The one thing I remember most clearly about my first trip to Margate a few years ago was cycling past the Walpole Bay Hotel. It has a gorgeously Edwardian facade and on that day the street surrounding it was filled with expensive vintage cars. Very exclusive and definitely not somewhere I could afford to stay, I thought. Later, I learnt that there was a vintage car event on in Margate that weekend, so thankfully the hotel isn’t always filled with people who drive Bentleys. In fact, this quirky boutique hotel has a very accessible and affordable level of glamour and must be one of the few 2-star hotels to be awarded a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor.
Run by the divine matriarch Jane Bishop, the hotel is filled with character and charm: original 1920’s fittings, a Jerome Hillion hair salon, various works by the hotel’s patron Tracey Emin adorning the dining room walls alongside the Napkin Gallery (aka the Napery), which continues upstairs where you will also find the vintage memorabilia museum. Add to this that it’s a family-run business, where most of the staff are from one of the three generations of the Bishop family and you get the idea that this is as far from a Premier Inn as you can get. I stayed at the hotel twice this year and below is my review of my most recent trip.
Situated metres from the beach at Walpole Bay, the hotel is about an 8-minute drive from Margate train station. There is usually a local taxi waiting outside the station or you can quickly order one from Thanet Cars.
The hotel is in the Cliftonville area of Margate. Back in the seaside town’s heyday in the early 20th century, this was apparently the fashionable hotel district. You’re about a 20-minute walk along the coast to the Turner Contemporary art gallery and about a 30-minute walk from Dreamland, so it is easy to get around on foot from here. Cliftonville itself has gained some fabulous additions recently such as the Margate Arts Club, which is a great place to hang out on a Saturday night and is only an 8-minute walk from the hotel.
I stayed in room 302 at the Walpole Bay Hotel, which is described as a Four Poster Suite with Balcony. I let out a little squeal of delight when Jane showed me to the room as I knew how much my partner loves four-poster beds. The suite is made up of three adjoining rooms (the dressing room, the bedroom and the bathroom), all of which look out over the Cliftonville area to your left and Walpole Bay to your right. The bedroom has a cute balcony that is the perfect place to watch the sunset each evening.
The dressing room is so pretty, it instantly made me think how nice this room would be for a bride getting ready for her wedding. The matching wardrobe and chest of drawers suited the hotel’s vintage style perfectly and were complemented by the chaise lounge and the full-length mirror.
The bed is the key feature of the room and is so huge my little 5’3” size had to do a bit of a jump to get onto the mattress, which was fantastic to sleep on. I felt like I was in a Jane Austen book in such a stately bed. Plus, you can sit on the bed and enjoy the view through the balcony windows too.
Both the dressing room and the bedroom had heaters which worked perfectly for my chilly autumn stay and you can easily freshen up the room with the sea breeze by opening the windows and balcony doors.
For a vintage hotel, the bathroom was very fresh and modern thankfully. It had definitely been refurbished in the past couple of years and had a bathtub and a shower, alongside a suitably vintage-styled toilet and basin. The room had a towel warmer, which heated the room perfectly in early October, and complimentary toiletries in front of the large vanity mirror. Unfortunately, the water pressure on the third floor was very lacklustre during my stay, but aside from this, the bathroom was excellent.
I was joined by two Jane’s during my breakfast: the lady herself and a large portrait of her adorning the dining room wall. This portrait was mentioned to me frequently by locals when I mentioned I was staying at the Walpole. Suffice to say, I loved it: if I owned my own hotel I would definitely have a massive picture of myself in a featured position too! #divalert The dining room is complete with a number of large tables and huge windows, overlooking the front porch and letting ample light in. Plus there is a piano – often with a pianist accompanying your meal just to add to the vintage feel.
Breakfast is buffet-style, with hot and cold food, coffee, juice and cereals – including a gluten-free muesli, which made me very happy! There were plenty of options and it was all lovely. I usually opt not to bother with breakfast at hotels, preferring to check out a local brunch spot instead. However, Margate doesn’t have a huge amount of options on this front yet (although I highly recommend Fort’s Cafe) so I definitely recommend getting up in time to brunch at the hotel.
The hotel features its original gated lift from the 1920s, which still works like a dream. It’s pictured here with the hotelier Jane in front of it (she isn’t always dressed in Great Gatsby attire but it does really suit the hotel!). Large enough to hold two people and two small suitcases, it really does feel like it’s transporting you to another era.
The hotel also features free WiFi. It was a little patchy, with not a very strong signal in my room but there was a cosy chair in the hallway just outside it on the third floor where I could sit and work.
Speaking of the hallway: there is an abundance of work featured on every floor so it’s definitely worth taking a wander around the hotel during your stay. The famous Napery has works displayed mainly on the second floor whilst the third-floor houses most of the hotel’s museum, which is a collection of vintage toys, clothes, signs, crockery, and much more.
This small but increasingly hip seaside town doesn’t have a huge range of accommodation options but it thankfully does have The Walpole Bay Hotel. I definitely recommend staying here if you are visiting Margate. If you like your hotel’s very minimalist and modern in style, then it isn’t one for you but if you do love a hotel with oodles of character and some ever so slightly faded glamour, then you will find this hotel to be a real treat!
Disclaimer: I paid to stay at this hotel for a night during July, after which the hotel owner kindly invited me back to stay for free for two nights in October in exchange for writing about the hotel and featuring it on my social media accounts. The owners made no editorial demands on me and this review is a completely honest account of how I felt about my stay. As a general rule, I don’t write negative reviews so if I don’t like a hotel, I don’t feature it. So I obviously really liked this one.