Whitstable is a seaside resort on the north coast of Kent. The name is a combination of ancient British words for salt (whit) and market (stable). Oyster fishing on this coast, has been important since Saxon times. The famous Royal Whitstable Native Oyster is renowned the world over. The Whitstable Oyster Company has its origins in the 15th century. It reached its peak in the 1850s. A large fleet of Whitstable smacks (boats) was moored off the beach to dredge the oyster beds. At that time, eighty million oysters were sent to Billingsgate Market in London each year. Today, visitors can enjoy fresh oysters and other seafood at the Whitstable Oyster Company’s restaurant near the harbour. There is an oyster festival every year in July.
Further along at Starboard Light Alley, can be seen an oyster yawl, “The Favourite”, which was moored in Whitstable Bay. She was built in 1890 and worked until 1944, when she was holed below the waterline by German aircraft.
Whitstable has a working harbour constructed in 1831 and was originally the Port of Canterbury. It was the first harbour to be served by a railway and was linked with Canterbury until 1952. Whitstable is full of character, with quiet lanes and alleyways that have been given strange names. Squeeze Gut Alley, which is barely two feet wide at one point, gets its name from the inability of a local policeman to chase naughty children through the alley. The town has plenty of independent craft, gift and fashion shops, together with a range of seafood restaurants and cafes. The Old Neptune pub is situated right on Whitstable’s West Beach. Peter O’Toole and Vanessa Redgrave, starred in the 2007 film, ‘Venus’, which was filmed here. There are also old picturesque fishermen’s huts which now provide holiday accommodation.
At Tankerton, you can walk along the top of the grassy slopes, which dip down to the colourful beach huts. From here can be seen The Street, a feature of the shoreline. It is a natural finger of shingle jutting into the sea for about a mile and a half and provides an unusual and pleasant walk at low tide.
Whitstable Castle has a brick tower built in the 15th century, originally used as a lookout post to keep watch for invaders. The remainder was built in the 19th century and is now owned by Whitstable Urban District Council. The surrounding gardens were opened as a public park to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.