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December 2018 / Travel / by Katie Hutley

The Ultimate Coastal Getaway

Dungeness, on Kent’s coast, may just be paradise on earth.

Looking for the ultimate getaway? Discover a unique coastal escape, where the minimalist interiors are as starkly captivating as the views.

There aren’t many views that could absorb me so completely as to prevent me picking up a much-anticipated book (Transcription by Kate Atkinson, since you ask), but I am transfixed. The majestic swoop of birds buffeted by air currents, the otherworldly lunar landscape feel and – on the day I arrive – the autumn sun warming the crisp blue skies, all leave me breathtaken.

“Where is this paradise on earth?”, I hear you cry, “I must book a flight immediately!”. Friends, I am the bearer of good, if unlikely, news: this place is Dungeness on the Kent coast, of nuclear power station fame, and just an hour and a half’s drive from London. Let us backtrack.

Dungeness Kent Fog Signal Building

I am staying in the Fog Signal Building, one of a handful of what have become iconic RIBA award-winning homes, converted from their original purpose, dotted along this coastline – the largest stretch of shingle in Europe, and home to one third of all of Britain’s plant species as well as rare waterbirds.

The property is a work of art. Never having been one of the minimalist bent, I didn’t expect to fall so utterly in love, but that just goes to show why Fiona Naylor is an extremely talented architect and I am not. The simplicity (haute luxe simplicity, of course) of the interior is the perfect frame for the outdoors, which, in this setting, is all-encompassing.

Dungeness Kent Fog Signal Building

It is hard to describe what exactly it is about Dungeness that I found so bewitching; perhaps, after a long, hot, stressful summer, it was simply the degree of solitude on offer? But I am not alone: famously, Derek Jarman, the seminal arthouse film-maker, kept a house (and its much admired garden) here, and, following my visit and the somewhat gushing posting online of my photos, it turns out all the people with the best taste have been in on the secret for years.

Dungeness Kent Fog Signal Building

Surprised, well into the autumn, to find the weather so glorious, I immediately dump my bags and head out for a run, following the line of the beach, passing lighthouses, a small art gallery and The Snack Shack, where visitors are tucking into a tempting array of fisherman’s rolls and the like, heading up to nosey around Derek Jarman’s garden (while keeping a respectful distance), all the while with the power station thrumming in the backdrop. It is surreal. It is exhilarating.

After a soak in the Japanese ‘onsen’ inspired wooden bath, the rest of the day is passed with the doors flung wide open, breathing in the salty air, and with my book eschewed for a podcast, just… looking. Feeling lucky to be alive. “This is my absolutely perfect day,” I think, “and I don’t want it to end.”

But end it must. After a deep, uninterrupted sleep, the weather the next day is more what I was expecting; moody, glowering, heavy. More perfection. I drive back to London, all the while plotting my return and pining for my new Favourite Place On Earth.

The Fog Signal Building is available to rent through Mulberry Cottages. Prices from £375 for two nights (01227 464958; mulberrycottages.com)