“Our English Watering Place”
Charles Dickens (1812–1870), by contrast, eulogised Broadstairs – “Our English Watering Place” – and it was his favourite seaside escape most summers from 1837 to 1859. “You cannot think how delightful and fresh the place is and how good the walks,” he rejoiced – still the case today.
Join a Broadstairs Town Walk and hear tales of Dickens’ strained friendship with Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen, who rather outstayed his welcome with the Dickens family. Or look up Dickens’ haunts on a self-guided Broadstairs Town Trail. Old-world fishermen’s cottages, delightful cobbled squares – they’re all still here, transporting you back to a world amid which the author found peace to scribble away at Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge.
You can stay in The Royal Albion Hotel with its lovely views over Viking Bay just as Dickens did while working on Nicholas Nickleby, or see the author’s cliff-top “airy nest”, Bleak House, known as Fort House when he resided there in 1850 and completed David Copperfield. The memorabilia-filled Dickens House Museum on Victoria Parade is also a treat, in the one-time home of Miss Mary Pearson Strong, whose chasing of donkey-boys from in front of her cottage inspired the character of Betsey Trotwood and her antics in David Copperfield.
Come to Broadstairs 17–23 June and you’ll experience the town full of costumed Dickensian characters for the popular annual Dickens Festival – this year celebrating its 80th anniversary with seven days of Victorian revelry ranging from music hall to theatre, and lots of scrumptious food. You can always work off the feasting on the 4-mile Turner and Dickens Walk from Broadstairs to Margate, the latter so beloved of the artist JMW Turner and where Dickens enjoyed performances at the Theatre Royal. Maybe take in a show too at this friendly Georgian-cum-Victorian venue