Walk 12: Broadstairs to Ramsgate

Map: Emily Duong

The bracing hike out along the cliffs or sands from Broadstairs to Ramsgate was a favourite with Charles Dickens. While he valued the peace and quiet he found at Broadstairs, his love of crowds, fun and spectacle meant the more boisterous resort of Ramsgate held a strong attraction for him.

This was one of his regular daily walks, once the morning’s writing was accomplished, offering the option of taking the cliff top or, for most of the way and at low tide, walking along the beach or promenade.

In 1837 he wrote to a friend: ‘I have walked upon the sands at low-water from this place to Ramsgate, and sat upon the same at high-ditto till I have been flayed with the cold. I have seen ladies and gentlemen walking upon the earth in slippers of buff, and pickling themselves in the sea in complete suits of the same, I have seen stout gentlemen looking at nothing through powerful telescopes for hours, and, when at last they saw a cloud of smoke, fancying a steamer behind it, and going home comfortable and happy.’

This is one of 17 walks described fully in my new guidebook, Walking Charles Dickens’ KentYou can get a copy here and get full details of all the locations on the map above.

You can download a GPX file of this route and follow it on your phone from this link: https://www.plotaroute.com/route/1713206

In an early short story, The Tuggses at Ramsgate, Dickens vividly captured the scene in 1836 – before the railway came to the town – as a steam packet from London delivered its cargo at Ramsgate’s East Pier (A on the map above):

‘The sun was shining brightly; the sea, dancing to its own music, rolled merrily in; crowds of people promenaded to and fro; young ladies tittered, old ladies talked; nursemaids displayed their charms to the greatest possible advantages; and their little charges ran up and down and to and fro under the feet and between the legs of the assembled concourse… There were old gentlemen trying to make out objects through long telescopes, and young ones making objects of themselves in open shirt collars; ladies carrying about portable chairs, and portable chairs carrying about invalids; parties waiting on the pier for parties who had come by the steam boat and nothing was to be heard but talking, laughing, welcoming, and merriment.’

Dickens himself would often be among such a crowd as he lined up to take the boat to the city, or when meeting friends arriving for a stay with him at Broadstairs.