It’s always entertaining seeing the faces of my European colleagues and friends when I tell them that I am going to see a castle. Not only do they think it’s ridiculous that I’m wasting a weekend day (prime pub time) but they also don’t understand my obsession, a lot of American’s obsession, with castles. My obsession can be explained by (1) I’m a child at heart and I like castles and (2) there are no castles in America given the relatively limited history of my home country. This usually falls on deaf ears or is accompanied by a wide-eyed “OK, gotcha”. So, despite their nay-sayings, I went to Dover Castle.
Getting to Dover
I already went over this in a previous post about the White Cliffs of Dover but just in case you missed it, here it is again. Navigating to Dover couldn’t have been simpler. It ended up being a 1 hour train from St Pancras Station in London to Dover Priory station in Dover. The round trip ticket ended up being £20 and trains depart and return just about every hour. The train is a high speed train and makes a couple stops a long the way.
Getting to the Castle
Once you arrive at Dover Priory getting to Dover Castle is quite simple. It’s the large stone castle sitting above the town and can be seen immediately upon exiting the station. When in doubt, walk towards it. If you’d like to grab a bite to eat before heading to the Castle, I recommend The White Horse pub.
Notice the building on the left. My friend and I got a good laugh because that building couldn’t have been more than 10 feet wide.
Continue walking in the direction of the Castle. There will be many signs leading the way but again, they won’t be needed. As you walk up the hill towards Dover Castle you’ll come to the visitors entrance. Entry into the Castle will cost you £18 and that will give you total access for the entire day.
Dover Castle, A History
The Castle grounds are enormous and many buildings and outer walls have been added over the years. Depending on what source you trust Dover Castle is the largest in England but many sites claim the same for other castles so take that with a grain of salt. Dover Castle itself has quite the history. Given it’s strategic placement on the English Channel and visibility from France, it’s easy to understand why Dover Castle has been dubbed the “Key to England”.
Although you can trace the Castle’s history back to the Iron Age, it wasn’t until Henry II around ~1200 AD that the Castle you see today started to take shape. Other additions and underground tunnels were added during the Napoleonic Wars and during WWII when Dover Castle acted as the naval command center for the English Channel. Later, during the Cold War it acted as a potential political fall out shelter if a nuclear event had taken place.
There were some really great exhibits that detailed the history of Dover Castle and all it’s uses in the past.
The Keep of Dover Castle
The keep of Dover Castle was very interesting to walk through. They recreated each room to showcase what they would have been used for in the past. They had fully recreated the bedding chambers, the chapel, the dining hall, the kitchen, etc. The entire keep was open for exploring and the video below captures the highlights from the self guided tour.
I personally, thoroughly enjoyed Dover Castle. The architecture of ancient buildings always amazes me and the history of Dover castle was interesting to say the least. Combing Dover Castle with the White Cliffs of Dover makes for the perfect day trip from London.