I’ve never spent a night in prison (much to my mum’s relief) and I’m notsure it’s something I ever intend to do. The whole criminal record thing is just not me, and I love my food too much to swap it for measly prison offerings.
However, when offered the chance to spend the night in a prison cell – Penny Ropeto be precise – my curiosity got the better of me. You see, Penny Ropeis not a real prison at all, but an underground, former cold store of an old Georgian townhouse in Margate. Owners Polly and Clare have turned this space into a prison-themed bedchamber for two, and filled itwith delightfully quirky and crazily creative features that entertain and intrigue.
We parked up in sunny Margate and made the short walk to Penny Rope, where we received a warm, friendly welcome from Polly and Clare, who then led us down a flight of steps to our bedchamber.
We peered behind the forbidding wooden door to see two bunk beds, suspended by chains, and a wooden bench in this sparse but strangely cosy space. Occasional touches to remind us this wasn’t really prison -like the rug on the floor, the extra blankets and the kettle in the corner – made us feel extremely welcome.
After leaving our bags in Penny Rope, we were taken up to the courtyard garden, where guests can enjoy BBQs in the warmer months. Clare had just planted the organic vegetables, and we played with their two friendly dogs as we all found out more about each other. Polly and Clare immediately put us at ease and are two genuinely interesting people, who themselves are genuinely interested in their guests; they clearly love what they do.
An outbuilding in the courtyard houses the bathroom facilities for PennyRope. Again, this has received Polly and Clare’s artistic ingenuity; Iwon’t give anything away, but let’s just say you’ve never visited a bathroom like this before… The shower was very good with plenty of hot water, and I was appreciative of the shampoo and shower gel as I always forget mine!
After taking some local tips, we headed out to explore Margate. As a first-timer, I immediately fell in love with the quirky Old Town. My impression of Margate had come from ‘Only Fools and Horses…’ and Chas ‘n’ Dave, and how wrong I was; I found myself planning my next visit within an hour of arriving! I soon realised this is a place where there’s always something going on, somewhere new opening, some artistic vision coming to realisation – and I loved it.
Despite the greying skies, we headed along to Dreamland, and had great fun on everything from the vintage carousel to the 1920s Scenic Railway. After, we headed down the harbour arm for a delicious rhubarb cider at The Harbour Arms, which I’d highly recommend! I must also mention Yama’s Thai Eatery where we enjoyed dinner; this fantastic Thai restaurant in the high street is one of the best I’ve ever experienced -quick service, fresh, delicious food and BYOB.
Once back at Penny Rope, we unlocked the old heavy padlock and got readyfor bed. With two adults, this took some logistical to-ing and fro-ing, but it’s all part of the fun! It was a chilly night, so we made use of the hot water bottles and extra blankets, although you’d be unlikely to need these in summer months. The beds were comfortable, andonce the lamp was turned off, we were immersed in pitch darkness for a proper night’s sleep.
Morning arrived all too quickly, and it was time for one last prison routine – having our mugshots taken! Polly had marked up chalkboards with our names and the date of our visit, leaving us with that extra special memento of our super quirky stay. Before we left, she also showed us their second room for hire – Bunks and Burner, a laboratory-themed room with wood burner in the basement of the house, large enough to accommodate a family.
Penny Ropereally does have it all if you’re looking for a few nights away with a difference; fantastic owners, a brilliant location, completely unique accommodation and something you’ll remember for a lifetime. And now I can raise a few eyebrows when I say I spent a night in a cell!