Weekend on the Kent coastline
A couple of weekends ago, Oliver and I headed to the Kent coastline for a weekend retreat at Elmley Nature Reserve. I’d booked this as a (super belated) Christmas present for Oliver, and was extremely excited at the prospect of us spending quality time together in a place that is wonderfully remote, and unlike anywhere else we’ve been before.
Elmley is really quite a special place. As the only national nature reserve in England that you can stay in, it is truly one of a kind. There’s only a handful of accommodation options on site, the majority being a range of unique ‘glamping’ huts such as a converted Shepherd’s Hut, or more sleek wooden cabins such as ‘The Damson’, which is the cabin we stayed in. The reserve’s location on the Isle of Sheppey, which is separated from England’s mainland by the channel Swale, ensures that extra factor of remoteness.
The nearest station to Elmley is Sittingbourne (only one hour’s journey from London), and from here we booked a taxi to take us to the reserve (around twenty minutes away). As we were arriving late in the evening, we’d been provided with self check-in details, which were pretty straightforward.
Our hut was just as we’d pictured: small and cosy, but equipped with everything you might need: a comfy double bed with uninterrupted views straight onto the reserve, a bathroom with a functioning loo and shower and stocked with Bramley bath products, and a kitchenette with gas hobs, mini oven and fold-up table. Coffee, tea , homemade muesli, marshmallows and a snack drawer are all available too. Oh, and did I mention the outdoor bathtub? If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I can never resist a rolltop bath…
On our first evening, we decided to warm up some pies in the mini oven for dinner. This did prove more difficult than we’d have hoped, and if there was any downside at all to our stay, it would probably have been our continued difficulty in lighting the oven. However, Elmley were quick to send someone to help us, and after dinner, we were ready to collapse.
The following morning, we decided to take a day trip to nearby Whitstable, which is right on the coast of Kent, and only a short fifteen minute train ride away. The town is famous for its design shops, craft boutiques, and thanks to its location on the coastline, its seafood.
Brunch at Samphire was our first priority. A cosy and modern bistro, the menu is far from what you’d expect in a sleepy British seaside town: expect dishes such as spiced bubble ‘n’ squeak with pak choi and fried egg, or smoked haddock on toast with poached eggs, all served up by friendly staff.
After our meal we strolled down the high street, which is home to a range of boutique stores (our favourite being Frank, a design-led homewares and stationary shop), followed by a walk along the seafront, where you’ll find oyster shacks serving up oysters by the plate to hungry locals.
Our last stop in Whitstable was a pause for coffee at Blueprint, a specialty coffee shop serving up a mean flat white in a minimalist setting. You’ll also find homemade cakes (see below for a gloriously sticky ginger cake), and a selection of books on sale.
We headed back to Elmley for a relaxing afternoon. The reserve is really very quiet and peaceful (the other huts are strategically placed at a distance from each other, ensuring a real sense of privacy), and home to a range of wildlife, from hares, to all kinds of birds.
After an outdoor bath, dinner was brought to our cabin in a hamper: vegetarian squash tagines, served with couscous and aubergine, with chocolate brownie for dessert. We whiled away the evening playing cards, and taking a welcome detox from technology.
I’d definitely recommend Elmley for those that want to escape city life for a countryside getaway. You really do ‘wake up in the wilderness’ here, surrounded only by the sound of birds chirping. The cabins are incredibly romantic and perfect for couples, but get booked up fast…it’s such a unique experience staying here, and I can imagine must be magical in the summer.