focusing their glasses on the incoming ferries, reserving their attentions for the more interesting ships making for faraway ports. For the youngsters there are Children’s Corners along the beach with swings and things, also donkey rides in the summer; whilst for parents there are deckchairs and windbreaks and huts for rent. On West Cliff is the Model Village, open Easter to October, a miniature reproduction of a Tudor English village, and there is a Monkey Sanctuary, open Easter to October, on the Royal Esplanade. The Motor Museum, open Easter to September, is in West Cliff Hall. The Maritime Museum, Pier Yard, Royal Harbour, open April to September, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, has a Smeaton Gallery – he designed the harbour. Minster Abbey, Open All Year, is at Minster, and is reckoned to be one of the oldest buildings in the country. The buildings are eleventh century, although the Minster was founded in AD670. At Pegwell Bay is the Viking Ship Hugin – this replica was brought across from Denmark in 2009 to celebrate the landing, 1,500 years earlier, by Hengist and Horsa. Ramsgate Seafront Amusement Park – casino, disco, miniature golf course, putting greens, etc. Ramsgate is one of the places from which to take day trips to France but there are also one or two places worth visiting near Ramsgate. There are tours round the large steaming cooling towers at the power station at Richborough, and Richborough Castle is where the Romans landed.

Charles Dickens wrote Bleak House in Broadstairs and the lovely old house upon which he based the home of Miss Betsey Trotwood has now been turned into a museum. Broadstairs has a collection of small bays, the largest of which is Viking Bay which has a sixteenth-century jetty bearing witness to the town’s past as a small fishing port, as does the Parish Room of the Church of Holy Trinity which was the shrine of Our Lady of Bradstow. The town is a maze of narrow, twisting and turning lanes and is the stage for the annual local Dickens Festival including a Dickensian Garden Party and a Grand Ball. Above Viking Bay is the Parade and the Promenade, with a Victorian bandstand, low trim box hedges, lawns and meandering paths. The bay with its rocks, seaweed and sand is also a playground for children. In the summer evenings there are family shows at the Pavilion and there is a cinema.

The Isle of Thanet Places to See

Bleak House, Dickens’ holiday home. Dickens wrote David Copperfield and worked on Bleak House here. There is also a Maritime Museum open March to November up at this cliff-top house which displays some of the articles collected from HMS Stirling Castle, which came to grief on the Goodwins in 1703. Dickens’ House, open April to October, on the seafront, houses some of Dickens’ old letters and belongings. Crampton Tower, High Street, open May to September. Thomas Russell Crampton was a great railway pioneer in Victorian tinTes. North Foreland Lighthouse, open Easter to September.

Things to do in the Isle of Thanet

Fishing. Along the shoreline, out at sea, river fishing, lakes and dykes, all are on offer. Minnis Bay, Birchington and the Sands at Ramsgate are among the most productive beaches, I am told. Rock fishing is good at Foreness, Botany Bay, Kingsgate and Dumpton Gap. River, the Stour is favourite. Golf. Courses at Broadstairs, Westgate and Ramsgate, but you are within a few miles of three of the great links courses in the country: Princes, Royal St Georges and Royal Cinque Ports Golf Links at Sandwich.

Events

June

Broadstairs Dickens’ Festival Thanet Arts Festival

July

Carnivals at Birchington and Ramsgate

August

Carnivals at Broadstairs and Margate Quexpo

Spectacular at Birchington

Phoenix Fair, Ramsgate

Broadstairs Water Gala