My first trip outside London since I’ve moved I decided to take a weekend away- I was looking for a quiet type of place where I could just hang out and relax.
I decided on Kent, specifically the Northeastern coastal area. I ended up near Kingsgate* at a lovely hotel in Botany Bay. (The Botany Bay Hotel). From there I went to Sandwich and then back to London.
Kingsgate is a hamlet in St. Peter’s parish, Broadstairs, Kent. The name Kingsgate is related to an incidental landing of Charles II on 30 June 1683 (‘gate’ referring to a cliff-gap) though other English monarchs have also used this cove, such as George II in 1748. Kingsgate is the location of Holland House built between 1762 and 1768 for Lord Holland (Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland) which was accessed from the beach through a stone arched gate originally named Barthelmas Gate and renamed later to Kings Gate. Holland House was sold on by his third son Charles James Fox and in due course subdivided and further developed. On either end of the cliffs above Kingsgate Bay Lord Holland built what is now the Captain Digby Public House and Kingsgate Castle. This last was never a real castle and was one of several follies in the grounds of Holland House and, indeed its stable block, before further redevelopment, allowing it to become the residence of John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury.BOTANY BAY:
Getting there seemed easy enough, at least initially… then I realised the bussing system isn’t quite the same outside of London. I took a high speed Southeastern train from London St. Pancras to Broadstairs where I managed to find a bus that went kind of where I needed to be (using cash). I then walked for .5 mile to the hotel. Next time I’ll take a bag to carry rather than a rolling carryon (though it is small- it is noisy!). Once at the hotel, I was greeted by a gorgeous sunset and coastal chalk cliffs – not unlike the cliffs of Dover further south. The hotel was lovely and apparently quite posh during high season. I explored as much as I could around the cliffs before it got dark and cold, then I enjoyed a nice meal at the hotel restaurant and watched the movie About Time before heading to bed. The next day was a wintery mix in the morning and it was pretty miserable for .5 mile walk to the bus to then go back to the train station to catch a train to Sandwich. I called a cab and it was a brilliant idea!
On the cab drive (which proved to be a great deal for £15) provided an opportunity to talk to a local and get some good information about the area. Thanet Isle, as it’s called used to be an actual island separated from England, but then the waterways silted up and it became reattached. They still refer to it as Thanet Isle which is actually a bit confusing. Sandwich is a sleepy little town and is touted as the most medieval town in England. Cobble stone streets and tudor buildings make up the town centre. Pfizer used to have a huge base there employing almost 3,000 people, but about 5 years ago downsized to just 500 employees. This has really affected the area but it seems to be bouncing back. (yes, Viagra was invented in Sandwich). Sandwich, a funny name for a town, but also a funny name for a food! (the town name was first) Here’s the lowdown on that via wikipedia:
The first written usage of the English word appeared in Edward Gibbon‘s journal, in longhand, referring to “bits of cold meat” as a “Sandwich”. It was named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an eighteenth-century English aristocrat. It is said that he ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, and others began to order “the same as Sandwich!” It is commonly said that Lord Sandwich was fond of this form of food because it allowed him to continue playing cards, particularly cribbage, while eating, without using a fork, and without getting his cards greasy from eating meat with his bare hands.I stayed at the King’s Arms hotel, in possibly the tiniest room you may have ever seen. That being said, I was the only guest staying there in one of the 7 rooms over a nice pub which was full of Christmas Dinner eaters and the staff was very friendly to me. Bonus, when I checked in they had already turned the radiator on for me and my room was nice and toasty!
The Inn itself dates back to early Tudor times and was first recorded as being known as the Queen Arms. Indeed the cast iron plaque on the front of the building depicts the royal coat of arms of Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603).
Elizabeth herself visited Sandwich in 1573 and stayed opposite the inn at Kings Lodgings, built for her father, Henry VIII.
The depiction of Pan on the corner of the building was carved during Elizabeth’s reign and is dated 1592.
I came across an art fair in one of the old churches (St. Peter’s Church) and picked up a lovely original watercolour and had a nice chat with the ladies working there. I had an excellent lunch at Hop and Huffkin where I ordered the beef Sunday Roast.
I highly recommend a visit to Sandwich, I loved it even though I was there on a Sunday in winter where most things were closed. The people are genuinely friendly and the food is delicious. The history and architecture is a welcome change from the modern I’m used to in London.
I should also note that my shoes fell apart on my trip and I didn’t bring back ups. The shoe became detached from the sole and the rain soaked my feet so I said goodbye to my first pair of London shoes. I bought these when I first arrived in September 2017. I walked over 450 miles in them! I looked at the bottom and the soles were almost worn through as well! I found a lovely shoe store and the lady helped me get some new boots and she took these and put them in the shoe recycle bin they have out front. Thanks for the fun old friends!
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