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A cosy stay with Keepers Cottages at Old Chelsea

Located in Deal’s most sought after street, a stay at Old Chelsea proved to be the sweetest treat for insideKENT’s Olivia Riccini. 

Having been a frequent visitor to Deal for well over a decade, the trendiness and rising popularity of Middle Street had failed to escape me. Set back from the sea with only the promenade, road and a grand row of houses separating it from the ocean, this ancient street meanders in a sweeping serpentine shape from the high street to Deal’s polished North End

An assortment of residences from elegant Georgian townhouses to tiny fishermen’s terraces, this hotpotch of architectural allsorts is a delight to the eye. In the same way that anyone could point a camera anywhere in Italy’s Venice and capture a photographic work of art, point a camera anywhere along Middle Street and you will capture an Instagram story worth uploading. Every twist, turn, doorknob and window pane cries out to be admired, each lovingly-restored home revelling in its own individual and unique glory. In December last year I found myself wandering down Middle Street just to admire the Christmas wreaths, each its own stunning entry into an unspoken competition. However, it wasn’t until I found myself on a date with a Middle Street homeowner that I became seething with jealousy. It was at that moment I realised that this street may just well be one of the most sought after in Kent, and I too, wanted a piece of it for myself.

Providing me with that exact opportunity came Keepers Cottages, who, with many properties on Middle Street, suggested Old Chelsea. I couldn’t have picked a more perfect day to stay. The early October heatwave soaked across Deal and its beaches like a warm bath and after a refreshing swim in the ocean (my wetsuit making the autumn dip all the more enjoyable), I headed to Old Chelsea with three of my best friends in tow. Much of Middle Street and North Deal is a protected conservation area, and Old Chelsea sits at its heart. A prime example of a petite little fisherman’s cottage, Old Chelsea can be found in a tiny ‘court’ of just four other doors that juts off Middle Street. Arriving at said court, luggage holdalls in hand, we gasp and drop our bags to the floor, the sight before us postcard-perfect. The court is festooned with blossoming flower pots and creeping climbers, bright pops of pinks, reds and green stand out against the whitewashed walls. After taking several pictures, we venture forward to the sweetest powder-blue door in the middle. 

Check-in is simple. I now have my very own keys to a gorgeous little home on Middle Street (if only for one night) – a mere saunter away from the sea and all the delights of Deal town. We step down into the property, its sunken stone floor the first attribute that makes this place cosy. Before us is the sitting room, and here Old Chelsea’s pièce de résistance takes centre stage: a beautiful original brick fireplace. Complete with a small coal-burning stove, it is clear that Old Chelsea is the perfect cottage for cosy nights in after days spent at the beach. After brewing four cups of hot tea to savour alongside a plate of complimentary Zingiberi Bakery cookies that have been left by our host, we settle in for an evening snuggled by the fire, candles lit, chatting and playing board games. 

If we wanted to cook we could. Old Chelsea has a kitchen separated only by a single step up from the sitting room, running open-plan against the back wall of the property. It is neatly fitted and includes a china sink, a cooker and all other kinds of amenities and utensils you might need to whip up a feast. On warmer days, you could eat this feast in the little ‘garden’ that sits outside the kitchen window. Accessible via the back door, this alfresco spot would also make a great little place for sunny breakfasts or a glass of wine before heading to town. Opposite the door to the garden is the bathroom – yet another neat, compact attribute to Old Chelsea. I am surprised to see the bathroom conceals a large, gleaming rainfall shower; a hot necessity after swimming in the sea.

Old Chelsea is stylishly decorated. It is full of a mixture of carefully chosen modern furniture with a few antique pieces – a colour scheme of calming pale blues to match both the front door and the ocean outside. A large sofa is great for snuggling in front of the fire, as is the squashy armchair with token sheepskin thrown over the back. Built in the 1700s, the cottage is no less than charming when it comes to appearance inside: low doorways, plenty of beams on show and a steep wooden staircase that winds its way upstairs. Two enchanting bedrooms await us at the top, one with a sumptuous double bed and the other with a small double bed under a single bunk bed. Ever the generous host, I allow my friends to take the doubles and I opt for the single bunk. We all sleep well (even me, having not slept in a bunk bed in forever), agreeing so with much positivity in the morning, the cosiness of our sleep still embracing us inside this little sanctuary of ours.

I head out for cappuccinos and croissants. A lovely little coffee shop, Hope & Lane, is about three minutes walk away, so the croissants are still warm and the coffee strong. The morning mist unfurls, it conceals the sun and impending heat of the day, an orange glow hanging over the still sea. I feel as though I am aboard. It is a good start to my day. Walking back through Middle Street, coffees and pastries in hand, I catch a conversation: “Is that another million-pound renovation?” I hear a man with a morning newspaper tucked under his arm exclaim to a builder. They both laugh. 

Middle Street is anything but non-inclusive, however. Instead, its persona has continually evolved into what it is now: the embodiment of sleek, stylish gentrification with a whole heap of sympathy and acknowledgement for an enthralling past carefully conserved through thoughtful restoration. Old Chelsea is the perfect example of this. Today, this cosy cottage is a heartwarming representation of Middle Street’s long-forged identity; a meticulously mixed concoction of original features, history, style, modern comforts and cute cosiness. If, like me, you’re looking for your own sweet little slice of Middle Street, Old Chelsea might just be it.    

Old Chelsea, Deal; from £638 for seven nights.


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