Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Broadstairs: An ulcer, a fugitive, and some seriously sinister steps

 Broadstairs may take its name from a series of steps leading to an 11th century cliff-top shrine, but it’s another, rather sinister set a few bays further in Broadstairs, that inspired one of the world’s most gripping thrillers – John Buchan’s The Thirty Nine Steps.

Buchan began writing his famous novel in 1915 while recovering from a stomach ulcer in North Foreland, Broadstairs.

Close to his cliff-top villa, cut through the chalk cliff, lay a set of stairs leading to the beach. It was the perfect backdrop to a tale of enemy spies invading, complete with caves and secret tunnels.

There were 78 steps in total, but Buchan reduced them to 39 for the title of his book.

The stairs remain deliciously eerie today – the upper entrance is hidden by vegetation, and the lower, beach-based entrance is only accessible at low tide.

Of course, it is Charles Dickens who is most commonly associated with Broadstairs – it was his favourite holiday destination: “You cannot think how delightful and fresh the place is and how good the walks,” he once said. Dickens introduced a number of  other literary figures to Broadstairs, including Hans Christian Anderson and Wilkie Collins. Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw and D H Lawrence also have connections with the town. There must be something in the water.

Where to stay in Broadstairs – read our review*
* Mention our name on booking, and receive a complimentary cocktail on arrival

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