10 Good Reasons To Visit Whitstable
PUBLISHED: 11:54 29 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:04 20 February 2013
Some would say it's even better now the summer crowds have gone. Whitstable offers everything from history, art and theatre to family fun and fresh fish
Some would say its even better now the summer crowds have gone. Whitstable offers everything from history, art and theatre to family fun and fresh fish.
Art at the heart
The Horsebridge Arts and Community centre (01227 281174) is hosts exhibitions and presents musical and theatrical productions, as well as offering classes in creative skills, health, sport, leisure and self development. From 28 September to 4 October you can see Whitstable Tens annual exhibition, and on 30 September there are two exponents of blues music in concert: Marcus Bonfanti and Paddy Milner. Classes being run from September onwards include Learn the Tarot, jive, yoga, beading, digital photography, flamenco, group singing, life drawing and workshops and classes for children. Horsebridge also has its own caf, called Chives.
AmDram at the Playhouse
The Whitstable Playhouse (01227 272700) is an 180-seat theatre, converted from the United Reformed Church building in the High Street in 1978. Home to the local Lindley Players, it is also used for productions by professional groups and external amateur organisations. The Linley Players present Proof (27 Sep-1 Oct), there are stand-up comedy nights on 3 Oct and 1 Nov, and during October theres: Dance for Peace (8th), Oh Mr Porter (14 and 15th), the Herne Bay Musical Society presenting Showtime (18-22nd), and the Canterbury Players performing Barefoot in the Park (27-29th).
Passages of history
Whitstables 25 old alleyways are fascinating, each one named individually. These historic passages all link the High Street to the shoreline, originally created because theres no seashore road. The best known are The Horsebridge, once a slipway that acted as an approach route for horses meeting ships offshore, Squeeze Gut Alley, a narrowing alley through which youths evaded capture by the local portly policeman, Coastguard Alley, where this character lived on the corner, Neptune Gap, near the Old Neptune pub, The Old Favourite, leading to a restored oyster yawl of that name, and Collars Alley, used by children to gain access to generous Mr Collars shop, where they were given food.
Cockles, winkles and whelks
At the town end, the harbour itself is beside the car park, and there are usually plenty of attractive fishing boats to see. On the wide concrete walkway is the Fishmarket, a long black shed-like construction packed with freshly caught fish for sale, including cockles, winkles and whelks. Above here is the well-known Crab and Winkle restaurant (01227 779377) and further along this path, which eventually leads to Whitstable Castle, you pass Whitstable Harbour Village, a collection of fishermens, huts, where traders sell art and craft items, food, gifts and toys. Further along here youll see Whitstable Windsurfing, outside which is a sculpture of two deep-sea divers clinging to a pole, commemorating the towns historic association with this activity.
A very special street
Just behind the harbour is Harbour Street, looking pretty similar to how it was a century ago and giving a strange impression of the old meeting the new. There are quirky old buildings hosting restaurants, delis, boutiques and gift shops, and on some walls you can still see the original taxation stamps, carved into the stone. Theres also The Horsebridge Community centre (see above) and three of the towns art galleries. Shop fronts are attractive, the roofs are uneven, and all the buildings are different, with minimal uniformity. Harbour Street is completely pedestrianised during the summer Oyster Festival and also at Regatta time.
Whitstable Museum and Art Gallery (01227 276998) has displays centring on the towns seafaring and social traditions. The main themes are Whitstables unique coastal community and seafaring traditions, with particular features on oysters, diving and shipping. See why the town is here, how it grew and how it is changing over time. There are art galleries showing paintings of ships and the coastline, and examining Whitstables trading links around the world, plus displays on the wildlife of the local shoreline its fossils, shells, birds and plants. Regularly changing special exhibitions, normally six a year.
Views from the Castle
Whitstable Castle (01227 281726) acts as a venue for weddings, private parties, classes and community events. The ornamental gardens are open to the public, and theres a play area and the Castle Art Studio and Gallery (gardens open 8am till dusk in summer) with a huge variety of unique plants, grown since the gardens were laid out in the. The Castle Tea Gardens serves coffees, snacks and refreshments and in a wood-panelled room in the castle you can savour the vintage atmosphere of the Orangery Tea rooms (Wed-Sunday, 10am-4pm) and enjoy sandwiches, cakes and teas from fine china.
Favourite and the beaches
The Favourite, on Island Wall (a road that runs parallel to the beach), is the last oyster yawl in Whitstable and the only one in public ownership; recently restored, it stands as permanent exhibit. It was built by the Whitstable Shipping Company in 1890 for the owner of the Fishermans Arms, now 34 Island Wall. The ships ironwork was made in the forge that is now Shipyard Cottage. Just beyond the harbour youll find the pebbled beaches, divided into areas by large wooden groynes. Along here is the Old Neptune pub, a solitary wooden-clad structure built right on the beach. West Beach begins just past the Old Neptune, marked by a row of beachfront cottages called Marine Terrace.
Artists have always been drawn to Whitstable and there are a number of art galleries in addition to the Horsebridge. In Oxford Street theres the Fish-Slab gallery, showcasing local artists, and the Walker-Platt gallery (01227 276718), a bright new first-floor exhibition space where exhibitions are held seven days a week. Harbour Street has The Harbour Gallery (01227 277044), famous for local, national and international works of sculpture and art, and also the Terence Macklin Gallery (01227 262123), which has fine-art posters, and collections of original contemporary art. The Granger Gallery (01227 271271) in Horsebridge Road has regular exhibitions: from 2-30 October theres an exhibition of new paintings by Mungo Powney and Ruth Stage.
Fun for the active family
There are lots of opportunities for lively activity, including: AMF Ten Pin Bowling (0844 8263037), with 10 lanes and a games area, Whitstable Swimming pool (01227 772442), offering water-fitness classes and a gym. Theres also Whitstable Sports Centre (01227 274394) and West Beach Tennis Courts, on West Beach. Just for children theres Snappys adventure Play (01227 282100), with interactive adventure play, dinosaur sounds, a twin-lane racing slide, worm-crawl tunnel spiral tube slide, giant spider web and dangly snakes, and Lazer Rush Quasar (01227 272700), where they can play laser tag, with a darkened maze filled with lighting effects and atmospheric music, and also Cains Family Amusements (01227 272123 open until 7pm weekdays, later on Sat). Bayblast Marine (07800 745493) offers coastal tours of wind farms, forts and wildlife in a power boat.
HOW TO GET THERE
Whitstable is on the north Kent coast, five miles north of Canterbury on the A290. This road is close to the M20, leading to the M25 and M26, and also to the M2 and A299. Whitstable station is linked to London Victoria, and the journey takes about 90 minutes.
Satnav postcode: CT5 1DB