BY PALOMA LACY
Ramsgate is perhaps lesser known than its neighbour and rival, Margate, but there’s no reason it should be.
For it is a historically important and attractive town in its own right. Some say Ramsgate is the true jewel of Thanet.
So it was with much anticipation that, having recently enjoyed the long sandy beach and artsy glamour of Margate, I made my way across the isle to Ramsgate, swapping the smell of candy floss for the smell of history.
Where Margate’s station is a stone’s throw from the beach and the looming tower of the Dreamland amusement park, the walk from Ramsgate station to the beach takes about 15 minutes, traversing through Victorian streets and pleasant parks where we bypassed the boutique hotels to check into Ramsgate Travelodge.
A smaller than average Travelodge, it had a family feel that you don’t normally associate with the budget chain, and nothing was too much trouble – the lovely staff even gave my baby a home-made finger-puppet.
Our eyebrows raised when we asked about local attractions and were promptly directed to the nearby Wetherspoons.
But this wasn’t the drab recommendation it seemed – this was the biggest Wetherspoons in the country, no less, The Royal Victoria Pavilion, a recently opened restored seaside pavilion that has won awards for its architecture.
Queen Victoria was a big Ramsgate fan, and the town drips with Victoriana, from its listed buildings through to its association with Augustus Pugin, the architect of Big Ben.
Ramsgate was also one of the towns from which the rescue mission was launched to save thousands of Allied soldiers from the shores of Dunkirk in 1940.
The feel of wartime Britain is hard to ignore. The Ramsgate Tunnels, which permanently housed many Ramsgate families as the Second World War raged in the town overhead, is steeped in wartime atmosphere and is a must-see for any visitor.
Continuing with a theme, check out Little Ships, so named after the hundreds of vessels which departed for Dunkirk.
A pleasant, nostalgic restaurant, its museum-like decor overlooking the Royal Harbour is the perfect backdrop for an afternoon lunch, with the freshest of seaside ingredients. The menu is traditional and comforting, but with enough variety to satisfy many tastes.
After a starter of homemade scotch egg (£6.75), we followed with the sea bass with salsa verde and chips (£17.50).
My dining companion had the flat bread garlic and lemon chicken kebab with red cabbage, shallots, radish, tomato, coriander and tahini yoghurt and siracha sauce (£12.50).
Both dishes were not exactly delicate – they were enormous plates of food – but wholesome and fresh.
A place where the owners clearly care about what they do, it is a sister restaurant to the Empire Room, part of the majestic Royal Harbour Hotel, where you can similarly enjoy a fine lunch in Churchillian surroundings.
Little Ships is part of the string of restaurants and bars along the modern marina, sometimes described as a “continental café culture”.
There are many independent little places here and under the Harbour Arches, where we enjoyed a coffee in the Arch Bar and Lounge Kitchen, although there are many such cosy little places to choose from.
Yet, for the more traditional beach-goer, Ramsgate also boasts the Main Sands beach with its golden sands.
With the seaside weekend ever more popular, Ramsgate, at only 75 minutes from London, is surely one of the best options for the Londoner who wants to get more out of the trip than simply a bucket and spade.