I’ve wanted to cycle to Margate for ages. After having been in Berlin for the last nine months, it’s made me think differently about the idea of cycling until the land runs out. There’s something very special about being on an interconnected continent, suddenly able to eye up other countries. But there’s something equally special about hitting the end of a country after a day of cycling. I was back in London for a weekend so we went. I’m glad we did.
Where are we going today? Who knows.
It also very cool to see how quickly people can get used to something. A couple of years back, Cynthia couldn’t cycle and we went to the park armed with a little yellow Tokyo Bike for her to menace ducks and in the process of learning to ride a bike (which you can watch a loud and giggly video of here). Now she’s loudly making robot noises and dancing about on a bike, whilst belting out 85 miles and training for another half iron man. I, meanwhile, spent the ride remembering how to use gears and trying not to get heat stroke.
Taking the long touristy route out of London was ace (route’s at the bottom). Then there are A roads (main roads) for days but they’re pretty smooth and nice with some hills that remind me that I live in a flat city in Berin.
Never cycle behind Fong and puddles or you will look like you have shit on your legs. Perhaps you do. It’s a mystery.
Breakfast stop at root of all evil is an important part of trip with Cynthia.
Then when you suddenly hit the countryside, it feels like you’ve earned it. The birds chirping seems all the louder, the silence more special and the signs that announce eggs for sale from thatched houses all the more special.
Around Faversham everything becomes ridiculous cute. There were lots of cute medieval houses with overhangs on tiny streets. We even saw a village fete to which Cynthia, as an ever-city resident, asked: “What is this, a protest?” Genuine question.
Will never tire of signs selling local eggs because countryside is too cute.
As you head towards Whitstable to hit the coast, the route goes down a flat winding country road and you’re greeted by beach huts waving from over the hill. It seems surreally early to hit the coastline, and you follow the headland round for most of the rest of the route, veering briefly off to coast behind some houses which literally look straight out into the sea. Whitstable also very cute. It would make a pretty neat place for a stop – I hear good things about their oysters, if you like oysters. During this section, if you’re lucky, you have a Cynthia with you to do some no hands dancing.
Funny to think that she couldn’t cycle two years ago and we were running over ducks in the park as she learned.
Winding around the coast.
The coastal route is a pedestrian and bike path that takes you past wide open land along the coastline. It’s just waves and fishermen – or people playing at fishing. It gets a little repetitive but it’s pretty beautiful. Then after a wind around the headline, you’re in Margate.
Margate itself is a weird place full of mods and rockers, vintage shops, classic cars, cobbled streets and little pubs. The sandy beach is immediately there, retro amusement arcade Dreamland is on your right, and Turner Gallery right in front of you.
We didn’t have time to see everything but I’ve been before on the train a couple of times and have put in a few things I’ve loved.
One of my favourite places is the view out of the Tuner Gallery from inside – straight out into the sea, looking like a huge rectangle into nothing. There’s a beautiful shop on the clifftop called Haeckles where the guys make candles, fragrance skin care things out of local seaweed, plants and bits and bobs, all in their in-house lab. Last time the sign told me they were out collecting seaweed, which was both sweet and ill-timed. There’s an air of the South East coast artistry here, too, with artist houses up and down the roads and studios nestled around. The Shell Grotto is also mysterious and bizarre.
A photo from Haekels, featuring none of the aforementioned things.
Margate’s on a coastal loop path that means it’s incredibly easy to roll down a coastal path through Broadstairs’ Botany Bay and the long cliff white coastline on the Viking Coastal Trail, if you have more time. The Guardian highly rates the trail, too.