The glorious gardens of Sissinghurst Castle, home to Vita Sackville West and her husband Harold Nicolson, was perhaps the highlight of our weekend in Kent (which I’ve somehow managed to string into a week of posts). It was thrilling to walk around the sprawling 400 acre estate she had designed and created, with its pockets of themed colour (@LibertyLdnGirl had recommended the stunning white garden) and texture.
I adored climbing the tower, peeking inside Vita’s study and admiring her mother’s coloured glass collection…
Tips from the Twitterati: LibertyLdnGirl suggested heading to the “blissful” Three Chimney’s pub just down the road, and MaggieA recommended getting there late to avoid crowds (done and done, thank you!).
I also couldn’t resist a visit to the extensive National Trust shop on site (whoever is their buyer does an extremely good job), which stocks a good selection of gardening gifts and books as well as works by Vita and Virginia Woolf. I’m really loving the simple but effective cover design of these Vintage Classics:
Sissinghurst Castle Garden
Sissinghurst, nr Cranbrook, Kent TN17 2AB
Tel. 01580 710701 (Infoline)
The former home of Victorian actress Dame Ellen Terry, this 16th-century cottage features marvellously wonky floorboards as well as a startling array of theatre memorabilia that Terry had fastidiously collected in true magpie-style over her lifetime. Truly a woman after my own heart!
The old theatre costumes and props were fascinating, but I really loved
looking at her more personal items, like the meticulous sewing kit she
kept as well as her dressing table, laid out with trinkets and hair
The English cottage garden was also a delight, with big, old-fashioned roses and an orchard out the back. Don't miss the small National Trust second-hand book stall in the garden – I stumbled upon some excellent vintage Ladybird and wildlife books.
Kent TN30 7NG
Tel. 01580 762334
After our morning in Whitstable, we headed over to Broadstairs for an afternoon by the seaside. Following the excellent advice of @circeplum, we headed to Oscar Road Café for the freshest and most enormous doorstop crab sandwich I’ve encountered. (It was actually a difficult choice between that and the bucket of prawns and lobster rolls.)
Set back on a side street away from the bustle of the seafront, the café itself was completely charming with bunting and vintage-style décor. They also offered a small selection of retro-inspired gifts. We found a perfectly sunny spot under a tree in the back garden, where we quietly sipped ginger beer and experienced a little Enid Blyton moment.
The homemade cakes (especially the moreish Victoria Sponge) looked particularly enticing under their vintage glass cloches, but I was particularly keen to check out the legendary Morelli’s, which @IndiaKnight had tweeted about earlier this year.
The icecream parlour and cappuccino bar opened for business in Broadstairs in 1932 and was the first in the UK to offer over 20 flavours of icecream. It was refurbished in 1959, and it’s still resplendent in all its original formica glory, with Lloyd Loom chairs and a soda fountain now stuffed with kitsch plastic flowers.
Having been advised that no visit to Morelli’s was complete without a Knickerbocker Glory, I duly ordered at the bar and was served what can only be described as a sundae spectacle, topped with whipped cream, cherry, Flake bar, a novel teddy bear wafer and a French flag – all in a wonderful old-fashioned hand-blown glass.
As if that (and the location) wasn’t enough, the icecream was pretty damn delicious, too. (Londoners can visit the Morelli’s outpost at Harrods, which offers an innovative bespoke icecream service.)
Outside Morelli’s, the vibrant delights of the Broadstairs seaside awaited. All that was missing was a Punch and Judy show and a couple of donkeys. (And I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if either showed up.)
scar Road Café
15 Oscar Road
Broadstairs, Kent CT10 1QJ
Tel. 01843 872442
Thursday to Friday 10.30am-5pm
14 Victoria Parade
Broadstairs, Kent CT10 1Q
Just a couple of doors down from Frank on Harbour Street is the utterly irresistible Sundae Sundae, a retro seaside shop with a self-styled ‘'ice cream delicatessen’. It’s a delightfully kitsch celebration of nostalgic British summer-time, stocking a fanciful selection of brightly coloured buckets, spades and ‘proper’ seaside toys.
It’s the range of weird and wonderful icecream flavours that catch my eye, like raspberry cheesecake, crème brulle, lavender sorbet, stem ginger and cracked pepper. For an extra-special treat, your scoops can be served in plastic sailing boats, complete with a little sail.
The various flavours are all-natural and sourced from small British farms, some as far away as Yorkshire. But the more experimental flavours are made in-house, like the fresh basil icecream, which is apparently very refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
There’s also a tasty line-up of retro English sweets, including the ever-popular flying saucers, love hearts, Dip Dabs, Whitstable rock, sugar mice and (my favourite) Tunnock’s tea cakes.
Towards the back of the store you’ll find a charming collection of vintage crockery and ephemera, like old Beano mags, vintage annuals and retro sundae glasses. I couldn’t resist the vintage saucy postcards, the ultimate seaside souvenir.
Out the back garden, there's everything you could possibly need to kit out the beach hut of your dreams, right down to the vintage oars and old fair signs.
It’s a little bit Beach Blanket Bingo, British style.
62 Harbour St
Whitstable, Kent CT5 1AG
Opening hours: Variable, but usually 11am to 6pm (and sometimes ‘til 8pm if it’s a scorcher)
I’ve been meaning to post about the weekend I spent in Kent earlier
this summer, when my parents were visiting the UK for a couple of
weeks. It was by far one of the easiest breaks I’ve ever organised,
mostly due to the fact that there was little to no organising on my
part. My parents arrived with a well-researched itinerary, and I was
also inundated with some extremely good tips when I called upon the UK
Twitterati for advice and help (thanks to @circeplum, @cassandracastle, @indiaknight, @maggieA, @I_Like, @LibertyLndnGirl).
On Saturday morning we headed to Whitstable, a seaside village most
famous for oysters. At just 80 minutes by car from London, it’s the
perfect destination for a weekend break or day trip. The New York Times
visited earlier this year, so if you’re thinking of doing the same, you may want to look up their suggestions on where to eat,
including the “obligatory” Wheelers Oyster Bar, as well as The
Sportsman, which was awarded a Michelin star.
But I’m here primarily to check out Frank, a former oysterman’s cottage
on Harbour Street housing all manner of gorgeous British-made crafts,
design and homewares. I’d heard some exceptionally good things about
the shop, which is the brainchild of illustrator Mary Claire Smith and
photographer Rob Weiss.
It’s the type of place that crafty-peeps only dream about, and people
on a gift-buying mission will not be disappointed. On my visit I was
greeted by a (very appropriate) bird display in the window, featuring Hannah Turner’s retro-style ceramic birds (from £28), Hannah Waldron’s vibrant canary prints and Abigail Brown’s super-sweet Matchbox Tweeters.
There are goodies crammed into every corner and hanging from every
nook, but it has an overall feeling of space and airiness, befitting
its breezy harbour-side location. It’s hard to pick favourites, but you
might like to keep an eye out for Becky Crow’s
copper fox brooches, Claire Fletcher’s handpainted children’s
tambourines, and Cornelia O’Donovan’s softies made from Whitney vintage blankets.
If you’re after some locally-made handcrafts, make a beeline
for Kate Erbe’s handknitted angora dogs (£19.50), Keith Brymer-Jones’
milky-toned hand-thrown ceramics (from £7.70 for a jug), and Heidi
Butter’s laser-cut jewellery.
There are more surprises to be found in the garden out the back, where
you’ll find potted succulents in teacups amongst a range of outdoor
And upstairs there’s a very cute holiday flat for
rent – ideal for a sunny weekend or mid-week getaway by the sea. But if
you can’t make it to this lovely wee corner of the world, some of the
loveliness can be found on their online shop.
65 Harbour Street
Whitstable, Kent CT5 1AG
Tel. +44 (0) 1227 262 500