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A seaside town and a popular destination by holidaymakers from London

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Clock Tower
Shell Grotto
Margate is a coastal town on the far eastern side of the county of Kent. For over two centuries, it has been a popular destination with holidaymakers, particularly with Londoners looking to get out of the city for a while. For much of that time, the town has been arguably the embodiment of a typical British seaside resort, with all the sandcastles and ice cream that anyone could wish for. In fact, this was apparently the first beach in the country to offer deckchairs.

Margate Beach
Photo Visit Kent
Lately though, the seafront has been seeing some changes. Margate was once also known as the first place to offer donkey rides, but in 2008, these disappeared from the sands. Even the beach's horizon looks different. It is filled with the calm white turbines of Thanet Wind Farm, which is still under construction. When it is completed, it is expected to become the largest operational offshore wind farm in the world. Until 1978, Margate beach also had a pier, but it was unfortunately destroyed in a terrible storm.
Another attraction, which experienced some severe bad luck, was Dreamland, a popular amusement park with a history as up-and-down as one of its rollercoasters. In the last decade, the park was closed, and most of the rides were removed. However, a local group called Save Dreamland are currently attempting to reopen it. They plan to turn the place into a heritage amusement park, featuring classic rides from all over the country. The star attraction would be the Scenic Railway, which was built in Dreamland in 1920. This makes it the second-oldest rollercoaster in the world. The ride is a grade II listed structure, meaning that it cannot be moved or dismantled. It currently sits alone, in the middle of an empty park, but with a bit of luck, it will one day open again.
Dreamland is part of Margate's current evolution. While one attraction's history seems as if it might come to an end, another attraction's life is just beginning. In 2011, the town will see the opening of the Turner Contemporary art gallery, in a building that's currently under construction. This project had a few hiccups of its own along the way. The original plan was to build the gallery into the harbour, but some critics thought that this was a potentially dangerous place to put a very valuable collection of artwork. The second set of plans, though, was unanimously approved. When the venue opens, it will become the largest of it type in Kent.
One piece of architecture that has remained a constant highlight of Margate's landscape is its tall, attractive clock tower. It was built in 1887, in honour of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, the monarch's 50th anniversary as the Queen of the United Kingdom.

Margate Clock Tower
Photo Wikimedia
An even older location than this is the mysterious Shell Grotto. This underground passageway has almost every available surface completely covered in shells. It was discovered in 1835, but since then, scientists have been unable to determine either the place's age, or its purpose. All they can tell is that the shells are adhered to the walls and ceiling using a fish-based glue. The grotto is open to the public, so you can go and speculate for yourself.

Margate Shell Grotto
Photo Gernot Keller
Visitor Information
Margate Visitor Information Service, The Droit House, Stone Pier, Margate, CT9 1JD. Tel: 01843 577 577

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