Destination: The Isle of Sheppey
Kent’s Hot Spot for 2022
This small island off the north coast of Kent has been hitting the headlines over the past year. The Isle of Sheppey has been listed in the Time Out Top Ten Places to Visit 2022, and was mentioned in The Sunday Times as the fastest growing property hotspot in Kent. Especially for people moving out of London looking for the ideal coastal home.
Our Marketing Manager Jo tells us why we should visit the Isle of Sheppey
"When it comes to all the papers saying you should visit Sheppey, I really can’t fault their reasoning. I have a personal connection to the island. It is home to two of my absolute favourite people on the planet, their cat, and their close-knit circle of friends and family. Over the past few years I’ve spent more and more time on ‘The Island’, and I’ve grown to love it. (And it's not just down to how many good pubs there are..!)
The Isle of Sheppey has a rich maritime history. With a number of dockyards, and the commercial port at Sheerness, it has been an important outpost from as far back as the Viking invasions. It was a strategic fort during the reign of Henry the VIII, and subjected to occupations by the Dutch. Then in the 1700s Samuel Pepys established Sheerness as a Royal Port, leaving a legacy that remains today. The dockside economy is the heart of industry on the island, relying heavily on motor vehicle export, and steel.
Back during in the height of the pandemic, I undertook a nine-mile charity walk around the island with my best pal and her family. And a good chunk of it was spent exploring Blue Town, which sits alongside the Naval Dockyards. It is full of interesting architecture as well as the Heritage Centre, where you can learn all about Sheppey’s history and how Blue Town got its name. And truly, the history of this little island is full of fascinating tales. It's no wonder people who live here are proud of where they come from.
More recently, the Isle of Sheppey has been a go-to destination for UK holiday makers. Dotted around the coast it is easy to find a caravan spot overlooking some of the prettiest beaches in Kent. In Minster, you will often see wind and kite surfers making the most of the wide beaches and open waters.
I first visited the Island years ago from London to fly stunt kites at Barton’s Point, where it was always guaranteed to be windy enough to make sure we could launch. I had no idea back then that my future BFF was living just around the corner, and that we'd be taking walks together in the same spot all these years later. (But I certainly don't trust her with a stunt kite...)
It's easy to get to the Isle of Sheppey!
And since the new Sheppey Crossing bridge opened in 2006, the island has been even more readily accessible for visitors from across the UK and abroad. This has meant a huge expansion in holiday homes and ever spreading caravan parks. But it has also been a blessing to the residents on the island, making the route on and off the mainland a much better commute for work and school. The transport links are great, with super easy access to the M2 and M20...so long as no one has rolled their car over and shut the bridge (I'm saying nothing, but there's a reason my friend isn't trusted with a kite.)
Where to visit?
But if you’re heading to the island as a visitor, there is so much more to do than stay put in your holiday park. Walks along the beach on a summer day will inevitably lead to a pub with a neat and spacious beer garden. And you’re never far from an ice-cream van.
From nature reserves, to wide open spaces, on Sheppey there is plenty of space to enjoy the best of the outdoors.
One area I’ve explored the most is the port town of Queenborough. Used as a mooring point between the Thames and the River Medway it does attract a number of day trippers. Which is why the hopistality industry here is thriving. From the fabulous little coffee shop Bosuns, where you can eat in or take away the most divine slabs of cake, cheese straws, or pastries…to proper local pubs like The Rose, where you’ll receive a real Sheppey warm welcome.
If there’s an event to celebrate, you can bet the pubs in Queenborough have put up flags and made an effort.
But really, it’s the locals that make it what it is. Last year Queenborough launched its own weekend quayside market on the harbour. With stalls selling homemade jams and chutneys, furniture, fish, and more…it’s a great pit stop on your way to and from the local pubs and restaurants (I end up with a bag full of piccalilli every time I visit.) And there is hope that it will continue to grow and attract even more stall holders to sell locally produced goods, to locals and visitors alike. I’ve seen it become more and more popular, so I have no doubt it will continue to thrive.
And speaking of restaurants… I don’t really want to give away the island’s best kept secret. But the Admiral’s Arms is fantastic. Not only is it dog friendly, it also has one of the most delicious and edible gluten free pizzas I’ve ever ordered. This not-so-micro pub is appropriately named. The building wraps around you like the lower decks of a ship…dark wood and hidden nooks to cosy up for a night of chat and booze. I inevitably leave with the floor swaying underfoot after a few too many gins. I’ve never seen it quiet, and usually it is packed with locals who all know each other, buzzing about the place spreading a lot of laughter and joy. It’s a family run business, and it shows. Tucking into your food and surrounded by noise, feels like a reassuring hug from a favourite aunt.
At the other end of the island sits Harty Ferry and the Ferry House Pub. To say it’s out of the way would be an understatement. Because to get to this beautiful spot looking out across the water you’ll have to wind through a maze of country lanes that seemingly lead nowhere. But once you arrive, you’ll be glad you did.
The pub sits in land that includes two nature reserves and a number of ciruclar walks. It's perfect to really work up an appetite before your Sunday Roast. We visited on a whim in February, and found to our horror that the pub was fully booked for lunch after a long and windy walk. Fair enough, it was Valentine’s weekend and we were woefully unorganised. But they did manage to squeeze us, and the dog, in for some well-deserved drinks and snacks in front of one of their many open fires. With a warm and cosy welcome like that, we will be back with a reservation.
It's also a favourite spot for weddings. So if you're lucky, you may get an invite to an event at this stunning outpost on the island.
I’ve said where to visit, but why should you move to the Island?
Beautiful beaches. Farm shops. Coffee shops. Quick links to the motorways. Pubs. These all make for a great place to live…
But really, it’s the people. Having lived in many places over the years I haven’t found anywhere that comes close to the community that exists on the island. Perhaps it’s because everyone lives relatively close to one another, or the fact that if you grow up on the island you rarely leave so you end up knowing everyone. But whatever it is, the extended group that surrounds my friends is one of truly warm, helpful, and kind people. And we are always welcomed. There is always someone, nearby, who is willing to bend over backwards to help you. On Sheppey, you will always ‘know a man who can’. And they’ll do it for a pint, knowing that if they need anything in return they just have to ask.
So will I move to the Isle of Sheppey?
My best friends were born and bred and live on the Isle of Sheppey, and they are truly the best kind of people. That’s enough for me to agree wholeheartedly with the latest buzz about the Island and all its joys. But, to the sadness of my friends, I have no plans to move to there any time soon. And I think it will do just fine without me."