The pretty little Kent town hit by an earthquake where a royal once snubbed locals

This small town in Kent is a showstopper when it comes to historic buildings and streets full of character. You’ll feel like you should be in period costume when you amble through Sandwich, as it’s a fine medieval town.

With its impeccable historic credentials, it will come as no surprise to learn some of Sandwich’s buildings, such as churches, houses and public buildings, date to the 1200s. But while this town is renowned for its olde worlde charm, it hit the headlines nine years ago because of an earthquake.

The population of around 4,500 might have felt the earth move, but not in a good way. Reasons for earthquakes in the UK are unclear, according to the British Geological Survey, but this one in 2015 certainly caused houses to shake in Sandwich, with one resident reporting plates flying from the shelves.

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The quake was of 4.2-magnitude, with the tremor originating near the town, eight miles underground, on May 22 at just before 3am, with locals saying it lasted for around five seconds. But don’t let seismic waves – or acoustic energy travelling through the earth – put you off visiting this town.

Sandwich is only two miles from the coast, so pop to Sandwich Bay and you can watch the boats going through the town’s swing bridge over the River Stour, which is operated all year, 24/7, with just an hour’s notice. Now, that’s service for you.

If you like shopping, you will find plenty of independent businesses, with the main retail areas being Market Street and King Street. And if you want a larger town or a city to really shop ’til you drop, then Canterbury, Deal, Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate are easy to get to from here by road or rail.

There are lots of places to eat and drink, whether you are after pubs, cafes or restaurants, and these are in the town centre or near the Quay.

A lovely two-mile walk

If you love walking, why not grasp the opportunity to do the Sandwich circular walking trail; taking in all of the town’s major landmarks. During the trail, you will learn about how, by the 16th century, Sandwich was cut off from the coast.

Its medieval days of being a prosperous port town were long gone, when pilgrims would step on dry land after their long journeys, armies would be dispatched and royalty would visit. But one queen who visited in May 1672 came by coach, rather than by sea, and she must have royally insulted locals by snubbing their official welcome.

A banquet was laid on for Queen Catherine of Braganza at the Bell Hotel but she refused to leave her coach, as she reportedly didn’t want to walk in the town’s “dirty streets”. The website Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment Association has a fascinating account of the visit, including that more than £27 was spent on preparing the route for the royal procession in Sandwich.

Beautifully tended houses in a courtyard in Sandwich in Kent
Beautifully tended houses in a courtyard in Sandwich in Kent
(Image: iStockphoto/Getty Images/Boycey)

And it sounds like the queen missed out on a good old party, as the accounts of the Mayor at the time say: “A fair proportion was spent on drinks for those involved.” Back to the trail, it starts at Sandwich Town bridge, and other treats are gorgeous views of the River Stour, undulating pasture, the town’s Millennium Beacon, characterful narrow streets, and quaint, and very old, cottages.

This walk will only take you around 40 minutes as it’s two miles and it’s featured on the website Discovering Britain. Sandwich Port is a Heritage Harbour, and history buffs will enjoy the superb Sandwich Medieval Centre, which is open Saturdays and Sundays, 10am to 3pm, and 11am to 3pm respectively, and admission is free.

(Image: Getty Images)

It’s in the wooden boatyard building on the slipway at The Quay, and is also a base for youngsters to learn medieval crafts and skills. Visitors can see the medieval game of tic tac toe, swords, arrows and coins, and much more.

The centre, which has a focus on the late medieval period from around 1330 to 1480, is a hit with visitors as it has the full five stars on TripAdvisor. It also offers experiences, such as mead making and blacksmithing.

One reviewer said: “Dropped in here just as we had parked and were off on a wander. The guy we spoke to was so interesting, knowledgeable and lovely.

“Our daughter who is 12 thought it was great. Some excellent work being done too. Recommend you drop in and ask questions and perhaps leave a donation as we did. Wonderful.”

Drone aerial scenery of Sandwich
Drone aerial scenery of Sandwich
(Image: iStockphoto/Getty Images/mpalis)

If you need more inspiration before you head to Sandwich for a day out, here’s what England’s Coast says about the town: “The picturesque ancient Cinque Port town of Sandwich boasts some of the best-preserved, half-timbered houses in the country.

“Sandwich in White Cliffs Country was one of the original Cinque Ports and has been termed ‘the completest medieval town in Britain’. Sandwich captivates visitors with its perfectly preserved architecture, peaceful and romantic vibes and quaint, idyllic charm.”

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