A scene of abandoned fishermans’ equipment including a wooden trawler, wooden shacks, rron winches and small track railway lines on the beach of Dungeness on the Kent coastline in England

Dungeness, a rustic courtyard into Kent’s ‘Garden of England’

In Days Out, Kent, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

Abandoned fishing boats, crumbling contorted tracks and weather-beaten shacks.

Dungeness in Kent is one of those places that when you first arrive, immediately you’ll want to venture off in every direction to discover what this strange and curious outcrop is all about.
 
Overwhelmed with so many questions from this untamed shoreline and nowhere near enough answers.

A scene of abandoned fishermans’ equipment including a wooden trawler, wooden shacks, rron winches and small track railway lines on the beach of Dungeness on the Kent coastline in England
The diverse, wild shoreline of Dungeness

We’ve visited Dungeness several times and, on each occasion, it leaves us hankering for more. There’s just something about the brutal surroundings and the unforgiving shingle beach that makes it so appealing.

Gary has previously written a post on Dungeness; however, I wanted to add my ‘two penneth worth’ as I find Dungeness so absorbing.

I just love sitting wrapped up on the shoreline gazing out across the sea and letting all the worries of the world fade away.

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A little bit of Dungeness knowledge

The shingle headland that the hamlet of Dungeness sits upon is now a private estate and is surrounded by a flourishing nature reserve.
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The idyllic stroll to paradise

Of course, you’re welcome to visit the estate free of charge, just remember, at all times you should respect your surroundings. Particularly the homes and land of the local residents, it’s here for everyone to enjoy.

Interested in the coast around England?

We have a new little book on our shelves that we delve into when we're heading to the coast.

Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different counties of England.  It tells tales of the history of the shoreline that surrounds our country.

Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves the English seaside.


We have to mention it!

Shall we get the elephant in the room tamed, first of all, yes, there is a nuclear power station at Dungeness?
 
In fact, there are two nuclear power stations, one of which is still in use today. The original power station “A” built-in 1965 shut its doors 2006. Dungeness “B” is still going strong since 1983 and has been granted a licence until 2028.

Both Dungeness Nuclear Powerstations behind a shale bank on the beach

Dungeness's Nuclear Powerstations

Located within a wildlife sanctuary, it makes for an unusual backdrop against the stark terrain of the weather-worn shoreline.
 
The nuclear power station may not be your main draw to visit Dungeness; however, it certainly adds to its character.

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Not one lighthouse, but seven

Dungeness in Kent is such an unusual place to visit any time of the year. Not just for its bizarre landscape and abandoned boats strewn across the cobbled beach, but also for its lighthouses.
 
Not content with having one lighthouse, Dungeness has had seven in total. Five high lighthouses and two low.
 
Dungeness's first lighthouse was erected in 1615, it was constructed of wood, stood only 35ft tall and powered by an open coal fire.

The black tower of Dungeness's forth lighthouse, next to the remaining two-storey white base of the third lighthouse.
The tall fourth lighthouse & the lower floors of the third lighthouse
The remaining third Dungeness lighthouse c1792 and the fourth tall lighthouse beyond
The remaining third Dungeness lighthouse & the fourth tall lighthouse beyond

The second lighthouse was built in 1635 this time it was constructed of brick and lasted over 100 years, until its replacement in 1792. The third was built by Samuel Wyatt. Today only the bottom two floors remain which were converted into lighthouse keepers’ dwellings.
 
Standing proud is the fourth tall lighthouse, built-in 1901, and now a visitor attraction and at its feet is the third lighthouse.
 
They are both lovingly cared for and stand as a wonderful backdrop to the curious skyline of Dungeness.

The modern, fifth, tall, Dungeness lighthouse in the background, with the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch steam train, arriving at Dungeness station in the foreground.
The fifth tall Dungeness lighthouse c1961
The fifth tall lighthouse erected in 1961 is still in working operation today. The two low lighthouses which have since been demolished were constructed in 1884 and 1932 and were closer to the water’s edge due to ships running aground.

The quirky aspects of Dungeness

Another couple of weird and wonderful structures are the Coastguard Lookout Tower and The Fog Horn.

The Coastguard Lookout Tower has now been transformed into a luxury holiday home; however, prior to 2000, it was used as a radar monitoring station.

A view of the former brick-built, 10-metre tall Coastguard's tower on the shale beach of Dungeness, with the old lighthouse in the background.
The Coastguard Lookout Tower
Constructed over four floors with magnificent views across the English Channel. I can't believe when it was built in 1905 that it would ever have been conceived that it would become a secret getaway for families.
The utilitarian view of Dungeness, with the old lighthouse and power station in the background, and a coastal fog horn array in the foreground
The unforgiving and brutal landscape of Dungeness

What I love about visiting Dungeness is the diverse, brutal landscape and architecture.
 
There are not too many places where Fog Horns, lookout towers, multiple lighthouses and a nuclear power station can be seen, amongst a miniature railway and charming pubs and cafés.
 
Dungeness has all of this and more.

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.

A harsh and wild landscape

Dungeness’s attraction is undoubtedly the distinct coastline and the unforgiving way that nature plays a part in the locals livelihood and day to day lives.
An abandoned fisherman's wooden trawler and dilapidated, green, wooden shack next to small track railway lines on the beach of Dungeness.
A weather-worn fishing boat
Time and tide have taken its toll on some of the forlorn, deserted fishing boats. Slowly crumbling amidst, the wild shorelines, with twisted rusting tracks that would once have been used to haul in the local’s daily catch.
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Will it ever float again?

The peninsular of Dungeness may be scattered with weather-beaten old vessels, abandoned rusty motors. However, there are still some fishing boats keeping the traditions going.
 
Their vessels devotedly maintained from whatever the often-harsh seas of the English Channel throw at them.

A small fishing trawler returning to the shore of Dungeness with its catch of the day
Fisherman heading back to Dungeness shores
I’m quite sure the local fishermen wouldn't want it any other way, regularly heading out to the rolling seas bringing back delicious seafood home to their plates and ours.

Prospect Cottage

It isn’t just the fishermen that are hardy in Dungeness, incredibly you’ll find plants in the most unlikely environments. Our last visit to Dungeness was in November, and there was no sign that nature was yielding one bit.
The pretty, black and yellow trimmed, Prospect Cottage, former home to Derek Jarman, at Dungeness.

Prospect Cottage once owned by Derek Jarman

At the eye-catching home of the late English film director Derek Jarman, the garden had a spirit of its own. Ornate grasses bobbing and weaving in the wind, salt-loving beach plants stretching and unfolding from driftwood and all scattered amongst Dungeness’s synonymous shingle.
Part of John Donne’s poem, “The Sun Rising” in raised lettering on the side of Prospect Cottage on Dungeness Beach
Prospect Cottage - “The Sun Rising” by John Dunne, Dungeness

The black weatherboarded Prospect Cottage is now owned by an Art Fund and will hopefully be preserved and loved for many years to come.

On one side of the cottage in raised letters are the words from a part of John Donne’s poem, “The Sun Rising”.

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.

Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway

Now did you know that Dungeness had an exciting miniature railway too.

It runs from the Cinque Port of Hythe 13 ½ miles along the coastline, stopping at eight stations along the way, with its final stop of Dungeness.

A miniature steam engine from the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway leaving the platform.
The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway
The delightful railway opened in 1927 and if you love old steam locomotives, you’ll love this light railway. Chuff, chuffing its way across the Romney marshes picking up eager passengers along the route.
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The RHDR “Blue Train” being given a polish
Once the UK lockdown is over let’s support the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway and pre-book your tickets for a memorable slice of nostalgia.

An interesting read

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.


Where to eat in Dungeness

If you want to eat within the private estate of Dungeness, you have a few choices. The ‘Britannia Inn’ pub, the ‘End of the Line Restaurant’ at the RHDR or pop into the Fish Hut Snack Shack serving a choice of freshly filled fish fillet rolls and flatbreads or lobster and crab rolls.
The Dungeness Fish Hut Snack Shack hiding behind a weather-beaten fishing boat on the beach at Dungeness

The Dungeness Fish Hut Snack Shack

One of our favourites is The Pilot Inn pub just before Dungeness estate entrance and has a lovely warm family atmosphere and serves some delicious food by the sea.
 
As long as you have a designated driver, why not try one of the local Kent ales?

A bit more info?

If you like to find out more about Dungeness and the history surrounding Romney Marsh, take a look at the Romney Marsh website.
 
Another great insight into this incredible part of the world was on the Paul O’Grady’s Great British Escape on ITV, aired in late 2020. If you catch episode 2, you’ll discover even more about Dungeness.

* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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