Shell Grotto @ Margate


Last month when I took my trip to Margate to attend the Grayson Perry opening at the Turner Contemporary, I also visited a magical place called the Shell Grotto. Until searching for places to stay in Margate I had never even heard of this mystical underground cave, yet all of the hotels and B&B’s online boasted about being walking distance from this hidden gem. So, of course, I had to check it out for myself when I did arrive in Margate.

The Shell Grotto is an underground chamber of several rooms and passages, whose walls are encrusted with 4.6 million shells, all tightly displayed together. They resemble a mosaic in mural form. Among the shells, geometric patterns and hearts are made visible, adding to the splendor and wonder of the seemingly magical space.

You may be asking how the Shell Grotto came into existence; however, nobody would be able to tell you. The Grotto was discovered in 1835 while a duck pond was being created and it was as much a mystery then as it is now.

The fact that the history of the grotto is a mystery only adds to its splendor. While I can’t enlighten you about its creation, I can tell you of its beauty. The walled display of whelks, cockles, mussels and oysters all enchant the viewer in its underground home, in a different sense to how we might view them when found lying on the beach.

Next time you are in Margate, or plan a trip to the Turner Contemporary, I strongly urge you to visit the Shell Grotto, I promise that you won’t regret it!

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer and curator. She is the founder of Gallery Girl - a London-based curatorial platform and website dedicated to modern and contemporary art from across the globe. Her work is primarily focused on supporting emerging female artists from the Middle East and the Caucasus. She has written for Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, Suitcase and Vice Arabia among other publications. Her exhibitions in London and Armenia have been featured in Vogue Arabia, The Art Newspaper, The Art Gorgeous and numerous other news outlets. Gallery Girl has also spoken in the UK, UAE and Belgium about the contemporary art scene in the MENA region, and is planning further events in London and Amman.

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