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Day trip to Margate

Margate posterA day trip to the seaside is part of the English tradition. The coastal areas of Kent and Sussex have long been favourites for the wealthy classes. From early Victorian times the seaside was becoming the fashionable place to be seen. There was a general belief that the brisk sea air and salt waters gave health-giving qualities. However, it wasn't until the end of the 19th century, and the introduction, in 1871, of the Bank Holiday giving the working man a day off, that the labour classes were able to enjoy it too. Traditionally on a Bank Holiday, banks and many businesses closed to enable the workers to have this holiday.

The Act coincided with the development of the railways and these coastal regions were an ideal location for the London working man to spend a day out with his family. At around the same time, some industries gave their workers a week's paid holidays. Although paid holidays for all didn't come into existence until the passing of the 1939 Act, many white collar workers from banks, civil servants and council workers like railway workers, municipal workers and postmen, all were fortunate enough to have achieved this through their Trade Unions at the end of the 19th century. Thus said, Margate became one of the most popular coastal towns for working class day trips and short breaks away from the London grime and smoke. Released for the day they were determined to have fun. A day on the sands, donkey rides, cockle and whelk stalls, fish and chips, Punch and Judy and amusement arcades. In 1898, Margate was the first seaside resort to introduce the hiring of deck chairs.

The 1930s was the nadir of such outings by charabanc or train. Clubs, pubs, works outings and Sunday Schools all took advantage of low-cost day trips to the seaside. This tradition continues to the present day although the amusement arcades have expanded to include Margate's Dreamland Amusement Park. The Scenic Railway at Dreamland was built in the 1920s and is the oldest surviving roller coaster in the UK. As a consequence, it is now a Grade II listed building. However, if 'Kiss Me Quick' hats and funfairs are not for you don't rule this town out. Margate is best visited on a lovely midweek Autumn or Spring day. Out of the hectic summer season it is calmer, quieter and more genteel. The wide sandy beach of around 200 metres long is free of day-trippers, the only occupants being a few fishermen mending their little boats by the pier and the seagulls diving and wheeling along the shoreline scavenging for food.

margate pierThe smell of the sea and the seaweed is powerfully intoxicating. At this time of year, parking your car is easy and there are plenty of spaces available down by the Lifeboat House at the end of the harbour. Margate Main Sands, as the name depicts, is the main beach of Margate. However, there are plenty of other beautiful beaches very close by and many of them holding Blue Flag or Quality Coast Awards. Try also, Westbrook Bay, Walpole Bay, West Bay, Joss Bay or Botany Bay If you decide to extend your visit beyond a daytrip, Margate has some excellent hotels out towards Cliftonville. The Walpole Bay Hotel and living museum is one of the best places to stay, with its Edwardian ambience and amazing sea views from every bedroom window, it is perfect if your purpose for visiting Margate is discover its history. At between 60-80 per room it is very good value and has had a host of well-known people staying there over the years.

If you do decide to stay longer than one day fit in a trip to the theatre. As well as the famous Winter Gardens, Margate has the remarkable Theatre Royal which holds the distinction of being the second oldest in England. Until recently there was also the Tom Thumb Theatre which was the second smallest theatre in the country. Unfortunately this is currently up for sale, hopefully it will be purchased by someone who wants to retain its community use rather than convert it into a residence. If you visit in July there is the annual Big Sky Jazz Festival to enjoy, June has Margate's Big Event, an annual event with flying displays. motorbike stunt riders, strong men, acrobats, and a plethora of street entertainers. August sees the Margate Carnival which is one of the most colourful and musical parades in the area and September hosts the Big Sky Kite Festival. So, if your main trip to England is to visit London, fit in a traditional day-trip to the seaside and go to Margate. If you are arriving by sea from nearby France, Margate is just a short distance from the port of Dover and Folkestone - so add Margate to your agenda!.

2007 travel guides