What to do, see and eat in Deal
PUBLISHED: 13:22 05 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:22 05 March 2020
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
With exciting news about the future of Betteshanger Park, a vibrant, artistic community - and great fishing, Deal stays true to its roots while appealing to modern visitors
This charming seaside town feels like a step back in time, with a leisurely pace of life, close-knit community and stunning location on Kent's coast. Closer to France than it is to London, there's a continental vibe and new visitors often feel as though they have just discovered one of the county's best kept secrets.
With other coastal towns like Whitstable and Margate flourishing and continuing to attract those 'down from London', Deal has maintained a steady, lower-key popularity - which the locals are very proud of.
Avoiding the stereotypes of some of the trendy new hotspots, Deal remains true to its roots as a traditional fishing, mining and military town.
Having become a 'limb' of the powerful Cinque Ports in the 13th century, Deal became one of the busiest ports in England during the medieval period. What made this particularly significant is that Deal doesn't have a traditional harbour. The Goodwin Sands, just offshore, were used to safely anchor large ships and their cargo was rowed ashore.
During Henry VIII's tumultuous reign, he perceived a threat from the sea at this point on the Kent coast, and commissioned three new artillery forts. Today only two remain - Deal Castle and Walmer Castle.
Built in the shape of a Tudor rose, Deal Castle is low to the ground and solidly built to withstand canon fire. Walmer Castle was traditionally used as the official residence of the Lord of the Cinque Ports. It's most famous resident was the Duke of Wellington, who died at the castle in 1852.
In the late 18th century, the area's naval importance was confirmed when it was chosen as a base for new barracks. These would go on to be expanded to include a Royal Marines depot and hospital; later still Deal's East Barracks became home to the Royal Marines School of Music.
Within the town is a large conservation site - the first to have been created in Kent - with the pretty Middle Street at its heart. Originally designated in 1968, the protected area has been expanded three times since then to include more of the architecture which forms Deal's distinctive character and considerable appeal.
Famed for its unique pier, Deal's seafront runs along a stunning stretch of pebble beach. The first pier was constructed out of wood in 1838 and later replaced with an iron version, which was struck by shipping in 1940. The present pier is built from steel clad in concrete and was opened in 1957. It ends with a three-tiered pier head. The lowest tier is prone to flooding and is no longer used, but the top deck is home to a fabulous new café, The Deal Pier Kitchen, and the deck below is used for fishing.
If you're keen on maritime history, the Time Ball Tower Museum on Prince of Wales Street is housed in a peculiar tower built in 1820. At exactly 1pm every day, a large ball is dropped from a pole on top of the tower to enable ships to set their clocks.
You can also explore the collections and archives of Deal Maritime & Local History Museum. And don't miss Deal Castle and Walmer Castle, both under the care of English Heritage.
To delve into its military heritage, a two-hour walking trail has been designed to look at the area's 350-year relationship with the Royal Marines, taking in some of the remaining landmarks.
And its mining heritage is due to be explored with the opening of Kent Mining Museum, which will be based in the new visitor centre of Betteshanger Park - built on the former Deal Colliery site.
The major news in the town is the sale of the 299-hectare Betteshanger Park late last year for an undisclosed sum. Developed by the Hadlow Group, the future of the country park and adjacent business park had been through a period of uncertainty, with the opening of its £9.5million visitor centre and mining museum delayed.
The Hadlow Group had tried to sell the park in 2017 for £4million to Corinthian Land, but this sale fell through and due to the challenges of building on a former colliery site, the former owners had to spend an extra £1.2million replacing the foundations of the centre.
The whole site is now owned by Kent developers Quinn Estates, who have pledged to keep the country park open and operational, while working to complete the unfinished museum and visitor centre.
Huw Evans, managing director of Quinn Estates, says: "We are delighted to bring to a close the uncertainty and look forward to working with local community groups, Dover District Council and other stakeholders to deliver what has been promised and to bring a new ambition and enthusiasm to an asset that I, as a local resident and regular visitor, know has huge potential. Our vision is to deliver a regional super hub of the highest standard with social, sporting, educational and cultural excellence at its core.
"Significant investment has already been put into acquiring the site, along with further funds set aside to complete the construction works and to recruit additional staff to support those who have continued to work through the uncertainty, who will independently drive forward a range of initiatives to make the park a success."
It's a thriving community, with a number of annual events and all sorts of live music events throughout the year at places including The Astor Theatre, The Lighthouse and Smugglers Records.
World-class music, dance and film come to the town each summer thanks to the Deal Music & Arts Festival (26 June to 11 July) and each September sees the small and quirky Smugglers Music Festival (3 September to 6 September).
Shopping and eating
Deal is developing quite a reputation for its foodie scene. There are dozens of interesting places to eat and drink in this fiercely independent town.
Look out for the Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant, Dunkerley's Seafood Restaurant and Hotel, Frog & Scot, 81 Beach Street, Whits of Walmer, The Dining Club, Victuals & Co, Goose on the Green Café in Walmer, Little Harriette's of Deal Tea Room, The Lane, The Rose Hotel, The Court Yard, Deal Pier Kitchen and Hog & Bean. For drinks, head to The Just Reproach micropub, Le Pinardier wine bar, The Taphouse beer café, The Freed Man micropub in Walmer and The Lighthouse Music and Arts Pub.
A previous winner of the coveted national High Street of the Year Award, the focus is also on independents when it comes to shopping in Deal.
Browse through a mix of gift shops, vintage stores and art galleries. Don't miss Linden Hall Studio, Taylor-Jones & Son, Mileage Vintage, Filberts Foods, Hoxton Store, Smugglers Records, Tamarisk, No Name Shop, The Deal Bookshop, Don't Walk Walk Gallery and Dunlin & Diver.