Town guide to: Margate
PUBLISHED: 17:10 08 May 2016 | UPDATED: 17:10 08 May 2016
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Margate, with its sandy beach, famous art gallery, foodie scene and retro amusement park, is finally enjoying a long-awaited renaissance
This March The Times newspaper crowned Margate the fourth coolest town to live in the country and also said the Thanet town had the hottest housing market outside of London in 2015. And last year travel guide publishers Lonely Planet voted Thanet its top family holiday destination in Europe.
So are the good old days when day-trippers and holidaymakers flocked to Margate’s sandy beach on their way back? For most of us its days as a fashionable resort are a distant memory, but thanks to the local community’s enthusiasm for their beloved town, the neglect that has blighted it for the past two decades is being put right.
When Dreamland reopened last June, after 10 years as a derelict eyesore, it marked the highest point so far in the regeneration of this quirky and much-loved little town by the sea. But if the return of Dreamland was the highlight, the turning point was the opening of the Turner Contemporary in 2011.
The project to bring a modern art gallery to Margate began some years before, with a plan for the town to cash in on its historic ties with the artist whose name the gallery would adopt.
JMW Turner famously lived there as a child and returned to Margate many times throughout his life, creating more than 100 of his oils and watercolours on his visits. It was hoped the move would provide a much-needed ‘cultural driver’ to the area, and indeed it brought nearly a million extra visitors over the first two years.
Further regeneration has taken place in the Old Town historic quarter, with the local council encouraging the transformation of many of the vacant and run-down old buildings into vibrant independent shops and businesses.
Last year, Margate was even given the royal seal of approval, thanks to a flying visit from the Duchess of Cambridge. In her role as patron of the National Portrait Gallery, she toured the Turner Contemporary, meeting staff members, artists and members of the community. The Duchess also toured the fascinating Resort Studios art gallery and work space in nearby Cliftonville, which is also enjoying a resurgence.
Eating and shopping
Barely a month seems to goes by without a new restaurant, bar, café or shop opening. You can easily fill a weekend exploring the trendy vintage emporiums and quirky eateries of the Old Town area, but venture out of it too and see all that Margate and Cliftonville have to offer.
Superb places to eat include award-winning Ambrette (01843 231504), Great British Pizza (01843 297700), Fort’s Café (01843 449786), The London Tavern (01843 446530), Yama’s (01843 312178), Roost (01843 229708), The Greedy Cow (01843 447557), Hantverk & Found (01843 280454, which is attached to an art gallery, and Cheesy Tiger on the harbour arm.
When it comes to shopping, Margate is heaven if art or vintage furniture and clothing are your thing. Some of the unique finds include art and lifestyle shop Plinth, photographic gallery and bookshop Vortigern and enormous antiques shop Scott’s Furniture Mart. Vintage homeware, furniture and clothes stores include Margate Retro, Madam Popoff Vintage, Breuer & Dawson and the new Black Deep.
Milly Maxwell-Scott, Dreamland
Tell us about your role at Dreamland
I started at Dreamland a couple of months before it reopened so I got to see it rise up from the ashes. I am the head of sales and membership and I look after Dreamland’s membership schemes, as well as corporate and private bookings and all of the film and photography shoots that take place here.
What do you love about working there?
Every day is different. One day we are an amusement park, the next we are a location for a fashion shoot or a music video. We’ve had Marina and the Diamonds film a music video here and ASOS, Vogue and Vivien of Holloway stage fashion shoots. We have a fantastic team of creative people at Dreamland who are extremely passionate about the project. We also get some exciting people popping into visit us like Jarvis Cocker and Paloma Faith.
What makes it different?
Dreamland is very different to other amusement parks. We aren’t all thrill rides and fast food. We have some beautiful rides from all eras and whether you go on them or not, it’s a beautiful place to visit which is jammed packed with history and exciting things to see and do.
Tell us three unexpected things you can do at Dreamland
You can get married at Dreamland (on roller skates if you want!) and even get your union blessed on the Scenic Railway. We have fantastic events throughout the year, from our birthday event (Dreamland Soundclash on 18 June) to our award-winning Halloween scare festival, Screamland. Dreamland is also an amazing backdrop for film and photo shoots.
Describe your perfect Margate day out
I like to start the morning off with a cup of coffee and some shopping in the great selection of vintage shops in the old town. Then, I would head to Dreamland for some scrumptious sweet potato fries and a delicious burger at the Roller Diner and maybe get my skates on. I would then pop into the Turner to see the latest exhibition and finish the day off at Cheesy Tiger on Margate harbour arm for some wine, cheese and a beautiful view.
Haeckels: Natural skincare from the sea
Natural skincare brand Haeckels has had quite a ride since its inception in 2012. The brainchild of Dom Bridges, a film maker and self-confessed coastal enthusiast, the business came about by accident.
Having moved to Margate five years ago, he began gathering the local seaweed to create soap and Haeckels was born. Now offering a range of extremely fashionable and very high-end skincare and grooming products, the business has grown beyond his wildest dreams.
Using locally foraged ingredients such as seaweeds, coastal flowers and cliff grasses, products include scented candles, face serums, bath salts and the famous Sailor’s Beard Oil, lauded by Esquire magazine as one of the best male grooming products of 2014.
“I think the key to Haeckels’ continued success is the honesty and purity of our products,” says Dom. “We stand only to promote our coast and oceans by showcasing the skin nurturing and aromatic wealth of the botanicals that live here. We hand harvest and hand make everything in Margate.”
Keeping true to the company’s Margate roots, it engages with and supports the local community, regularly organising community beach cleans and recently providing extra dog bins for the neighbourhood.
“Since starting the business I felt that the entire town has put their arms around me and shielded me. This drives me to continue the development of new ideas and to always represent the town as best we can wherever we are in the world. Margate has always had a very strong soul. It draws a unique kind of person here.”
The shop, in Cliftonville’s Cliff Terrace, incorporates the brand’s laboratory, with distillation and infusion equipment and an ever growing team working on product development. Further afield, Haeckels had a pop-up shop for several months in a top Shoreditch hotel and the brand is now being stocked by retail giants Selfridges.
They have also recently restored an old Victorian sea bathing machine - which featured on Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces - and plan to run it as an exclusive sauna on the beach.
It’s all good news for Margate and, according to Dom, his is just of the great new businesses calling the area home. “Cliftonville, and Northdown Road in particular, are starting to yield really dynamic new businesses not found elsewhere in the country. Places like Transmission Records, Margate Arts Club and the Tap Room. These businesses generate a real local personality, helping Cliftonville to cater for new visitors and residents alike.”
Property prices have shot up in Margate, with a 24 per cent rise in asking prices during 2015. But that’s not to say it’s expensive if you’re used to London prices. You can still pick up a one-bedroom flat for less than £70,000. Two-bed properties are priced at between £140,000 and £195,000, with three-bed houses at between £150,000 and £390,000. At the higher end of the market there are some fine period townhouses with numerous bedrooms available in various states of repair. As an example, there was one on the market at the time of writing with seven bedrooms over four floors; perfect for a renovation project and priced at just £450,000. Further out of the town there are plenty of large detached houses for up to £800,000.
Margate is accessible by car via the M20 and M2 and by train with a high speed link to London St Pancras (80 minutes), and slower routes from Victoria and Charing Cross (around 2 hours).
Satnav: CT9 1HG