Known as the only desert in the UK, Dungeness, on the headland of the Kentish coast, is a mystical landscape. Arriving at our cottage, located on one of the few roads here, the sea stretches for miles ahead of us and the shingle cascades into the distance behind – it really does feel like a desert, like we’ve escaped from the bustle of life.
This is a recognised Site of Special Scientific Interest and a nature reserve, and we’re staying a short walk along the coast from the mysterious Dungeness Estate, a unique shingle spit that sits three miles into the English Channel. We head out through the cottage’s garden and hop over the lines of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway – a miniature train known as ‘the smallest public railway in the world’ whose steam has been seen chugging across these planes since 1927.
The wind whistles across the dramatic landscape, dotted with abandoned fishing boats, and we collect driftwood and hagstones – stones with a hole running through them and believed locally to protect from the influence of magic. The sun burns red as it sets over this movie-like scene, uninterrupted by light pollution.
My morning begins with yoga in the cottage’s living room – the panoramic windows providing views across the peninsula as I practise. We then head for the heart of the estate. Here we find the ‘end of the line’ marker for the light railway, as well as the famous power station and two lighthouses. It’s eerily beautiful. Look in any direction and for miles all you can see is shingle and, on the tip of the horizon, the sea.
Across the estate, small, quirky dwellings are dotted. I can’t imagine the feeling of waking up here every day – so isolated and yet so peaceful. Although building is now restricted, these settlements began after the First World War when workers purchased disused railway carriages and transformed them into compact homes. Some are now open house galleries with striking pieces documenting their love for Dungeness. This is such a unique place, so barren and unfamiliar and yet so beautiful that it truly captures your imagination and lulls you into escape.
Where to stay?
Ellen stayed at Apple Fish cottage on Coast Drive, Dungeness, three nights from £420 or seven nights from £525 for up to four people, provided by Mulberry Cottages. See mulberrycottages.com or call 01227 464 958.
Apple Fish is a beautifully furnished, light and open home with stunning views to the front and rear. The garden is spacious and restful, with the famous Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway miniature train running along the foot of the garden. From here, you can walk directly out onto the rugged coastline and shingle. The sunrise and sunset here are stunning, and the large windows make it the perfect spot to enjoy the view.
It’s also dog-friendly, with many pubs and walks locally.
The accommodation provides everything you need, with a lovely kitchen, living room, dining area and conservatory. A truly unique and magical place to retreat to.