Trip to Dover Castle

We had gone on a short trip to meet relatives in London, and I had a great urge to see Scotland. I mentioned this to the relatives, and was so politely and decently informed that I must have not done enough research. Scotland is a fair distance from London, and requires some amount of planning (and a few days) to enjoy thoroughly, and of course, this was the start of winter and it would be nice and cold. So, Scotland was dropped; I was unhappy :-), but one cannot argue against solid logic.
So now the search was on for an alternative, we needed to go out of London atleast once, and Dover Castle had been seen by some friends of my relatives; so Dover was the best (and actually only) possible place to go to. I had heard of Dover before (not specifically the castle though) – it is the place where the English Channel tunnel starts on the English side; in addition, Dover is the closest port to France, and must have been the first place to be attacked by any invader. So much for history, Dover Castle it was (for want of a better alternative).

The front of Dover Castle


We did not need to hire a vehicle, relatives vehicle was good enough. And so we started – getting out of London is always the more troublesome part. Once you are out of London, then it is a straight road (around 120 kilometers) on a straight 8 lane expressway. It took roughly 2-2.5 hours to reach there, and even the expressway was beautiful on many stretches. As we reached closer, there were turnoffs for the Dover-Calais Chunnel (train under the English Channel), and soon, we could see the water of the English Channel and the cliffs of Dover.
The Castle is reached by passing through the main streets of the town of Dover, and then following the directions. The entrance to the castle is fairly expensive, (I think it was just about 10 pounds per adult), and lower for children (if you live in England or frequently visit, consider buying a Heritage package that allows a family to visit a number of places for an overall much lower rate). The road to the castle goes through a big gate, passes in front of the castle and keeps on going to the parking lot. The first thing that struck me as I started moving around was the incredible cleanliness of the place, with nothing out of place and everything spic and span. The grass looked so green and like a good carpet (although it was cold when we went in November, and hence we did not really try to sit on the grass !).
The castle is really old (you can imagine how old the whole location is when you realize that the castle also contains the ruins of a Roman lighthouse built when the Romans were in control of Britain). The castle has had sections built over a period of time, and was last used during the second World War when it was the headquarters for Admiral Ramsay (when he was over-seeing Operation Dunkirk, the saving of the British expeditionary force from the continent), and was also a field hospital and a command center. There is a vast labyrinth of tunnels built over different periods of time that also served as military headquarters.

Ruins of ancient Roman lighthouse
Ruins of ancient Roman lighthouse

The tunnel leading to the command center
The tunnel leading to the command center

Anti-aircraft gun at Dover Castle
Anti-aircraft gun at Dover Castle

The architecture of the castle is incredible, and since it is located on a height, the upper towers offer a good vantage position for looking over the surroundings. What is special are the exhibits inside the castle that showcase the quarters for the king when he would visit over here. There are many posters and presentations that display the going-ons in the castle when the king would visit (an interesting tidbit is that the king never paid enough to have proper work done inside the castle, and hence this was probably the first location in the world where the field of interior decoration was used to a large degree to cover up for lack of new construction).

Interior decoration exhibit
Interior decoration exhibit

You also get a guided tour of the tunnels used during wars, including an actual simulation with sound effects, a movie displaying the history of the war effort, as well as a chance to see the bunks, hospital areas, command centers, wireless and communication abilities, etc. This was very interesting, and made the trip very worthwhile; be sure to book this early since there is a limit to the number allowed per such visit. There is also a beautiful old church called St. Mary’s church in the premises.

The inside of St. Mary's Church
The inside of St. Mary’s Church

Overall, the trip was a very good experience, and I had lots of fun. What took the cake in the end was the classic sunset over the English channel and the great colors of the setting sun. And then the trip back was tiring, with the inevitable letdown after a beautiful visit.

See more photos of Dover Castle at this location.

9 Comments

  • Geetha Saravanan says:

    A very nice travel account. St. Mary’s church looks beautiful.

  • Nandan says:

    There you come again. Great Post. I specially like the photo of the lighthouse, more so since you have sized it to have greatest impact (more vertical less width).

  • Ram Dhall says:

    What a beautiful description and equally good pictures too.

    On our way back from Canterbury, which is hardly at a distance of 20 kms from Dover, we did pass through the castle, but due to time constraints, couldn’t explore its beauty. Your article has partially completed our unfinished job and has given us enough impetus to include the castle in the itinerary during our next visit.

    Good to see you back and look forward to forthcoming posts.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Very well described Ashish.

    Pictures of Tunnel and the Roman light house are very beautiful.

    Well, I think you couldn’t take the picture of setting sun and we missed a piece of the cake :(

    10 pounds – Its a very big amount to be paid, enough to miss a monument even when you are there.

  • Celine says:

    Your description of green grass “like a good carpet” reminded me of the pleasing gardens and well-maintained landscapes of the Leeds Castle, Maidstone, Kent where I went on a memorable day’s trip from London in the 90s.

    I particularly enjoy those trips that are not much planned yet turn out to be a “beautiful visit.” This is an interesting post with lovely pictures, and I especially like the one of the Roman lighthouse.

  • Sudhir Raina says:

    Very well written account, Ashish. Light house pic is excellent.

    I must say 10 pounds is the de-facto standard rate for entry into most of the castles in UK

  • Ashish says:

    Thanks for the compliments.

    I actually get more inspired reading the posts on this blog, and only wish I had enough time to visit all the places that people have posted about.

    And yes, 10 pounds is a lot of money. The place is very well maintained, but I am sure that if we charged 10 dollars for a visit to the Taj, it would be much cleaner (and the crowd would be incredibly smaller) :-)

  • Cuckoo says:

    Well descriptive post, I liked the light house and tunnel picture most.

    Castles and chateaus are always intriguing, historical and treat to watch.

  • backpakker says:

    The light house pic was just stunning and the corridor shot as well..

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