Artist JMW Turner fell in love with the big skies of Thanet, and you will too. You’ll also love its beautiful sandy beaches, bracing seafront walks and retro charm. In fact, there’s very little not to like! The main towns of Thanet are Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs and each has its own individual character. There is something for everyone here, from the fairground attractions of Margate to the wartime history of Ramsgate – or take a stroll along the genteel streets of Broadstairs, which once charmed author Charles Dickens.
WHAT ARE THE MUST-SEES? There is so much to see and do in Thanet but if you’re travelling with a dog, the beaches will be the biggest draw (see my Walkies section below). Many of the area’s most popular attractions, such as the retro theme park Dreamland, do not accept dogs – but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out.
If history is your thing, head straight to Ramsgate where you can learn all about the role it played during World War Two. The two-hour Ramsgate Blitz Walk is a great way to discover the town’s past and dogs are welcome to tag along. Walks start from Ramsgate Library at 10am on the first Sunday of the month and at 7pm on Fridays in July and August. There is no charge, but donations are welcome. If you do happen to be dog-free, however, be sure to check out the Ramsgate Tunnels – the largest network of civilian wartime tunnels in the country. Adult tickets cost £7.
The Margate Shell Grotto, made from millions of tiny shells, is also something that has to be seen to be believed. Nobody really knows when it was built, or why, but that almost makes it more interesting. Tickets cost £4 per adult. Dogs are not allowed in the grotto itself but they are welcome in the cafe and shop, which is a great place to pick up a seasidey souvenir.
Also tip your hat to Mrs Booth, the shell lady, at the end of the Margate Harbour Arm. She was JMW Turner’s landlady but went on to become his lover – and the house where they lived is now the site of the Turner Contemporary art gallery. If you’re travelling with soemone who doesn’t mind waiting outside with your dog, I can highly recommend popping in to get your culture fix. The gallery is free to enter so your visit can be as brief, or as lengthy, as you like.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? When it comes to beautiful stretches of sand, Thanet has truly been blessed. Many beaches – such as Eastcliff and Palm Bay – are dog-friendly all year round but restrictions do apply at some of the more popular spots. If you’re travelling during the summer months, check the council website to make sure you know where pets are welcome.
The walk between Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate forms part of the Viking Coastal Trail and is an absolute classic. Broadstairs is roughly five miles from both towns so it’s easy to break the trail up into manageable chunks. Simply follow the promenade and enjoy the fantastic sea views and sandy bays along the way.
History lovers will enjoy following the Margate Heritage Trail through town while literature buffs should check out the Turner and Dickens walk. This four-mile route, from Margate to Broadstairs will take you to several sites both the artist and author knew and loved. Alternatively, explore the famous chalk stacks of Botany Bay – they’re fantastic.
For more inspiration, check out the Active Ramsgate website, which has lots of walk suggestions. These range from short circular strolls in and around the town to lengthy hikes that form part of the England Coast Path.
BEST PLACE TO GRAB A BITE? Oooh, where to start? There are loads of dog-friendly eateries in Margate but personally, I would head straight for the Harbour Arm. This is home to a number of independent bars and restaurants, such as BeBeached (great for breakfast) and the phenomenal Cheesy Tiger which, if cheese is your thing, you’ll love. The Harbour Arms pub is also a great place to go with your pooch – it doesn’t serve food, but it does have a giant jar of dog treats behind the bar.
In the heart of the Old Town, you’ll find the Margate Coffee Shed, which has great cakes and a quirky range of trinkets to take home as souvenirs. GB Pizza Co is also close by, as is The Bottle Shop (great for beer enthusiasts) and the old-school Lifeboat Ale & Cider House. It may now be run by Brewdog but the inside – complete with sawdust on the floor – hasn’t really changed much in years. The pub is also a great place to go for hearty comfort food, such as pie and mash.
If the weather is good when you visit, I’d highly recommend seeking out The Bus Café, too. Dogs are not allowed inside the red double-decker restaurant, set just off the main beach, but the staff will do everything they can to accommodate you outside. Try one of the all-day breakfast hash dishes – you won’t regret it.
In Broadstairs, don’t miss out on a trip to Morelli’s ice cream parlour, which overlooks Viking Bay. It first opened in 1932 and visiting today is just like stepping back in time, thanks to its retro soda fountain, Formica worktops and jukebox. The Chapel is a great place to go for beer and live music, while craft ale enthusiasts should head to The Thirty-Nine Steps Brewhouse.
When in Ramsgate, the Royal Harbour Brasserie is a must-visit. It may not look much from the outside but this quirky restaurant, at the very end of the Harbour Arm, is amazing. The roof terrace is a great place to soak up the sea views and if you’re in town over a weekend, make sure you sample the legendary £10 Sunday roast.
The trendy Ravensgate Arms hosts regular tap takeovers and quiz nights and was recently named one of the best pubs in the whole of Kent. The Churchill Tavern, by the marina, is another great place to enjoy a meal or drink with your dog in tow. Expect seafood classics and tasty pub grub.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY? Hipsters should head to Margate, where there are a cool range of B&Bs and apartments available to rent. We fell in love with Brooklyn Lodge, a New York loft-style apartment just a short walk from the old town and beaches.
For a coastal location that’s hard to beat, try The Botany Bay Hotel in Broadstairs. You won’t find anywhere closer to the chalk cliffs of Kent and on a breezy day, a stroll along the coastal path will certainly blow the cobwebs away. Albion House in Ramsgate is another dog-friendly favourite and most rooms at the boutique hotel have sea views.
GET ME THERE: Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate are situated on the south-eastern tip of Kent, which makes them a little tricky to get to – but the journey is worth it. The towns are around an hour’s drive from London via the M20 and M2 and a similar distance from Folkestone, on the south coast.
High-speed trains from St Pancras International station take around 75 minutes to Ramsgate, 85 minutes to Broadstairs and 90 minutes to Margate. There are also frequent rail services from London Victoria that take just under two hours.
FIND OUT MORE: For more information about Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, check out the Visit Thanet website, which has lots of handy suggestions for people travelling to the area with dogs. The Visit Kent website is also well worth a look for broader information about the county.