A couple of Sundays ago, the gorgeous weather drew me down to the Kent coast to enjoy the fresh air and glorious views. There are high speed trains from London St Pancras, stopping at both Broadstairs and Margate, so this is an easy day trip if you live in or near London.
Broadstairs itself is a very attractive town and I had a lovely wander around there for an hour or so, plus a cup of coffee. Unfortunately all the outdoor seats at every cafe I found were already occupied – not often that that happens in the UK in February, I can assure you.
Happily refreshed, I headed down to the bay again and turned left. As you can tell from the map above, it’s a pretty straightforward walk. Just occasionally you have to move away from the coast a little, but mostly you are right at the water’s edge and the only real decision required is whether to walk on the cliffs or the beach.
The chalky white cliffs lead you out of Broadstairs
Beach or cliffs?
I went up onto the cliffs as I wasn’t sure where I would get access back up from the sands; in fact, there were plenty of stairs and uphill paths to take you back up safely. So my only words on this are, if you fancy taking the beach, make sure you start at a low tide.
And, of course, there are good views from up here
If you are in any doubt about which way to go the signage is clear. If you are on foot, you won’t always need to follow the cycle path precisely – in places there are narrow footpaths much closer to the cliff edge. You can’t tell from my photos of the day, but it was extremely windy and there were a couple of spots where I did consider moving inland a little to avoid the risk of a sudden drop to beach level!
Just here, I watched these people for a little while to see exactly where the path went, before I took this very edgy route
The path soon gets you to the inviting beach at Joss Bay. Once very popular with contrabandists and named, in fact, after the famous smuggler Joss Snelling (1741-1837), it is now recognised as being Kent’s best surfing beach.
Right next to this bay is a slightly quieter, sheltered cove named Kingsgate Bay and known for its caves. At cliff level, it has a castle at one end and a pub at the other. Hard to beat that kind of combination!
Kingsgate Bay and its slightly holey chalk cliffs
Just past the pub, you are about half way along this walk. At this point on my trail, the clouds piled in and it rained for a while. But there’s always an upside:
The sun was back as I walked above the next sandy beach…
and then along Prince’s Walk and past the Margate Wastewater Pumping Station.
Looking back at Margate Wastewater Pumping Station
Now Cliftonville is in easy reach and Margate is only just beyond that. I have often wandered the cliffs between Margate and Cliftonville, so this time I decided to go down to the beach and complete the walk at the lower level.
After a sandy end to the walk, I get to Margate just in time: the sun has gone again and the grey, damp clouds are heading my way.
If you have time, do take a detour along the Harbour Arm. It has a couple of bars and a small gallery, plus excellent views of Margate seafront. Otherwise, a 10-15 minute walk along the front will get you to Margate station ready for your trip back to London. If you’re heading back to Broadstairs, you can do that by bus, train or taxi, or you can take an inland walk which is about half the length of the coastal walk. Definitely a great option on a longer summer day.
I put camera away, pulled up my hood and dashed to the station. And oh was I glad that I did. The rain descended and worse than that, the trains were all cancelled due to a signal failure. But it wasn’t too bad an end to the day, as I met three friendly people in a similar situation to me. In fact, one of the girls was under considerably more stress as she was heading to Luton Airport. We found a reasonably speedy solution by sharing a taxi to Canterbury, from where we eventually got a train to London. My pleasant memories of the day far exceeded the annoying train problems, which certainly won’t discourage me from returning very soon.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 22 February 2016
Updated Oct 2020: here are some more recent posts featuring Margate: