As a special treat for Betsy, to wish her well in her school days, I took her on a trip during the bank holiday weekend. She had been asking to go on a long train ride for ages and I wanted a day that would be maximum fun for her, so a trip to the beach is what we went for. I’ve been wanting to visit Margate for years, I love the sound of Dreamland and the whole vintage scene that has popped up there, and so very early on a Saturday morning, Betsy and I blearily made our way to St Pancras station and jumped onto a Javelin train and travelled into Kent.
Betsy hadn’t travelled on a train that had a toilet before (poor deprived child!) and she was so excited that loos on a train was even a thing that she insisted that we sit next to it on our journey. It takes just over an hour and a half to get from Margate to London and it’s a lovely train trip with lots of nice scenery and we were lucky enough to have the nicest train guard in the world who chatted to Boo and gave her a special ticket so she could go on the beach.
The beach at Margate is beautiful. A long stretch of golden, clean sand that you can see as soon as you step outside of the train station, although the first thing that will catch your eye is the massive brutalism flats to the right. It was still pretty early when we arrived and Betsy and I found a good spot on the beach. We popped a towel down, found a couple of nice looking shells and then walked down to the water.
The water was bracing, but it remains shallow for quite a length and is excellent for wave jumping. I regretted not taking my own swimming costume so had to do with paddling, but Betsy took full advantage of being in her gear and splashed and swam and just had the best time. Next to our towels we dug a big hole (Betsy called it her seat), decorated it with shells (there are lots of good specimins dotted in the sand), and even made a cup holder for our drinks. That’s my girl!
After a while, we popped over the road to Dreamland. Dreamland is a pleasure park that dates back to the 1920’s and was one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country, but fell into disrepair in the 70s once package holidays became popular. Last year it was reopened and redesigned by Hemingway Design, and it looks like an Instagrammer’s dream. Full of pastel yellows and pinks, the place evokes nostalgic childhood memories without it ever being cheesy. Rides are vintage, including Britain’s oldest roller coaster (sadly not working at the moment as it’s waiting for a new rope to be installed) and there’s something for everyone. You pay by token, with tokens costing £1 each, but some rides cost up to three tokens each so it is well worth investing in some wristbands that can give you unlimited rides (and they’re 10% cheaper if you buy them online.). I think we did all the rides that Betsy was tall enough for, and then we went on them again, and again!
I’m not very good with fast rides, but Betsy loves them and I had to swallow my cowardice to accompany her. I’m not ashamed to admit I had to squeeze my eyes shut the first time we went on the Cyclone Twist, but Boo’s obvious enjoyment of the ride made me open then on the second go. There are quite a few other attractions too, including a roller disco and the Octopus’ Garden (an indoor play area for under eights).
There quite a few food choices at Dreamland, but you can’t visit a seaside town without eating fish and chips. I had heard that Peter’s Fish Factory was the best place in town so we queued up there. It’s very popular, we had to queue for a good twenty minutes, but it is well worth the wait. Fish was perfectly cooked and chips crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. There’s no seating, but it’s right on the seafront, so Betsy and I sat on the steps next to the beach looking out to sea and making sure the greedy seagulls don’t steal our food.
After lunch, we went back into Dreamland for a few more rides and an enormous amount of candy floss before catching our train home. Betsy cannot wait go back there again though and neither can I – we have yet to explore the Turner Contemporary gallery and there are a number of bars and vintage shops that look brilliant. I feel the need for a weekend break coming up.