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County Town: Maidstone
Population: 1,587,200 (1999 figures)
Area: 1,442 sq miles/ 3,735 sq
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North Kent Coast

North Kent Coast

Although within easy reach of those leaving London every weekend, the North Kent Coast is more likely to be bypassed by pleasure seekers racing to France than explored by them as it surely merits.

The conurbation of Rochester, Gillingham and Chatham has history aplenty to offer the visitor. Rochester has an early Norman Castle with imposing keep, and a Cathedral from the same era. A grubbier part of its past, the old prison hulks, is recalled in the Guildhall Museum.

Chatham for a long time operated the biggest naval dockyard in the land. From the sublime to the ridiculous in terms of space here you‚ll find the ropery, at more than 400 yards the longest room in the country, and the claustrophobic submarine Ocelot. The modern King Charles Hotel in Gillingham offers a comfortable contrast to those sites.

A short distance east is the Isle of Sheppey. Sheerness was established as a fort to protect the Medway, developing into a seaside resort in the 19th century. It has a blue flag beach, and the adjoining town of Minster has the Lees Beach, beloved of windsurfers, though those with a quieter outlook are catered for too at the historic Abbey. The Royal Hotel in the centre of Sheerness is well placed for those exploring the town, but don't forget the wider island ˆ the south coast has excellent birdwatching at Elmley Marshes and The Swale.

Back on the mainland Faversham has several medieval buildings enhancing its centre. Accommodation in the area encompasses many periods: The White Horse Inn at Boughton is named in Chaucer; The Sun Inn in the town itself is slightly later - both serve locally brewed Shepherd Neame Kentish ale; Frith Farmhouse near Faversham is an elegant Georgian building offering B&B and self-catering cottages too.

Five minutes along the coast from Faversham lies Whitstable, Kent's Southwold, with a slightly arty air and of course the famous local oysters, a product that has helped the development of seafood eateries in the town. B&Bs like The Marine and Windy Ridge enjoy enchanting views of the sea.

For those who fancy DIY seafood Herne Bay may well be the place, its famed sea-angling and sea-fishing boats giving you the chance to catch the big one. A couple of miles beyond the bay Streete Cottage in St Nicholas at Wade is a 17th century house that can be rented for an oak-beamed glimpse of the past.

At the eastern end of this coastline sits Margate, where sea-bathing took off with the invention of the bathing engine‚. Margate was for many decades the East Enders‚ choice for a great day out, and still provides simple pleasures: a good beach for the kids; whelks with vinegar; and amusement arcades. Surprising historic houses stand a stroll away, and less well-known still the two big caves beneath the town. Traditional B&Bs like The Palm Court Hotel have served the tourist trade for many years.

Visitors to the North Kent Coast have plenty to see along the shore, but should not forget a short drive inland sits historic Canterbury, a renowned destination even before Chaucer. The Falstaff Inn was built only a couple of centuries after Chaucer; The Woolpack Inn nearby in picturesque Chilham has its own ghost; Canterbury like the neighbouring coast offers a vast choice of accommodation and of attractions give them a try one weekend instead of passing them by.



For more information contact:
South East Tourism - 0871 572 2475

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