Bike Hire in Margate
After our previous day out exploring the faded glory of Margate Old Town and the nearby seaside we prepared for a cycle ride along the coast to Broadstairs. On our walk through the Old Town on Saturday we had discovered the bike hire station, Ride Thanet, in Old Kent Market. We had originally planned to reserve some bikes for a ride over the weekend at some point and the friendly owner assured us that we would be able to just turn up in the morning and get some for our ride. However, I do recommend if you are there during the busy summer months or weekends to give them a call in advance and reserve them to ride along the coast as we did. There are options for children’s bikes and also a trailer for smaller kids if you need it but supply maybe limited.
Our first stop before cycling was again at The Fort Café, where we had enjoyed our food and the atmosphere so much the day before we could not be bothered to try somewhere else and be disappointed (so sorry Beano Café and Wimpy’s, maybe next time?). Full up on a classic English breakfast we headed straight to the bike hire station. We stocked up on drinks for the ride at one of the shops in the market hall while waiting for the bicycles. Jerome was tall enough to get on a normal bike, he is now only just a few centimetres off my height (cannot believe it!). We crossed the road and set off along the coastal path behind the Turner Gallery. It is possible to ride all of the Viking Coastal Way that weaves around the coast from Margate to Broadstairs and Ramsgate before cutting inland across to the Thames Estuary and back round the coast to Margate again. At 32 miles, around 50km, the whole route is probably too far for smaller children but an active older one that likes biking might manage it in a day or it could be planned as a two day excursion. Having said that the stretch along the coast makes ideal family cycling as an out and back route too – as was our plan.
The Old Lido
The route first led us past the back of the gallery car park and then the remnants of the disused Lido, which I had fallen in love with when we arrived. This time I could get a closer look at the pool, which had filled with sand over the years after it had been shut down. The kiosk with its tiled picture of the cliffs and the sea, sadly had lost many of its tiles and to me looked more like to faces than cliffs now, but that is probably my imagination going wild. Other parts of the building were vandalised and covered in graffiti.
Walpole Bay Beach
The boys were already far ahead on their bikes and I had to pedal hard to catch them up. To our surprise there was another tidal pool further along Walpole Bay. Much like the one on Margate’s sandy beach, the concrete walls were covered in seaweed. Turning around the cliff we stumbled on a little sandy cove where the promenade stopped for a few meters and we had to push our bikes through the sand to the other side.
Cycling along Viking Coastal Trail
Shortly afterwards the esplanade turns up between two cliffs. Again we pushed the bikes up the steep hill to find the path continued at the top next to the cliff’s edge. There was a flower meadow to the other side and behind we could see the edge of town, with its large family houses looking towards the sea. Cycling along the cliff top we got beautiful views of the sea and the horizon. We could just about make out the many windmills recently built on the sandbanks in the estuary and large tankers waiting to sail through the channel.
Botany Bay was busy with families spending their day on the beach, we barely caught a glance of the sand as we whizzed by on our bikes. Not far from Botany Bay we stumbled upon the remains of an old castle. The ruins are now part of a golf course but it is an easily climb through the window and the structure with its missing roof can be admired from the inside. I could imagine it would make a great playground for boys of Jerome’s age, pretending to be knights. The entire ruin is built out of flint stones, as these were the only stones readily available at the time besides chalk in the nearby area. Across from the castle is a gap in between the white chalk cliffs with access to the beach. I have seen a photo of the large hole that has been washed into the soft stone and now forms an arch that can be walked underneath at low tide. Shame I only discovered this afterwards during my research about this post.
A Light House
Next up we had climb a stretch of hill with a light house at the top. Just before reaching the summit the cycle path turned into a gated estate with large houses – some of them old, traditional homes, others were rather ugly modern houses with flashy cars in their drives. Leaving the private roads behind it was downhill on the road, Jerome cycled on the empty pavement, until we reached the outskirts of Broadstairs town.
Bleak House in Broadstairs
Turning off onto Church Road we found ourselves in front of Bleak House. This building was once home to author Charles Dickens and it has been turned into a luxury, seaside hotel and wedding venue. On our way downhill to the bay and through a gap in the seashells covered brick walls we got a glimpse of the beautiful garden and terrace and made the immediate decision to stop for an afternoon tea there. Charles Dickens spent many summers in his airy nest overlooking Viking Bay and wrote one of his most famous novels “David Copperfield” in the confines of the house around walks on the cliff tops.
Our table overlooked the manicured lawn, framed by sculptures and pretty flowerbeds. Jerome and I went on a stroll through the garden while our tea and scones were prepared. A curious seagull appeared out of nowhere and we kept wondering if he knew exactly what he came for. He was after some crumbs of our homemade scones and he most possible knew that they must be the best in the area…
Stone Bay Beach
We could have sat there for hours, ideally with a book in hand or playing a round of cards, however we knew we had to get back to Margate at some point to catch our train back to London. Instead of cycling back along Church Road we took the road along the top of Stone Bay Beach. Another stunning bay with colourful beach huts along the entire length of the beach. These ones, compared to the ones we had seen on Westbrook Bay the previous day, were all differently painted with a multitude of shades and patterns.
Cycling back to Margate
Once we were back on the cycle path to Margate we literally pedalled nonstop until we reached Old Kent Market Hall where we dropped our bikes back.
We took our bags to walk the stretch to the station along the back of the beach. The kiddy rides were again busy with toddlers and younger children on this sunny, bright afternoon. Wistfully we took a last glance at the beach, the tidal pool and even the concrete tower block and said goodbye to Margate. I know for sure we will return soon, to delve more into the waned splendour of this, in my opinion, under rated seaside town.