Broadstairs Pub Crawl, Kent, England Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Broadstairs Pub Crawl, Kent, England

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Take the train from London Victoria, Charing Cross or Waterloo East to Broadstairs, Thanet, Kent. The journey takes approximately one hour 40 minutes.

Crampton's Pub

Leave Broadstairs Station to the right and cross the road at the pedestrian crossing, where the first establishment to visit is Crampton's (formerly The Railway). It is likely that the stay will only be for a swift drink before heading 50 yards down the road, on the same side, as it is a very youth-orientated pub. This pub was built in 1865 and has recently been completely refurbished. It is named after the famous engineer Thomas Crampton, who built the nearby water tower (under the Railway Bridge and now a Museum) and worked for Great Western Railway, keeping the Railway connection alive. This is a Thorley Tavern.

The Bradstow Mill

The Bradstow Mill (another Thorley Tavern) is number two. This is a very pleasant, real ale pub during the week, although a fairly garish, loud 'yoof and chav' pub at the weekend. The pub has a Victorian exterior while the interior has been designed to look like the 15th Century Mill that stood at the rear of the building until it was demolished in the early 1900s. The interior was designed by David Cutmore. Bradstow is Anglo-Saxon for Broad Place, hence Broadstairs.

The Prince Albert

Cross the road and call in at the Prince Albert, another real ale pub which is very popular, with an Elizabethan-style gable and an elegantly painted frontage.

Ye Olde Crown

Following this establishment, cross the road to Ye Olde Crown, which is composed of three old fishing cottages. Again an old, established real ale pub, with good grub and plenty of old prints of Broadstairs in the rear bar. This pub was built in the 1830s in a mock-Tudor style, at a time when writer Charles Dickens was becoming familiar with the town. Indeed it is possible that he used the pub (probably along with most of the others in the area) while lodging in the High Street in 1837. It has been extended and refurbished over the years but still has a comfy atmosphere.

Wrotham Arms

Time for a slight detour (and some ignore this pub for that reason). Take a right turn at Rook's the Butcher's, along York Street to the Wrotham (pronounced 'rootum') Arms. This is a Shepherd Neame (known locally as Sh*t and Scream) pub, so a good drop of Spitfire can be expected. This pub is on the boundary of Broadstairs and was converted from two cottages probably around 1850.

The Charles Dickens

Double back on yourself, but before reaching Rooks, turn right at the House of Broomfield Coffee Shop, and enter a pub named after probably Broadstairs' most famous previous resident, Charles Dickens (known locally as Charlie Dicks). This is perceived to be the largest pub in Broadstairs, with the main bar downstairs and a restaurant/meeting room/bar upstairs. Excellent views around Viking Bay too. The building is around 200 years old and was famous around the late 1800s as a high class entertainment venue. This continued until the outbreak of the first world war when it became Anderson's Café. It has been a pub since the 1960s and is another Thorley Tavern.

Ballards

From here take a very short stroll along the Promenade to the Royal Albion Hotel, owned by the Marchesi Family since 1978, although the building was built in 1760. Recently the bar has been extensively refurbished, the garden has been tidied and a large decking veranda added. The bar has been renamed Ballard's, after James Ballard, a 19th Century owner who is purported to have supplied Charles Dickens with 'delicious brews and ales'.

The Rose

It is time to leave the Albion, via the front door, and turn right, crossing the road to pay a visit to The Rose. This is generally a music venue and so may not be everyone's pint of beer. This is a modern pub, built in the 1950s, replacing a pub from the 1780s of the same name but set further back from the road.

Balmoral Wine Bar

However it is no more than a spit to the next venue. This is the Balmoral Wine Bar, a very pleasant establishment and a vast improvement on its previous incarnation, Bomber's, which summed it up perfectly. It is a small venue, but has a good choice of wines. This was originally a hotel, with Gemset, the building next door being the dining rooms. It had a name change around 1990.

Barnaby Rudge

Now cross the road and head to Broadstairs' unique crossroads, with a pub on each corner. The one to try first is the garishly orange decorated Barnaby Rudge. The pub takes its name from the title of a Dickens' Novel, and has been variously, The British Tar (Sailor) and The George.

Harper's Wine Bar

Beating a hasty retreat from there, head down Harbour Street about 10 yards, to Harper's Wine Bar. A little trendy, but a good place for reading the Sunday papers.

Continue down Harbour Street, passing Broadstairs' quaint Windsor Cinema. Built in 1911, from knapped flint, it seats 100 people. A few years ago, when this Researcher visited, the projectionist offered coffees to all before the film, and then stopped the film halfway through to ask who wanted interval drinks, went up the road to a pub (that will be mentioned later), and returned with the order, prior to continuing the film. There were only 6 people in at the time though. Pass under York Gate which was built in 1538 as protection for the shipbuilding industry and was called Flint Gate. It was extensively rebuilt in 1795, and renamed York Gate, after the Duke of York.

The Pavillion

Continue down to the Pavilion, another Thorley Tavern, but thankfully this is one that Frank Thorley has rescued from disaster. Built in 1933 as a theatre on the sands, it fell into disrepair, and was bought by the local council, who couldn't staunch the money pit. Eventually Thorley took it over, cleaned it up, created an attractive garden and patio, and has actually made it a pleasant venue. It is regularly used as a music and dance venue, and boasts great views across Viking Bay.

The Tartar Frigate

Upon leaving, turn right and head down to the 17th Century Weatherboard boathouse and Custom House and visit the popular Tartar Frigate (another Thorley Tavern). This is a well established inn, having been regularly used by sailors, smugglers and Charles Dickens. Again primarily a Shepherd Neame pub, but with a lovely aspect across the harbour and the beach. It also serves beer in plastic glasses for consumption on the beach or the pier. The pub gets its name from HMS Frigate, a local ship that was built in the boatyards of Broadstairs. It was probably built in the mid 1850s. However it is known that a hostelry/boarding house had been on the site from at least the Elizabethan period.

The Neptune Halls

Having had a good quaff, it is time to stagger up Harbour Street, which is fairly steep, with narrow paths, so an awareness of traffic is essential. Pass the Olde Curiosity Shop (famed for its 30 foot well, used to store contraband during Broadstairs Smuggling era) and up to the most popular pub in Broadstairs, The 'Nep', or more correctly the Neptune's Halls. Another Shepherd Neame pub, built in the early 19th Century, it still retains many old features and has a large upstairs meeting room, home to the local Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. This also has a good beer garden. Built in 1815, the pub has retained many of its original features. The interior is now listed.

The Dolphin

The Dolphin is just across the road from the Nep. This is very much a teen pub, and is the only pub which maintains its normal clientelle throughout the local folk festival in August, hosting events at lunchtime, but being more a teen-band pub in the evening. Looks can be deceptive, as this is reckoned to be the oldest pub in Broadstairs, dating from the 1600s. It has been extended into the next door shop, creating a strange aspect as it has its own bar. Recently refurbished.

The Lord Nelson

After having enjoyed the ale, leave and turn right, past the car park on the left to the Lord Nelson. It is noticeable that this didn't start life as a pub, and was originally a drapers. It was built in 1815. It became a pub when the local brewery in Ramsgate bought it, and named it after Lord Nelson, due to the local historical link to Waterloo and Nelson. When his body was repatriated, The Victory and the fleet was moored in the Dover Roads off Broadstairs.

Now feeling rather comfortable, there are two routes back to the station. Either take the same road route back, or alternatively take the short route. Leave the Nelson, turn left, and go through the alley into Bradstow Way, continue to the junction, and turn left up to the High Street, then right, back to Broadstairs Station. The trains from the nearest platform go to Waterloo East/Charing Cross, while crossing over the footbridge for the other platform heads to London Victoria.

The gentle stroll around Broadstairs is around 2 km and takes in sixteen hostelries, as well as a fair amount of Broadstairs' historical elements and architecture.


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