Spotlight on Ramsgate
Ramsgate – part of Thanet’s Cinque Ports – is a town with Europe at its doorstep and a chic yet ebullient atmosphere all around. From its busy harbour and yacht-filled marina to its cosmopolitan pavement cafés and welcoming bars that look out over the English Channel and beyond, Ramsgate is a bustling, friendly town with activities for everyone, and a history to be proud of.
by Lisamarie Lamb
Ramsgate is the place where Vincent Van Gogh once made his home and found inspiration (and taught in a school in Royal Road); where architect, A. W. Pugin, practised his art and built a number of beautiful buildings; and where an inter-urban tramway was set up to connect Ramsgate with Margate and Broadstairs – quite a feat of engineering in 1901.
History in Brief
Once upon a time (in around 1275, in fact), Ramsgate was known as Ramisgate (or Remmesgate), which became Ramesgate in 1357. It comes from the Anglo Saxon for Hraefnes (translated as ‘ravens’) Gate, which related to a gap found in the cliffs above the town (then a hamlet that survived on fishing and farming). This charming and rather descriptive name hasn’t changed much since then, and it is interesting to see just how words have evolved – or not – over the centuries.
The town only really began to grow in 1749 when the harbour started to be built (it was completed by 1850). This was – and is – the only royal harbour in the country, and this, along with its proximity to mainland Europe, meant that it became an incredibly important and strategic point for both the Napoleonic Wars and the Dunkirk Evacuation (1940).
Things to Do
Ramsgate Maritime Museum – Located right on the quayside, the Ramsgate Maritime Museum offers an insight into the town’s seafaring past. Within the walls of the beautiful Clock House, there are four excellent exhibits, which include information on the harbour, fishing, lifeboats, and of course shipwrecks.
The Micro Museum – The Micro Museum is the place to go to discover more about computing, and this is where you can find a unique and extensive collection of personal computers, calculators, games, and other pieces of fascinating technology. There are devices on display dating back to the 1940s, but where the museum really excels is showing items from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Ramsgate Local Shoppers – Ramsgate Local Shoppers was set up this year by Ramsgatonians, Maria Thompson and Mary Louise Sharrock. With a membership of almost 500 (and rising), the aim is to support local independent businesses in Ramsgate. Members are passionate in preserving the traditional high street and surrounding areas, and ‘shop-bombing’ is the new Ramsgate verb! Once a month, or more, locals meet at a pre-selected local independent business and ‘shop-bomb’ – shop and then share information about that business down to friends and family. This creates a ripple effect and results in increased footfall to that business. After the shop, they meet at an independent café for something to eat and drink, resulting in a boost for that business also.
Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum – The iconic RAF fighter planes of WW2, the Submarine Spitfire Mk XVI and the Hawker Hurricane IIC are all housed under one roof at the historical Battle of Britain airfield in Manston, Ramsgate – and are well worth a visit.
Pugin Town Trail – The Pugin Town Trail is a self-guided walk from the East Cliff to the West Cliff highlighting the architecture designed by A. W Pugin, as well as seeing key places that feature in his life, and the life of the Pugin family.
The Empire Room – Warm and inviting with a staunchly imperial theme, this restaurant combines mouthwatering dishes with an intimate dining experience that includes delicacies such as roast pork belly with dauphinoise potatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms; grilled sardines with salsa verde, kohlrabi, and Pegwell Bay wild fennel; and gooseberry and almond tart with elderflower mascarpone.
Churchill Tavern – This traditional country pub located in the very heart of thriving Ramsgate has the most incredible sea view, and is always inviting. This is where you will receive hearty, real food with no pretensions in sight – dishes include options such as salmon and crab parcels with a sweet chilli dip; Asian pork belly with rice and green beans; a steak and onion sandwich in a brioche bun with chips and onion rings; and a fabulous array of freshly made puds! It even offers lunch for just £5.
Royal Harbour Brasserie – Created in the style of the most elegant Parisian brasseries, you can enjoy a fragrant Kent coffee on the large terrace as you gaze out to sea. But there’s plenty more on offer too – open seven days a week, why not enjoy some ‘house nibbles’ (olives and bread with dips and olive oil); fresh fish options, including the Brasserie fish and shellfish stew; handmade gnocchi in a white wine butter sauce, or Baileys crème brûlée.
Miles Bar – Overlooking the harbour, Miles Bar offers locally sourced food and drink for the ultimate in Ramsgate meals. Open all day to serve breakfasts, lunches, and exquisite dinners as well as a wide range of fine wines, you can choose to sit inside in the lovely dining room or outdoors on the gorgeous terrace. Food includes hummus and vegetable baguette; freshly made soup of the day; and a grilled halloumi salad.
Ramsgate Festival // Aug
The Ramsgate Festival is a huge three-day event showcasing the best in music, drama, entertainment and local pride. Every year has a different theme (this year’s is centred around 1815), and there is definitely something for everyone! Acts include country singer Nell Brydon, the Dancing Day Trippers, the Sticky People Parade, and of course the grand finale at Pier Yard.
Ramsgate Week // Jul
Come and watch the Regatta from the shore. Look out for special deals, live music, family shows and other attractions in local pubs, bars and restaurants.
Looping the Loop // Apr-May, Oct ’15
Looping the Loop is a festival of live arts in the three towns of Thanet on the East Kent coast: Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs. Festivals run twice a year until May 2016.
Did You Know?
Ramsgate is a full five minutes and 41 seconds ahead of GMT, and that’s a fact; it actually has its very own Meridian Line (and it can be seen inside the Ramsgate Maritime Museum).