“You can keep the Costa Brava and all that palaver, going no farther, me I’d rather have me a day down Margate with all me family...”
Chas & Dylan?
Bob Dylan they ain’t, but cockney knees-up merchants Chas & Dave put it rather succinctly in their minor hit of 1982, ‘Margate’.
Kent has often been considered the first port of call for escaping Londoners, be it for a holiday or a second home. Of course the notion of hordes of pasty Londoners pouring ‘daahn to Margate’ every time the sun makes an appearance is now slightly outdated, but due at least to Kent’s close proximity to the capital, the two will always be inextricably linked.
More than anything else, though, an inescapable sense of history pervades the entire county, the walled city of Canterbury perhaps the epitome.
The word alone conjures images of imposing cathedrals and abbeys, singing monks, visions of Chaucer and the avant-garde sounds of what became known as the Canterbury scene.
The gargantuan Canterbury Cathedral forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with St Augustine’s Abbey and the Church of St. Martin, and is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It’s one of Britain’s most-visited attractions, with over a million tourists and worshippers alike flocking there annually.
Kent’s ample coastline has substantially more to it than the bucket & spade charms of Margate. About 350 miles in length, it is at the very least the second longest coastal stretch in Britain. Incredulously, a row broke out in 2008 over who could boast the longest coastline in Britain, Kent or Cornwall. Both clocking in at around the 350 mile mark, it would be disingenuous to pick ‘a winner’.
Famously, Kent is home to the White Cliffs of Dover – one of Britain’s most instantly-recognisable natural features.
Romanticised, referenced and immortalised by pop greats such as Van Morrison and Blur, the distinctive chalk cliffs carry significant symbolic value. Facing out towards continental Europe via the Straits of Dover, it is the first sight for visitors arriving by sea – a kind of mythical first line of defence against invasion.
Blue Flag Feast
Kent boasts the third highest number of blue-flag beaches in the country. In 2009, 71 English beaches were awarded the blue-flag, 8 of which are in Kent. The varied Kent coastline encompasses everything that’s great about the British beach – traditional family seaside entertainment, high-octane watersports or quiet, secluded bays.
Despite the mammoth coastline, castles, country manor houses and lush gardens remain Kent’s most famous attractions. Rich in history, heritage and maritime narratives, Kent can lay claim to an amazing eleven castles, including pub quiz staple Leeds Castle (that’s right, it’s not in Yorkshire!).
I’ve been reluctant to mention the two titles most often bestowed upon Kent – ‘the gateway to England’ and ‘the garden of England’. They’ve become hackneyed labels, but in all fairness they’re hard to escape. Situated as it is in the south east corner, Kent can easily be seen as London’s lawn, and in turn the nation’s garden.
Half an hour to London, not much more to France, yet little reason to leave. Kent’s charms are unique.
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