An hour train ride southeast from London lies the city of Dover, England. Surprisingly, Dover is often overlooked by both foreign travelers and UK citizens alike. I was surprised to find out that when I asked my colleagues about places to see or pubs to visit in Dover, most of them had never been. When I visited London a couple years ago, I came across Dover as a potential day trip from London. I was intrigued by both the White Cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle itself. It just so happens that on that particular London vacation, time did not allow for the trip. So it seemed only right that when I moved to London a couple years later that I make Dover a priority (I went on my first weekend).
Getting to Dover
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. The train is a high speed train and makes a couple stops a long the way.
Arriving in Dover
Once you arrive in Dover, it is about a 5 minute walk to get into downtown (the downtown that sits beneath the Dover Castle). Since I arrived midday, I was hungry and set out to find a pub to grab lunch and a pint. It just so happened that I ended up at the The White Horse pub. Claiming to be the oldest pub in Dover, everyone that has swam the English Channel (everyone that stopped in of course) had signed their name, time and where they were from all over the pub’s wall and ceiling. It was interesting to look through all the names that had accomplished this feat and I even found a couple from Michigan. The food was good (poached salmon) and the beer was better but it was fun to sit on the patio and enjoy the sunshine.
Uphill to Dover Castle
Now that I had recharged my batteries, I headed up the hill directly behind The White Horse pub. If you’re unsure of what hill, it’s tough to miss, there is a massive Castle sitting atop it. After about a 5-10 minute walk up the hill you arrive at the visitors entrance. Read all about Dover Castle in this post! There is so much history to learn about starting in the middle ages all the way to WWII.
Hiking to the White Cliffs of Dover
After you’ve had your fill of Dover Castle, it’s time to head to the White Cliffs of Dover. Exit the castle the same way you entered and follow the road down. At the junction, turn right and head up the hill. I chose to walk to the White Cliffs because (1) it was a beautiful day and (2) I enjoy the hike. If memory serves me right, it took about 30-45 minutes walking on a small road. There are signs letting you know you are headed in the right direction. If you don’t feel like walking there are cabs that zoom back and forth.
When you arrive at the start of the trail there is a small cafe. It’s packed with people that are either headed out or had just come back. Either way, it’s a good place to grab a water, some snacks or even some coffee and tea.
The trail is well marked and easy to follow. Honestly, it would be very difficult to get lost or turned around. After 5 minutes walking you’ll see what all the fuss is about as you get your first glimpse of the White Cliffs of Dover.
Created over the course of millions of years, the chalky white rocks were formed when algae died and sank to the sea floor, mixing with other living organisms’ remains. Over time, the seabed became exposed and wind, erosion and other geological activities occurred that ultimately give the White Cliffs the look they have today.
Over 350 ft (110m) completely vertical, the White Cliffs of Dover are simply impressive. Mix in the gentle rolling hills of green grass that extend all the way to the cliff’s edge and you will definitely have some great opportunities for photographs.
You used to be able to hike down the cliff face to the beach below (you can see the path in the image above) but a piece of the cliff fell off and destroyed a portion of the path. By piece of cliff, I mean a 20 x 20 ft boulder that eroded from the cliff face and smashed through the foot bridge. I hiked down as far as I could go and thought my rock climbing experience could take me the rest of the way but ultimately I chose wisely and turned back. It was interesting to see all the boulders that have broken free scattered on the beach below. Another testament to the power of time.
The White Cliffs of Dover are a geological marvel. If you enjoy being outside, hiking and incredible landscapes then this is a must see in my opinion. It makes for an affordable and enjoyable day escape from London or any of the surrounding areas.
Other Points of Interest in Dover
Dover Castle – another must see in Dover. The Castle and The White Cliffs make a great 1/2 day of activities.