Eight reasons to love Deal in Kent

Eight reasons to love Deal in Kent

In February we spent a long weekend in Deal, a small seaside town in Kent, on the south coast of England. It’s a place that’s easy to reach from London: under two hours by car, or an hour and 40 minutes by train. We decided it was our favourite coastal town to flee to when we want to escape the city grind. Here are the reasons why.

The sea, the sea

Deal

Deal’s Georgian seafront runs along a pebble beach that was nominated no. 1 in the Telegraph’s ’10 top spots to lay your beach towel’. Deal can be windy; it sits at one of the more exposed edges of the Channel between England and France. But it’s a fine place for beach-based basking in the summer, or for lobbing pebbles into the briny sea in winter (an activity which was possibly the highlight of the holiday for our children).Deal

Deal

Nautical chic

You can almost taste the salty sea air when you’re walking around the centre of Deal. As well as the atmosphere, the nautical influence is everywhere in the town’s decor style. Deal residents seem to be extraordinarily proud of the town’s maritime past; walking round the older parts of the town, you’ll see replica ships in almost every other window. There are also plenty of traditional timber-clad coastal townhouses, painted in jaunty nautical colours.

Deal

Deal

Gourmet food and drink

Unsurprisingly, Deal is awash with delicious seafood. The town’s fish and chip shops are of a high standard (we enjoyed dinner from the Happy Fryer on our first evening there). But if you want more gourmet fare, The Court Yard is a welcoming, bright oyster restaurant (the courtyard of its name has a glass roof). I went there mid-afternoon with my son and they were very kind to us, bringing a colouring book and crayons along with our delicately flavoured Mersea Island oysters.

Deal

There’s a top-notch off-licence and wine bar, selling mainly European wines. As well as a place to drink fine vintages, Le Pinardier has managed to transform its small interior into a music venue and art gallery.

Le Pinardier

There is a weekly market in Deal, and on the first Saturday of every month there’s a farmer’s market, where you can buy fine local cheeses, and freshly caught fish.

cheese

fish

Curios and knick-knacks

Deal is a hoarder’s paradise. Whether you like quirky antiques, or more modern curios – upcycled, or freshly created – there’s a shop to suit your needs. D even managed to pick up a crocheted stag’s-head faux hunting trophy on the high street as a surprise birthday present for me (I know, I’m a little peculiar in my tastes…)

Quill Antiques

Mileage

Deal

Hipster heaven

According to the London Evening Standard, Deal is a good place for a ‘hipster holiday‘; with its “sizeable artistic and gay community” it is a “lively escape for young Londoners”.

The ‘H’ word may leave you wincing in horror, but Deal has plenty to recommend itself to people who are hipsters by nature but not in name. Smugglers Records, for instance, is a shop selling both vinyl and craft beer. It even has two music festivals: a one-day folk celebration, and an annual weekend-long festival of world, psychedelic, jazz and folk music.

Smugglers Records

Like many seaside towns up and down England’s south coast, from Margate in the east to as far west as Weymouth and Portland, the influence of London’s hipsters is very evident when you’re strolling though Deal. You see plenty of bearded men on the streets, although I didn’t spot any man-buns. Perhaps they’ve had their day on the cool Kentish coast.

Deal

Deal

Old-school seaside charm

If you’re turned off by the idea of hipsters, never fear. Deal still has plenty of traditional seaside charm, including a slightly run-down amusement arcade, and a rusty-looking 1960s concrete pier. We even ran into Frank Skinner over the weekend. Twice. Who could be more old-school charming than the football-loving funnyman?

Deal

 

Deal

Deal

Smugglers!

Daniel Defoe wrote of Deal:

If I had any satire left to write,
Could I with suited spleen indite,
My verse should blast that fatal town,
And drown’d sailors’ widows pull it down;

The town was notorious for smuggling in the 17th century, with the problem becoming so bad that in 1784 Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger ordered every single Deal vessel to be burnt, in an attempt to stem the flow of sea-based looting and pilfering. The area where the smugglers lived is now Deal’s conservation area, and the networks of narrow, twisting roads set just back from the seafront are supposedly built over tunnels and secret hiding places for marauding outlaws.

We stayed in this beautiful conservation area, in a quaint place called Seashell Cottage, a Sykes Cottages property formerly inhabited by ‘sprat-wafflers’, or fishermen. I would recommend the area as the best place to stay if you’re visiting Deal for a short time.

Seashell Cottage

Deal

Deal Castle

At the other end of Deal’s main seafront drag there’s Deal Castle, which along with neighbouring Walmer Castle was built by Henry VIII as part of England’s coastal defence. Both castles are maintained by English Heritage and I’ve posted more about Deal Castle here. The route along Deal’s seafront is listed in the Times’ Easy cycling guide and a trip to see both castles by bike in one day is easily done, even with kids.

Deal Castle

Getting there

Deal is 9 miles from Dover, off the A2. Direct trains run regularly from Charing Cross and Kings Cross stations in London.

 

Have you been to Deal? What are your reasons to love (or hate) the town?

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28 Comments

  1. May 20, 2016 / 7:15 am

    How un-hip (is this even a word) am I? I didn’t even know man buns were a hipster thing!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 22, 2016 / 6:44 pm

      Ha ha – there don’t seem to be as many of them here in London as there used to be, but there were TONS of them in Oslo!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 25, 2016 / 8:26 pm

      Thanks!

  2. Ruth
    May 24, 2016 / 3:50 am

    Ok, I am not an expert on places in England but this place looks awesome. I am in love with the gorgeous architecture next to the beach (I observed this in the Basque Riviera too). Plus, I would like to try te food there and visit the castle. Looks like the perfect beach escape.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 25, 2016 / 8:27 pm

      It was! I’d like to go back there this summer as it’s quite a different place in the warmer months.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 25, 2016 / 8:31 pm

      Me too – there’s something special about them, isn’t there?

    • Nell
      Author
      May 25, 2016 / 8:33 pm

      Glad to hear it! 🙂

  3. May 25, 2016 / 1:02 am

    I love the look and feel of this town – seems like it has it all, and as someone who raised the first 5 years of my kids in Brooklyn, I don’t mind hipster at all! #mondayescapes

    • Nell
      Author
      May 25, 2016 / 8:34 pm

      Ha ha me neither! Hipsters do have a bit bad press here though, unfortunately.

  4. Su {Ethan & Evelyn}
    May 25, 2016 / 1:03 am

    This is so interesting, especially the story of the Smugglers. Looks and sound like such a lovely town. The old map looks very interesting too. #TotsTravel

    • Nell
      Author
      May 25, 2016 / 8:35 pm

      The map was in our holiday cottage. Fascinating stuff!

  5. Ting at My Travel Monkey
    May 27, 2016 / 1:05 pm

    Eight Fab reasons indeed! I’ve never explored Deal and now I seriously want to go – I love the seaside and little towns that have so much to offer – a castle, good food, hipster hang outs (because I sooo am) and an award-winning beach? When can we go?? Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

  6. May 27, 2016 / 5:23 pm

    Nautical chic is how I’d decorate my whole house given the chance.

  7. Kathryn
    May 11, 2017 / 12:41 pm

    I live and work in Deal and I just LOVE it! I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else now. Selfishly, I’d like to keep Deal to myself with no DFLs (down from London) but it is far too good not to share.

    Feeling bored, go for a walk along the seafront; feeling unhappy, go for a walk along the seafront; if you are happy, go for a walk along the front – I could go on.

    I enjoy eating my lunch sitting on the pier or one of the many benches along the front (watch out for the seagulls nicking your food though). I consider myself a lucky, lucky person!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:19 pm

      Thanks for reading my post! Yes, the sea helps with everything….

  8. Rachel beck
    May 12, 2017 / 6:20 am

    I have lived in Deal for over 30 yrs and I still walk along our lovely seafront thinking I’m so lucky I actually live here

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:19 pm

      I don’t blame you!

  9. Rose
    May 12, 2017 / 4:12 pm

    I used to live in Deal when I was younger and if money was no object I would live back there tomorrow ♡

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:23 pm

      Ah, what a great place to grow up in.

  10. October 17, 2018 / 11:02 am

    I love anywhere with smugglers and pirates so Deal must be added to the list. It’s so picturesque, and love the sound of the vinyl shop. Pleased you found a shop that can keep up with your peculiar tastes!

    • Nell
      Author
      October 18, 2018 / 11:02 am

      Yes, it was a good combo!

  11. Jolanda
    December 26, 2018 / 12:22 pm

    Was in Deal last week, wish I was there right now, I love it and would like to be there more often….keep working and saving and go back

    • Nell
      Author
      January 6, 2019 / 4:15 pm

      It’s a fantastic place, isn’t it 🙂

  12. Derek
    February 16, 2019 / 11:55 am

    My wife and I are looking for a seaside town to live in but after being mugged recently my wife has become very nervous of roaming youths. So forgive my question…. Obviously nowhere is crime-free but on the whole…. Is Deal a safe town, reasonably drug and yob-free ?

    • Nell
      Author
      February 20, 2019 / 2:21 pm

      Sorry to hear about your wife’s mugging. We were only in Deal for a weekend, so I can’t comment on what it’s like as a place to live. There did seem to be a few smallish groups of youngsters hanging out in the evening. I didn’t find them threatening at all, but we live in central London, so I’m used to seeing gangs of young people! It might be worth checking out another blogger who actually lives in Deal, Phil: http://www.philsfrolics.com He’d be able to give you a local’s perspective.

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