The Shell Grotto

Despite being born in Margate and living most of my life in Thanet, I am shocked to say that recently, I went to The Shell Grotto for the first time!

The Shell Grotto is an underground space consisting of winding passages and chambers beautifully decorated in millions of shells. It was discovered in 1835 and nobody knows who created the mysterious masterpiece or why it is here. You can read more about its history on the official website.

As I approached The Shell Grotto, two black cats suddenly appeared outside. You can see one of them in the photo I took (left). I also captured two seagulls flying very closely together. These were the first of a few unusual sights that day. 

Entry for adults is £3.50, which I thought was very reasonable for the experience. There's a small museum room on the way down into the Grotto where you can discover more information and look at wonderful artefacts, including some stunning carved shells. My favourite thing in this section was a photograph of a seance being held inside the Grotto in the 1930's. Not only is it an amazing image but I loved that it added a spooky element to the place and showed me Margate in a new light. Image (below) courtesy of The Shell Grotto

While walking around the Grotto, I found myself feeling slightly frustrated at witnessing such detailed imagery and impressive craftsmanship without knowing who deserves the credit for it. How is it possible that this fascinating place was created and nobody wanted to show it off? The arrangement of the shells is an incredible example of dedication and the whole place made me feel like I needed to know so much more.

Despite this, a huge part of the magic of The Shell Grotto is how little we know about it. And while I did have my frustrations, I actually quite like the fact there are no answers to our questions. It gives us the opportunity to use our imaginations and develop our own theories. In a world increasingly dependent on immediacy, I enjoyed having the chance to take my time and to not have any decisions or opinions determined by facts. The Grotto made me think and feel like I would in an art gallery and I loved that.

As with any great attraction, there is of course a great gift shop and the inner 10-year-old in me found this particularly exciting. I purchased two original vintage Margate postcards and can't wait to display them in my flat. 

My first ever visit to The Shell Grotto exceeded all expectations. I would recommend that everyone visit it. It is unlike any other attraction I've been to in my life and offers something unique in its mystery. It was inspiring, thought-provoking and taught me that the unknown isn't always a bad thing, it can actually be rather magical.


  1. I agree it's a mysterious space. Thank you for reminding me of it.

  2. Must confess after living here (on & off) since 1987 I've never been there either! Must change that this year.