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Pugin’s home

by
18 July 2014

by Sue Dobson

Where?

Ramsgate, on the Isle of Thanet, the furthest east you can go in Kent.
 

Why?

Once a favourite for family bucket-and-spade holidays, the elegant Georgian terraces, Regency crescents, and fine harbour offer plenty of grown-up attractions.
 

What to see

The splendid harbour with its yacht-packed marina is the focus of the town. Designated a Royal Harbour by King George IV in 1820 (the only one in England), it has seen the departure of British troops for the Napoleonic Wars and played an important part in the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation.

Ramsgate Maritime Museum, on the quayside, has four galleries, and includes an important collection of artefacts from ships wrecked on the notorious Goodwin Sands. The Ramsgate Meridian runs through it.ucked against the cliff on the edge of the harbour, the little Sailor's Church is a quiet place with a sense of the sea and those who sail it.

A wander along the town's crescents, parades, and squares reveals blue plaques to famous residents and visitors, from Princess Victoria and Jane Austen to Wilkie Collins - who wrote The Woman in White while staying at 14 Nelson Crescent - and Vincent van Gogh, who lodged at 11 Spencer Square when he was teaching at 5 Royal Road.

St Augustine's, on the West Cliff, is the "ideal church" of Pugin, who spared no expensive in designing and building it according to his "true principles of Christian architecture". He was attracted to the site because it was close to where St Augustine landed in AD 572. In 2012, the church was designated an official shrine of St Augustine for pilgrimage.

Next door, The Grange, the house Pugin built for himself and his family, has been beautifully restored by the Landmark Trust, and is open to visitors by appointment (you can stay there, it sleeps eight). Its colourful décor is reminiscent of the interiors he designed for the Houses of Parliament.
 

Where to eat and drink

For good British cooking by a highly regarded chef with a passion for ingredients gleaned from the coast and countryside of Kent, seek out Age and Sons Restaurant, Café, and Bar in Charlotte Court, a stylishly converted Victorian wine warehouse near the harbour.
 

Near by

Minster Abbey, founded in AD 670 by a great-granddaughter of King Ethelbert, is one of the earliest monastic foundations in England. Broadstairs has a lovely beach, retro ice-cream parlours, and Charles Dickens connections, including the clifftop Bleak House, where he wrote David Copperfield, and the memorabilia-packed Dickens' House Museum. The excellent seafront art gallery Turner Contemporary makes a visit to Margate a must. Cross the road to wander the cobbled lanes of Margate's Old Town, lined with galleries, cafés, crafts, and funky shops.

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