Sunday, 3 August 2014

Wonderful Whitstable - UK Beach Holidays

With the increase in flight prices during school holidays and the stringent laws on taking kids out of school during term times more of us are choosing to holiday in the UK. 

Although not a true holiday of sorts a change was certainly as good as a rest for Erbie and I while the sun shone in Whitstable. As I am lucky enough to be able to work from home, when a friend (who lives in Whitstable) asked if I would like to house sit whilst they were out of the country I jumped at the chance. 

Whitstable on a Summer's eve in July, tide out.

Whitstable beach during the day.
Whitstable sits on the Kent coastline between Herne Bay and Seasalter a pretty seaside town more Cath Kidston the Kiss Me Quick, rafts of unspoilt pebble beaches where you can find lucky stones with holes right through the middle or perhaps even a heart shaped one for the keen eyed. The town itself consists of the main High Street running into Harbour Street with plenty of lovely independent shops and quaint alleys to explore.

Whitstable Alley sign

Alley in Whitstable

Whitstable town
Getting There
Trains are every half hour from London Victoria, the train divides at Faversham so make sure you are in the front 4 coaches destined for Ramsgate to hop off at the small station in Whitstable. The journey takes an hour and a half from London and gets full at peak times. Almost everywhere is within walking distance in Whitstable itself so there really is no need for a car.

Places to Stay
From converted black clapperboard Fishing Huts a stone's throw from the sea (from £75 per night) to quaint cottages further back, a caravan park and hotels Whitstable is your oyster. There are also plenty of lovely homes to rent on airnb from this lovely 1 bed apartment The Salt Cellar on Albert Street to whole houses.

Seafront houses
A typical seafront property in Whitstable

Beach huts near the harbour
Caravan Park towards Seasalter
Beach huts towards Seasalter

Oyster Festival
Whitstable is famous for oysters and holds an oyster festival strangely out of oyster season although there are plenty of rock oysters consumed during the time. The oyster festival is held in the last week of July until 2 or 3rd of August and culminated with a firework display on the beck at sunset and the lovely tradition of building grotters on the beach.

Discarded oyster shells are put back in the sea after the festival
A mountain of oyster shells besides the harbour
Grotters are little round piles of oyster shells built around a tea light on the beach at sunset, a twinkling pretty heart for your group to watch the fireworks around.

A window display Grotter 

Whitstable has a plethora of independent shops selling a myriad of tasteful beachy fair for the home from wooden strings of fish and placards signs to the beach. There are 3 little galleries with some surprisingly pleasing artworks, I particularly liked the limited edition portraits of ungentlemenly characters including Hunter S Thompson and Johnny Cash. For staples there 2 supermarkets of sorts on the high street, the Co Op at one end and Budgens in the middle. Herbaceous stocks all the small but necessary ingredients you don’t know you need until you decide to make a paella for example, saffron, preserved lemons, rose water and the lady who runs it is lovely and chatty. Some superb cheeses and lovely artisan breads can also be found for a picnic on the beach with a chill Sauvignon Blanc from The Offy on the high Street.

Everyone who loves cheese should try Tunworth at least once
Seaside shopping with a difference
Quaint and quirky shops on Harbour Street

A lovely placard outside a shop in the town

From tasteful to tacky to Moomintroll all are on offer for around 50pence, several of the shops that sell them sell stamps too.

Typical postcard
If it's oysters or fish and chips you are after, from the Whitstable Brewery on the harbour to Wheelers on the High Street there is plenty of seafood on offer and a surprisingly good Indian in the Star of Bengal. If you are after a hearty breakfast you can't go wrong with Windy Corner Stores at the sea end of Nelson Road rightly garnering rave reviews from far and wide.

Wheelers for excellent oysters
Whitstable Fish Bar for fish and chips
Just a few oyster shells at the Whitstable Bar on the harbour

Mmmm doughnuts

Windy Corner Stores
Windy Corner Stores at the seaside end of Nelson Road

Whitstable oyster company

There are more than enough pubs for a crawl in Whitstable from the quaint flower covered fronts on the High Street to The Old Neptune in prime location on the beach.

The Old Neptune nestled on the beach
Peter Cushing was a famous resident of Whitstable
Ship Centurion a Free House on the High Street
The beach is pebble although there are bits of sand along the shoreline, it is quite easy to find aqua shoes in the shops which have a rubberised sole and can be worn into the sea. The water towards Tankerton Slopes is clearer and there is an indoor swimming pool next to the harbour.

Stylish picnic on the beach

Tankerton Slopes
20 minutes walk from Whitstable Harbour you will find Tankerton Slopes, good for kite flying and beach hut spotting. If you face the sea and walk along the sea front path to your right you get to Tankerton with it’s grass slopes dotted with beach huts and an old cannon looking out to sea. There’s a rather nice toy shop just back from the front too.

Tankerton Slopes

Tankerton beach huts

Cannon looking out to sea on Tankerton slopes

Beach hut in Tankerton

Have a go! The shoreline divided by groynes is a haven for crabs, mostly babies but a must for inquisitive kids. You can pick up a clear crabbing bucket from the toy shops or mini market and all you need is a piece of string tied to a stick with your preferred bait secured at the other end (raw bacon is a popular one). All caught crabs should be returned for whence they came at the end of the day.
Always put your catch back

Seaweed covered groyne

Further afield

Canterbury for larger shops and a beautiful cathedral is a short hop on the train or a bus ride away and there is also a bus to the nearby Aspinall Zoo - Howletts Wild Animal Park. Herne Bay is along the coast to the right  and Seasalter in the other direction.

Along the coast towards Seasalter

Unloved beach huts towards Seasalter
Towards Seasalter
Sleeping boats towards Seasalter

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