10 Good Reasons to Visit Sandwich

PUBLISHED: 00:16 27 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:57 20 February 2013

The Bell Hotel – a great place to stay

The Bell Hotel – a great place to stay

One of the most complete English medieval towns, Sandwich is not only rich in history but also in flora, fauna, birdlife and even endangered species

Sun bears and smooth otters

The Rare Species Conservation Centre (01304 611578) is home to a unique collection of lesser-known rare and endangered species, from black-footed kittens to sun bears and the smooth-coated otter. It was created in 2006 by a group of people passionate about preserving these threatened animals, who had been overlooked by larger establishments. The two-acre land is divided into miniature countries of Australasia, The Americas, Indochina, Madagascar, Middle East and Africa, and the livestock thrive in their large, naturalistic habitats. Exotic rare plants, plus a caf and gift shop.

Site of the Roman invasion

Richborough Roman Fort (01304 612013) is considered to be where the Romans launched their successful invasion of Britain in 43AD. You can see the defensive ditches dug by Claudius legionnaires, surrounding whats left of the massive stone walls of Fort Rutupiae, as well as the foundations of the triumphal arch that commemorated the Roman landing. The museum has taped tours and contains displays of Roman artefacts, weapons, coins, pottery and ornaments as well as Saxon relics.

Twitchers paradise

Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Field Centre (01304 617341) is along the coastline in the Sandwich and Hacklinge Site of Special Scientific Interest, on the floodplain of the river Stour, one of largest SSSIs in the country, with rich flora and fauna, marine invertebrates, scarce plants and rare insects. Weekly events for members and non-members, walks, talks and workshops, plus visitor accommodation. Facilities include an active observatory and Field Centre, and a shop for equipment and refreshments.

Discover a Secret Garden

Enclosed by the old city walls is The Salutation Manor House, surrounded by stunning gardens which are open to the public (01304 619919). Designed by Sir Edward Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, they fell into disarray for 25 years but have been restored to their former beauty, with white and yellow gardens, a wild meadow garden, plus kitchen, vegetable, tropical and woodland gardens, as well as laburnum and poplar walks and the recently rediscovered Lake Patricia and Island. There are tree-lined walkways, sculptures by artist Emily Stone, a gift shop, tea rooms and nursery.

Rural Kent comes to life

White Mill Rural Heritage Centre (01304 612076) is a collection of buildings with at its heart the oldest restored windmill in Kent, dating from 1760. The buildings contain original machinery and tools and displays of implements of agricultural Victorian life. The Gallery has displays of small farming tools, photos of Victorian farm workers, a wooden Kent plough and a bakers dough trough. Millers Cottage (1830) has displays of needlecraft and kitchen equipment. Note also the collections of metal-working tools, a wheelwrights shop and a cobblers shop.

Walk the walls

Although most of the original walls no longer survive, you can walk along the raised earthworks that formed part of them, two-thirds of which are still in existence. Youll get wonderful views across the rooftops of town, which is Sandwichs central Conservation Area. The walk encompasses The Butts, The Ropewalk, Millwall, The Bulwarks and Town Wall; part of the surface is along a dry moat, while another section is bordered by the river. The walls used to include several town gates, but, apart from majestic Fisher Gate, these have now disappeared.

Three maces and a museum

The Guildhall, incorporating a museum and Tourist Information Office (01304 617197), is an ancient building in the Cattlemarket area. The TIO and museum are on the ground floor, the latter with artefacts and illustrative panels that bring alive Sandwichs history from medieval times. Also here are the town clerks offices, the Mayors parlour (with fine stained-glass window), jury room and ancient courtroom, complete with magisterial chair and royal portraits. Above the courtroom is the council chamber, on the walls of which are a series of panel paintings, and three silver-gilt maces. Some of these private areas can be seen by guided tour (book).

Go Dutch

The 16th century Flemish Strangers, weavers who brought prosperity to the town, left many mementos of their homeland, including their architectural techniques. In Strand Street note the quaint old Sandwich Weavers, adjoining cottages formerly used as homes and workshops by Elizabethan Dutch refuges, and barely altered since. Number 26 King Street is The Old Dutch House, and in the same street are remains of buildings built using Flemish-style bricks.
St Peters Church has distinct Dutch characteristics, notably its gables.

Beautiful buildings

Although most of the following buildings are in private hands, the majority of their splendid exteriors are on view. Parts of The Kings Lodging (1400) can be seen over its boundary wall, beyond its magnificent entrance gate. Opposite is Pilgrims House a fine double-overhang, timber-framed building. In Strand Street youll find the longest row of continuously occupied timber-framed houses in England, as well as the Admiral Owen and Crispin pubs, both 1400s buildings. In Church Street St Mary are some picturesque jettied houses of the 1500s and 1600s, notably The Old Drum and The Kings Arms pub.

See The Quay

Perhaps the most scenic part of town, the quayside boasts several riverside restaurants and in summer its a haven for pleasure boats. From the bridge theres a terrific view of Fisher Gate and the Barbican, beyond which is The Bell Hotel (01304 613 388), the towns elegant Assembly Rooms in Georgian days. The Barbican was built in 1539 and formed part of coastal defences; traffic goes under this narrowed roadway before reaching the former toll bridge. A scenic riverside walk leads from The Quay through the park and follows the river along the sea defences.

Getting There

Sandwich is 14 miles from Canterbury, around 75 from London, and its on the A256, but not close to motorway links. There are hourly trains linking Sandwich station with Londons Charing Cross and a bus service from Canterbury (linked to London by coach). For public transport enquiries call Traveline 0871 200 22 33
Satnav postcode: CT13 9AH

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