by Janis / 2 comments - Orginally published:13th September 2017

The Normans, Charles Dickens & Baggins

The historic town of Rochester in the heart of Kent is a place that Gary and I know very well. Mainly as Rochester is full of so much intriguing ancient history and that it is just a few miles away from where we live.
We regularly visit for lunch and have also attended some of Rochester’s annual events for festivals, parades, and music concerts in the castle grounds.

It’s so easy to take places for granted when they are on your doorstep. So, next time you visit an old haunt, head along a different street, wander a new path and check out an unfamiliar route.

The historical centre of Rochester is easy to stroll around.
There is just so much to discover amongst the little alleys and lanes, let alone the imposing Norman fortress and Rochester’s beautiful Cathedral.
There’s no surprise to see why Charles Dickens was so inspired by Rochester.

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The red brick, tudor fronted, Eastgate House on Rochester High Street
Eastgate House on Rochester High Street, Kent
I’m sure after visiting Rochester, Kent, you could add even more items to this list (and your certainly welcome to comment below); however, this is our “starter for 10.”

10 Places to discover in or around Rochester

We'll be discovering the following;
You can click on the link to jump to the section, and to return, just click on the title.

 The striking Norman Castle protecting the town is probably the first thing that jumps out at you when crossing the River Medway, into Rochester. The 12th century Keep has far-reaching views across the town and beyond and is in a prime position to defends itself from ne’re-do-wells.
The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that one of the castle’s towers is round and the other three are square. For a little more insight into the Rochester Castle’s history check out our post - 'The Kings' footsteps, Rochester Castle, Kent, England'.

The view from inside Rochester Castle grounds looking towards the Norman Keep, With the union flag fluttering in the breeze.
Rochester Castle Keep, from the grounds
Access to the surrounding gardens of Rochester Castle is free of charge; however, for a little adventure head inside. Rochester Castle is managed by English Heritage.
Looking up at the Keep of Rochester Castle from the now dried out moat that surrounds it.
Rochester Castle from the moat

English Heritage

Access to the Rochester Castle is free for English Heritage Members. Just a short hop from Rochester you'll also find Upnor Castle which is included in your membership.
Just an arrow shot away from the castle is the beautiful Rochester Cathedral.
Looking down on Rochester cathedral from Rochester Castle with River Medway meandering through the landscape in the background.
Rochester Cathedral, Kent

The fascinating history of Rochester Cathedral dates from the 7th century.

The Diocese of Rochester is the second oldest in England after Canterbury, which is further down the road in Kent. Home of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Canterbury Cathedral.

Where to stay

- The Royal Victoria & Bull Hotel – Located within the heart of historic Rochester. Easy walking distance to the Castle, Cathedral, the River Medway and a great selection of restaurants.

- The Gordon House Hotel – This traditional, comfortable hotel is located along the Dickensian High Street in Rochester. Just a short stroll to the Castle and Cathedral.

The intriguing stories that Rochester Cathedral holds are amazing. From the Anglo Saxons, through the Medieval period and up to the present day. In 2004, Rochester Cathedral had its 1400th anniversary, now that’s old!!!

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 All things Dickens, where do you start?
Charles Dickens lived in Medway for almost 20 years and referenced Rochester in a few of his novels, notably the Pickwick Papers, Great Expectations the Seven Poor Travellers.
Elements of Restoration House (in Rochester) are used for Miss Havisham's house in Great Expectations.

The red brick building of Restoration House in Rochester from the kerbside.
Restoration House, Rochester, Kent

Throughout Rochester, there are references to Dickens, and the attractive High Street really has a lovely Dickensian feel about it.
Rochester even holds an annual festival for Charles Dickens too.

Kent coastal road trip

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A scenic coastal road trip around the shores of Kent, UK

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 The 17th-century listed building of Rochester Guildhall is located along the High Street, just a short stroll from the Medway Bridge and was built in 1697.
Rochester's Guildhall museum in a red brick building dating from the 17th century with a goldcrest and a golden weathervane in the shape of a galleon.
Rochester Guildhall Museum

The charming Guildhall is free of charge to visit and now houses a museum on the many elements of Rochester and Medway’s naval history.
Mounted high on the Guildhall roof is an intricate weathervane, in the form of a fully rigged 18th-century warship. Incredibly this structure has weathered the ever-changing climate since 1780.

Visit some of Kent’s Historic Towns, Villages & Cities

Kent is not short of picturesque historic towns & villages,  Why not check out our posts on those we've visited with tips & inspiration to get the most out of your visit?
 Discover the Huguenots' fascinating history, in Britain’s only Huguenot museum located along Rochester High Street in the Medway Visitor Centre.
A quaint little cul-de-sac called La Providence there was once a sanctuary for the Huguenots refugees of the 17th century
La Providence, Huguenot Hospital, Rochester

Just along from the museum is La Providence, the French Hospital. The first French Hospital in Britain was founded in 1718 in Finsbury, London. It moved to a couple of locations (Hackney and Horsham) and then 1959, moved to Rochester in Kent.
It still provides accommodation and care for elderly people who are of Huguenot heritage

Map, guides and more

When you’re nurturing the seed of a road trip, plotting your destinations across a paper map just brings the adventure to life. Whether it’s the touchy-feely aspect of the map or the rustling sound of mastering the art of origami while trying to fold it away, I’m not too sure. Nonetheless, the good old Ordnance Survey guys and gals always come up trumps.

Take a look at the vast array of maps you can choose from.

 One of the greatest ways to discover any location is to take to the streets and see which interesting places your nose leads you, and Rochester is no exception.
A robust stone wall in front of The King’s school.
King’s School, Rochester, Kent

The lanes all around Rochester Cathedral and Boley Hill is a history lovers’ delight. King’s School located near the Cathedral was founded in 604AD and is the second oldest school in the world.
There are ancient buildings, charming architecture, pleasant gardens to relax in, and even a 150-year-old Catalpa tree.

Bunting hanging in front of the medieval College Gate on Rochester High Street, with Rochester Castle in the background.
College or Chertsey's Gate, Rochester

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

 A stroll through Rochester High Street is a must, it’s like stepping into a Dickensian novel. There are some gorgeous examples of half-timbered homes, quirky little stores and quaint boutiques.
You’ll also find old-style sweetshops, ice-cream parlours and irresistible curio and antique dens.

Fieldstaff; one of many traditional antiques and bric-a-brac shops in Rochester High Street.
Fieldstaff Antiques, Rochester
Keep a lookout for Johnstones tool merchants, for anyone familiar with the Two Ronnies “Four Candles” sketch, this ironmonger’s store is so reminiscent of this.
Johnstones, a traditional shop in Rochester High Street that specialises in tools and hardware.
Johnstones, Rochester

 One shop you won’t want to miss is Baggins Book Bazaar; this is a bookworm’s paradise.
It is England’s largest secondhand and rare bookshop and an absolute maze of shelves. Head inside and expect to lose at least an hour of your day as it is a treasure trove of paperbacks, hardbacks, manuscripts, poetry and novels.

Baggins Book Bazaar; The narrow front to a second hand bookstore that claims to be England's largest
Baggins Book Bazaar, Rochester
I love visiting here, I don’t think I have ever come out empty-handed.

Kent rural road trip

Discover Kent on a rural road trip, lush rolling countryside filled with orchards, vineyards, quaint villages and oast houses, so it makes for a perfick visit.

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 You are spoilt for choice for pubs and alehouses in Rochester, and no excuses are needed, lunch is calling.
The white and black half-timbered historic pub, The Coopers’ Arms, in Rochester decorated with hanging baskets.
The Coopers Arms, Rochester

 You are spoilt for choice for pubs and alehouses in Rochester, and no excuses are needed, lunch is calling.
Kent is renowned for the Faversham brewer Shepherd Neame, and you’ll see many of their inns dotted around Rochester.
However, just for a change, we chose The Coopers Arms, which was built during Richard I’s reign in 1189 and is a quintessential English pub. If it’s winter snuggle down next to the open fire with an ale, or if you’re lucky like we were, enjoy a bit of al-fresco dining in the courtyard garden.

Where to eat & drink in Rochester

Rochester has a fine selection of places to eat & drink, some of our favourites are;
  • Don Vincenzo -A wonderful family-run, unpretentious Italian restaurant that is a joy to experience on the high street.
  • Café Nucleus - great little place at the Bridge end of the high street for a coffee or more
  • The Cooper's Arms - A great traditional pub, just a short stroll from the Castle & Cathedral
  • The Two Brewers - Another traditional pub, this time a Shepherd Neame one, midway down the High Street
  • Thai Four Two - A splendid little Thai restaurant on the High Street
  • Three Sheets to the Wind – An unusual twist in this family-run pub, there’s a delightful Anglo-Austrian mix.
  • The Eagle Tavern - A great little independent pub in the centre of the high street.
  • Ye Arrow - Pub with a garden view overlooking Rochester Castle & Cathedral
 While you are visiting Rochester, it would be rude not to take in the River Medway’s maritime vibes.
A view over the River Medway from Rochester Castle with scores of boats moored on the banks of the river. In the foreground is a large period mansion.
The River Medway, Kent
Head to Chatham and visit the 18th-century Historic Naval Dockyard, where HMS Victory was built. Jump aboard the two warships of HMS Gannet and HMS Cavalier and then descend into the depths of the submarine, HMS Ocelot.
HMS Gannet, at home in its dock at the Historic Chatham Dockyard with its rigging contrasted against the blue sky.
The elegant HMS Gannet, Historic Chatham Dockyard, Kent

 Also, to keep you amused is the Victorian Ropery, where rope has been made for nearly 400 years.
Take a stroll around the old warehouses' alleyways, and you may recognise a few of your favourite movies and period dramas that were filmed here
Chatham Dockyard will undoubtedly be familiar with fans of the BBC TV series ‘Call the Midwife’.

Inside the Ropery at the Historic Chatham Dockyard where an old bike, the only transport to cover the distance, rests against the equipment.
The only form of transport in the Ropery at the Historic Chatham Dockyard

How to get to Rochester

- By Train
You can catch a train from London St Pancras or London Victoria to Rochester Station which takes around 40 minutes.

- By Car
Rochester is just over 3 miles (4.5km) off Junction 2 of M2 motorway.  Parking is limited but there are a few car parks in and around the town.

Need a car?

The open roads await, pop in your location details, then Rental Cars will search well-known car hire brands and discover the deals that suit you the best.
 If one castle wasn’t enough, there is another fortress treat for you, which is Upnor Castle.
A view across the choppy River Medway, in Kent, to Upnor Castle on the far bank. A small sailing boat is anchored in the centre of the River
Upnor Castle and the boat, Medway, Kent

Upnor Castle is nestled on the opposite side of the Medway along the edge of the river. This delightful castle is now a little unknown; however, from the late 17th-century, it played a prominent role as England’s largest ‘Magazine’ storing guns and munition.

That’s not to say it didn’t have a role prior to that, it was the “Battle of Medway” in 1667 that it is most famed for. As it was here that the Dutch defeated the British (although we don’t like to talk about it).

The cobbled high street, lined with historic brick-built houses, leading towards the River Medway on a sunny day.
Upnor High Street, Medway, Kent,
You can also visit Upnor Castle using your English Heritage pass. The little village of Upnor itself is most certainly worth a visit.

Would you like a little more?

We have created a little YouTube video of Rochester - why not check it out?

Also, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel and get the latest clips as we post them?

Have You?

Visited Rochester? What's your highlight? Have you seen Ironclad; the movie loosely based on the Siege of Rochester castle?

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