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Paul Webb

Cultural Guide to Kent

17 March 2016 | London Calling

Yes, Kent will always be known as the garden of England but isn’t it time we shook things up a bit? Kent has increasingly cemented itself as the county which provides more culture, history and art than any other. Here are just a few gems to prove it.

Family

Firstly, there’s Dreamland. Back in the 60’s, it attracted more than 2 million adrenalin seekers a year, then it closed, seemingly forever in 2003. But now it’s back, like a phoenix from the flames and brought to life by designer Wayne Hemmingway. The newly refurbished Dreamland has energy in abundance – you are taken back to the 1950’s and everything feels a bit Buddy Holly. Teenagers and twenty-somethings sharply dressed in vintage attire, adults in DM’s and Harringtons. All retro rides have been done up with even more candy stick. There are Merry-Go-Rounds, a roller disco, retro furniture, a (huge) helter skelter and dodgems. Basically, it conjures up one big success and now it’s arguably the hippest place to be in Kent.

Art

Only a stone’s throw away (quite literally) is Turner Contemporary, one of the UK’s leading art galleries. The gallery is homage to JMW Turner, who painted many of his seascapes on Margate beach. The gallery is a wonderful avant-garde space and everyone who visits has a different way of thinking and learning. Here, you’ll find art ranging from 1750 to the present day, with Turner’s work on show permanently. It’s a wonderful sight to behold and worth mentioning that all these changes are indicative of Margate’s steady revival in the last few years. It’s also free, so there’s simply no excuse to miss out.


Image credit: Turner Contemporary | Benjamin Beker

Heritage

For a calmer, peaceful and idyllic setting, look no further than Leeds Castle. This hidden gem is situated just east of Maidstone and has been heralded the world’s most romantic castle. It’s easy to see why. The castle wonderfully spreads itself across two islands and overlooks Kent’s nature at it’s finest. Leeds Castle has over 1,000 years of history and some parts of the castle are periodically closed for private events. A special treat for all ages, Leeds Castle is certainly one to tick off for the nature and historical lovers.

You cannot take in Kent without visiting Canterbury. From the iconic Canterbury Cathedral, which remains one of the most visited places in the UK and attracts audiences worldwide.


Image credit: Leeds Castle | Matthew Walker

Outdoors

The little town of Deal has steadily built a wonderful reputation as a hub of culture, art and bohemia. An easy 1 hour commute from London St Pancras, Deal offers everything to younger audiences as it does to the older generation. Atmospheric pubs, cafes are placed alongside a seafront, which attracts great fishing spots, and an unusual maritime clock. Deal is a home full of creative artists, musicians and actors. Independent boutiques fill the mazy smuggler lanes and you’re a short bike ride away from its beautiful neighbours; Sandwich, Walmer and Kingsdown. Deal is quite possibly the perfect weekend getaway from London life.

Theatre

Lastly, there’s also the Marlowe Theatre situated in Canterbury, one of the South East’s top theatres and named after Canterbury’s famous son, Sir Christopher Marlowe. There’s plenty to eat and drink in this fine city too; try Kitch at St Peters Street, or the Good Shed right by Canterbury West – a restaurant come farmers’ market, flying the flag for wonderful, local produce.
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