Angelica Campion

Where do you take family visiting from Cape Town, South Africa, while simultaneously providing an action-packed day for your 14-year old’s birthday?

Not to the Hastings Blue Reef Aquarium (which pales against the one in Cape Town, sorry). Not to the East Hill Funicular Railway (there’s a 3,000 ft high cable car that goes up Table Mountain) and not castles and ruins (remember this is a teenagers’ birthday who’s seen them all anyway).

Let’s take them to Dungeness Nuclear Power Station! Yes but no but. Obviously we can fit in other fun things too, I’m not that weird. We organise a day out based around Dungeness B.

First off we have a booking at Lydd Karting, 22 miles east of Hastings. Arriving at Lydd we drive past small white houses but eerily, there are no people anywhere.

I advise caution when following your satnav, as the turn off is a long road through a Ministry of Defence firing range complete with mock-up houses for FIBUA (fighting in built up areas). There are many alarming signs, none of which say Go Karting This Way, only ones that say Danger! Keep Out! Live Ammunition! The kids are loving it. Are those real sheep? Or are they target practice? Unsurprisingly we think we are lost and stop off at a farm to ask directions. We knock and no one answers. A farmer in the distance stands staring while we get back in the car. This area is bleak and feels like Stepford Wives has married Wicker Man.

Lydd Karting has a healthy outdoor track and very friendly staff. Shame about the bad smelling shabby toilets though. Karting is not cheap but much cheaper than putting on a children’s party and endangering your mental health. You can bring your kids here all the time if you re-mortgage your house and get three jobs, and maybe they will stand a chance of becoming Lewis Hamilton or Lando Norris.

Our kids had a blast.

The best place to eat nearby is the famous Pilot Inn, with even more friendly and accommodating staff. If you want gammon, egg & chips but no gammon, it’s no problem. Crab salad? Vegan stew? Fish and chips? Steak? Mushy peas or normal peas? My adult nephew from Cape Town asks what mushy peas are. Peas that are mushed. Ok, he won’t have them. The food is great but disappointingly we don’t have time for pudding, as we must catch our miniature steam train from Dungeness Power Station on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway!

From the pub it’s just a few minutes in the car through one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe, known as the UK’s only desert. The Nuclear Power Station looms up ahead. If you’re looking to spook your visitors from abroad, this is the place! Many jokes are to be had and all contain the word Boom! We turn our back on the power station and go into the railway station, exit through the gift shop and hop on the waiting steam train which speeds away, at 5mph, from impending disaster for the whole of the UK. At least that would solve Brexit.

Lydd Karting: Dengemarsh Rd, Lydd Phone: 01797 321747
The Pilot Inn: Battery Rd, Lydd-on-Sea, Romney Marsh
Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway:

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