Tried and Tested: Salmestone Dutch Barge, Sandwich, Kent
Being on or beside the water always has a calming effect, so after a busy working week, what better place to relax than onboard the impressive 110 year old Salmestone Dutch Barge, peacefully moored in the heart of the pretty medieval town of Sandwich in Kent?
We were lucky enough to spend a night on this incredibly spacious barge on the picturesque River Stour, which flows out into the North Sea at Pegwell Bay (a great place for seal-spotting, and lucky guests at Salmestone may even spot some venturing up the river past the barge at times!).
On a particularly sunny Saturday afternoon we were met at the Marina entrance by friendly owner Archie, who has spent years lovingly renovating this historic and well-travelled barge and is clearly most in love with it - and rightly so! The barge sleeps up to 6 guests and is pet-friendly, with doggie life jackets provided on request. Although we had no pooch with us on this occasion, I can imagine that it would be a great adventure for a four legged friend!
We boarded the barge via a gangplank and ladder and Archie showed us around and ran us through everything we'd need to know - from a little history of the barge, to how to work the AGA stove and tips for places to eat (after all, in a place called Sandwich how could we not think about food all the time!).
We were really impressed at the enormous deck area strung with solar lights, kitted out with benches and a fabulous wicker hanging chair, and the view towards the Toll Bridge with the river gently flowing past. Not having stayed on a boat before, we were expecting a little bobbing around, but it was incredibly robust and static.
Through the wheelhouse there was a little area to sit at the
bow, and inside the cabin area the steps led down to the lower deck, through a
charming and well equipped galley kitchen with aforementioned stove.
The main living area which had comfy sofas (one of which converts to a double to sleep two guests), a large Captain's table and chairs (complete with obligatory Captain's hats!), flat screen TV, lots of info on the local area and two adult-sized bunk beds which were too tempting not to climb into! The wood panelling gave the space an incredibly cosy and calming feel, which coupled with the view of the willow trees and gently flowing river through the port holes created an idyllic haven from normality.
There was a family bathroom with shower and WC, and the
master bedroom also had its own ensuite as well as an extremely comfortable large
bed. Throughout the barge owner Archie's own artworks added fabulous bright
pops of colour.
Once we had settled in, we decided to go and explore
Sandwich which is full of hidden gems dotted around through the narrow twisting
streets. We popped into a sweet little antiques shop, emerging with some
treasures, and admired the offerings of the various tempting cafes and tea
rooms, before stopping for a refreshing drink outside the riverside Crispin Inn
(a fascinating place which originally dates right back to 1491 as a dwelling,
before becoming an Inn in the late 1700s).
All that exploration meant we had worked up an appetite, so
we decided to try out one of Archie's recommendations, Pizza Giovanni at the
Drill Hall (above), just a short amble up the riverside from Salmestone. The Drill Hall
is a large communal space also housing a bar and with gelato made onsite, and
looked like a very comfortable and welcoming place to spend a few hours - but as
we had our own little spot of bliss to enjoy, we opted for takeaway on this
occasion and scurried away with our delicious wood-fired pizzas to enjoy in the
comfort of our barge.
The remainder of the evening was spent sipping Prosecco on the deck as the sun set, and watching the many twinkling solar lights on the deck flicker on in succession as the light faded and the river rushed gently by. We challenge you to imagine a more relaxing spot!
After a peaceful night's slumber, we awoke to the sun
peeking through the portholes, and indulged in an alfresco breakfast on deck, whilst
pondering what we should do with our day.
There is so much to see in the area that we were spoilt for choice, but as it was a nice sunny day and we were feeling in the seaside mood we opted for a firm favourite, the quirky and arty town of Margate. After a raid of the excellent vintage shops, we headed to the retro-tastic Dreamland amusement park and spent our day in utter kitsch seaside bliss involving arcade games, rides, ice-cream and more ice-cream.
After a full day of fun, it was then time to head home to everyday life - but our Kent barge adventure had left us feeling relaxed and buoyant, and ready to face the working week again.
If you like the sound of a relaxing river break onboard the mighty Salmestone Dutch Barge, you can find out more or enquire to book here.