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Dover Castle


Visited  August 2015


Location Dover, Kent
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby Dover Priory
Parking Yes
Facilities Cafe, Restaurant, Gift Shop












Dover is the biggest castle in England. This is unsurprising given its location perched high up on the white cliffs of Dover, ready to defend the coastline from any seaborne attack. In fact the location has always been crucial as a defensive position, from the iron age onward. The ramparts and ditches are from this era, there is also a Roman lighthouse and a Saxon church on the site, all built before the great Norman castle was even started. So by the time Henry II began his great castle here in the 1180's, the site had already been utilised and inhabited for many hundreds of years. It was then continuously garrisoned until the 1950's, making it one of the longest serving military castles in the country.






As you would expect from such an important castle, there is a lot to see here so a whole day is needed for a visit. We started with a tour of the wartime tunnels. The castle was used as the control centre for all operations in the channel during WWII, and it was from here that the evacuation of Dunkirk was planned and carried out in 1940. The tunnels tour is dedicated to this, with exhibitions and sound and light shows to tell the Dunkirk story. The tunnels come out into a 1940's cafe, so you can grab something to eat before visiting the rest of the castle.


As a defensive structure the castle has been added to continuously over the centuries, depending of the needs of the era. So the Romans erected a light house on the ancient earthworks (the light house is still standing and can be visited), the Saxons built a church , William the Conqueror beefed up the existing ramparts and in 1180 his great grandson Henry II, an enthusiastic builder of castle keeps started work on the great tower, which is still very much the focal point of the castle today.


The keep is vast and can be visited, but we are still not quite sure to this day if we saw all of it as there are three storeys and stair cases in each of the towers, you walk up one flight of stairs and down corridors on one storey, then end up going up another flight of stairs in the opposite tower to the one you came up originally, it is therefore easy to use your bearings slightly. However there is so much to see in the tower that even if you miss some of it you won't be disappointed with the parts you do get to see. The tower has been arranged as it would have been in the days of Henry II, with richly painted furniture fit for a king in the royal rooms, and a reconstructed medieval kitchen in the lower levels. On the second floor is a chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket, the Archbishop murdered by Henry's knights in 1170. The roof level  is huge, and affords wonderful views in all directions.






Once back out from the great tower there are still the battlements to explore, with the numerous gates and towers, added as extra defences over the years as and when they were needed. There is also the light house and the Saxon church of St Mary, which is still a functioning church to this day. There are also medieval tunnels to explore, and an underground operating theatre and hospital. The site is big so there is a lot of space between then various places of interest, meaning a lot of walking around, but also space to run around a bit and there are always quiet corners to escape the crowds. 


There are three different cafes at the castle, and several ice cream outlets in the summer. The site does get busy in the summer holidays, and is expensive for a family ticket, at time of writing this was £52.50, but there s a lot to see here so you do get your money's worth. It is owned by English Heritage, so members get in for free which is a good deal in our opinion. Given the size and importance of this castle, it really is very well worth a visit.










More info:  English Heritage Dover Castle

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