Just 95 minutes from London. Whitstable has undergone a transformation over the last 10 years and is often cited as the flag bearer that has made the east Kent coast one of Britain’s most fashionable places to holiday. From a run down seaside town in the 1990s, to a go to destination for Londoner’s seeking a day trip and fresh shellfish. While the annual Oyster Festival is a draw, along with the annual Whitstable Biennale, it is Whitstable’s new found contemporary charm of galleries, boutique vintage stores, and cosy gastro pubs that makes this seaside town a perennial favourite for 120 From®.
Yes it is a little Padstow; you can’t move for organic nappies and Cath Kidson floral tributes, but its geography means that you can escape all that if you wish. Wander east along the Island Wall to Seasalter, or west on the Sea Wall to Tankerton. There’s enough here to keep even those with the itchiest of feet discovering all weekend long. Also be sure to check the 18th-century Whitstable Castle within walking distance of the town centre.
120 minutes from London! No doubt about it, Deal is the real looker of the Kent coastline. A quiet seaside resort, nestled on a 15-mile stretch of beach extending North to Pegwell Bay in Ramsgate down to St Margaret’s Bay in Dover – plus, there’s a battered mini-golf to boot. What’s not to like. Walk out along Deal’s 300m architectural pier; the last remaining fully intact leisure pier in Kent and glance back to the shoreline and its rugged charm is laid bare.
Yes Deal is a little 1950s. And yes, its high street needs a little updating with a few more independents. But what makes Deal an essential 120 From® destination is its strong sense of community, similar to that found in Cornwall’s Mousehole. Deal has its annual Boxing Day swim, pop-up dining clubs, quaint teashops, and Northern Soul lates over at the Astor Community Theatre. And of course, if you need some help with the local history, the blue rinse brigade are only to happy to help whilst chowing down on their almond coated nicker blocker glories.
Hastings for many is an English seaside town with its glory days firmly in the past; a fixation over historical battle enactments and sorcery, and London drug lords hiding out pretending it’s the Spanish Rivera. The latest prescription of art and all things authentic however, is helping to rejuvenate the town’s once dusty fabric and transform it into a 120 From® favourite. Spring 2015 will also see the reopening of Hastings pier, after a pioneering share scheme, akin to Kickstarter, that helped to raise in excess of half a million quid and make the dream of an open air cinema a reality.
Hastings Old Town is now dubbed the new Notting Hill, complete with clapboard cottages, butcher, baker, and a recently added candlestick maker. While a short stroll along the beachfront to St Leonard’s presents an Aladdin’s cave of antique stores. For those with an artistic persuasion, albeit more modest than Margate’s Turner, the Jerwood Gallery is similarly nestled on the beach making a visit there a very British experience. While just along the coast to Bexhill on Sea, be sure to check The De La Warr Pavilion.
While less than 120 minutes from London, Hastings can seem a bit geographically remote and we’d recommend taking the train. If you’re driving down from town however, after wrestling with the A21 on the way there – take a detour on the way back along the A259 for the wonders of both Camber and Rye.
Thanks to the high-speed rail link from King’s Cross, in a little over 90 minutes you can now arrive on the beach in Margate and the hometown of Tracey Emin. The infamous YBA has supported Margate’s return to fame, with the opening of the Margate Turner Contemporary gallery and more recently, the Limbo arts space. But it’s the re-opening of The Dreamland theme park in Easter 2015, once home to Europe’s largest big wheel, which will put the Thanet coast’s crowning jewel back on top.
If you can’t wait till then there’s plenty of arcades to get your gun tote on, and The Shell Grotto situated up a suburban cull-de-sac is definitely worth a visit. Part museum, part installation, and part eccentric attraction – as you stroll through its subterranean hallways and chambers clad in shells, you just have to ask – why?
After a day in the arcades and mooching round the cobbled back streets with cupcake in hand, why not take a short bus journey round the bay to Broadstairs. Famed for its sandy coved beach, just be sure to take your multi-coloured windbreaker. And at the end of the day catch one of the Thanet’s coast sunsets, noted by many to be the most special in Europe.
The number of times we’ve said; ‘one day we’ll live here’ is countless. Over the years arty urbanites for whom Coast Magazine is like porn, have flocked to its pier and slowly taken over the village searching for The Good Life. But Southwold we still love you and you’re better for it as you slowly spread your wings like your neighbour over in Norfolk, Holt.
Having played host to the Latitude Festival for the last 8 years, 2014 saw Southwold’s first arts festival emerge to great success. For the gallery enthusiast there’s the affordable Serena Hall gallery run by painter Marc Brown. While for those that like their cinema experiences a little more immersive there’s the impressive Picture Palace cinema, presented as an art deco beauty by famed local architect John Bennett.
Around Southwold itself you have the sleepy Waberswick, full of second homes owned by London’s creative community. And just a short drive away, drop in on the awe inspiring orchestral practises at Leiston Abbey. A little further down the coast you have Aldeburgh; a less posh version of Southwold whose geography makes it feel more like a market town than a village. Top tip for those who can hold their noses as they make the 120 minute journey back to the city; smoked fish from Aldeburgh’s famed smoke huts on the sea front – incredible.
You mention Southend to most people and they say it’s all about the fun of the fair; the Adventure Island bound day-trippers, TOWIE, neon lit boy racers pulling doughnuts on the Eastern Esplanade and the swampy tides. That’s all true and yet, part of what makes Southend a 120 From® favourite. The way the town has resisted complete gentrification, the maintenance of the Palace Theatre and the flourishing collection of hamlets that tug at its apron strings.
Scratch beneath the surface and you can understand why half of East London is eyeing up this coastal town for their next move. From East to West along the 7 miles of Essex beach you have Leigh-on-Sea, Westcliff-on-Sea and then Thorpe Bay – each with their own unique beachfront attractions. Our favourite of these hamlets is Leigh-on-Sea; host to an annual folk festival, sailing club and a seaside period drama down in ‘Old Leigh’ complete with clapboard cockle sheds. ‘The Broadway’ covers off all your shopping needs, with a string of independents popping up in recent times. And for an evening out head to Cliffs Pavilion; home to touring musicals, celebrity led pantomimes and every kind of tribute act imaginable.
Apiento, aka Paul Byrne, runs the Test Pressing website which has quickly become the go to destination for the Balearic Disco scene. When he is not providing the soundtrack to sun down in Ibiza you can find him playing hotel lobbies and online radio stations the world over, DJing and producing as Apiento and Open Source alongside Andrew Hale from Sade. His critically acclaimed and now underground classic ‘The Orange Place’, has even graced Andy Weatherall’s noteworthy ‘Masterpiece’ mix.
Apiento re-imagines the atmosphere of his favourite Balearic bar for his 120 From® ‘In Transit’ playlist down to Dungeness. Opening with soothing tracks from Prefab Sprout, Nautic and Joan Bibiloni – before rare funk 45s prepare us 21st century staycationers for the desert of England. This is one road trip playlist that can be played in your railway carriage, houseboat, chapel or dome – practically anywhere Dungeness has to offer.
You can get more from Apiento here.
Eric graduated from Camberwell College of Art more than a decade ago. First working the gallery and exhibition scene, before becoming a freelance journalist contributing to pioneering titles such as Clash and Leisure – finding his happy resting place at the euphonious FAD. From a young age he has been immersed in hip-hop culture and his record collection today still reflects his love for a beat with a harder edge.
Eric’s 120 From® ‘In Transit’ selection down to Folkestone should really come with a parental advisory warning. Hopscotch through the London congestion with a riotous half-hour long blast of snares and hi-hats from the likes of DJ Rashad, the Ragga Twins and Shut Up and Dance. And as the road opens up and the 50mph limit of the A2 becomes but a distant memory, head nod to Casual and Heralds of Change – before slipping into classics from Makers, Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. The depth of Eric’s playlist is one to be admired.
You can read Eric’s musings for FAD here.
Jon, Ben, Matt and Rob aka The Thief Who Stole My Sundays are renowned for providing the soundtrack to Sunday roasts across the capital. Their trademark is for discerning foot tapping music from the four corners of the globe, but once those dirty pudding bowls are cleared away they unleash an echo chamber fuelled brand of Ghanaian highlife that might not get you home before the X Factor results show.
The Thief Who Stole My Sundays take us on a magical tour down to The Witterings and Arundel for their 120 From® ‘In Transit’ playlist; meandering through the Congolese prism of Verckys et L’Orchestre Vévé, then down the streets of Soweto with the sounds of The Mgababa Queens. The half time step change from the thieves comes in the form of Kano’s classic ‘I’m Ready’ and General Levy’s drum n bass floor filler ‘Incredible’.
You can hear more from The Thief Who Stole My Sundays here.
Shepdog’s NICE UP! records is an apt name from one of the nicest men you are likely to meet. His imprint takes the rich history of sound system culture and puts it back out onto a modern dance floor, becoming famed for some of the biggest reggae mash-ups ever seen. His re-rubs find artists such as The Gossip, MIA, Gorillaz, Dub Pistols and Dee-Lite rubbing shoulders with authentic reggae and dancehall sounds. You can find Shepdog putting the world-class sound system at Spiritland through it paces, and bringing joy to most festivals across the summer months.
Shepdog’s seminal 120From® ‘In Transit’ playlist down to Eastbourne is one to be enjoyed top down or windows open; a summertime crowd pleaser from the T-O-P. From Snoop Dog and Caribou, into the sophisticated party vibes of Bonobo’s ‘Flashlight’, easing into Britain’s sunniest town with the finest psychedelia and folktronica. Shepdog, we salute you!
You can hear more from Shepdog here.