by Janis on 6th December 2017 / 0 comments

Nearly 900 years after the King Henry’s first footsteps

Rochester Castle, which stands proudly on the banks of the River Medway, is adjacent to the old Roman London Road in Kent. It is a 12th–Century Keep and one of the greatest examples that remains today.

Protectively peering down across the historic town of Rochester, the Castle is still surrounded by its ancient stone walls. The inner and outer baileys have long gone; however, a family-friendly park and garden have been laid in their place.

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Where is Rochester Castle

How to get to...

- 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.

Passing by Rochester Castle

Iconic view from the River Medway
I used to see the incredible structure of Rochester Castle from Monday to Friday out of the train window. Crossing the River Medway when I headed up to London on my daily commute.
The early 20th Century cast-iron Rochester bridge spanning the river Medway.
Rochester Bridge
We take so many historical monuments from our past for granted without a second thought, that nearly 900 years of history is on our doorstep.

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The Rochester's medieval keep was in safe hands

Empowering the Archbishop
Ensuring that Rochester Castle was kept in safe hands, King Henry I (William the Conqueror’s fourth son) permanently entrusted the castle to the priesthood.
View from Rochester bridge overlooking the promenade and the entrance to Rochester Castle with the Keep high on the hill above.
Rochester Castle from the river
The exterior walling of the Medieval Keep was built in 1127 of Kentish ragstone by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William of Corbeil. The 125ft (38 metres) high structure still stands today after several sieges fought upon the robust and resilient stronghold.

Rochester Castle still stands after 900 years

Explore the ancient fortress
Strolling up to the approach of Rochester Castle is astonishing. The tranquil grounds surrounding the Norman Tower are free to enter, and if you wish can just admire the castle from the outside.
The view from inside Rochester Castle grounds looking towards the Norman Keep, With the union flag fluttering in the breeze.
The Keep from the grounds
However, to appreciate and obtain the fortress's ancient feel, it is undoubtedly worthy of the entrance fee to take the giant leap back in history and scale the walls within.

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?

Exploring Rochester Castle

The skies the limit, an open-air castle
If Rochester Castle is a new discovery for you and you are unaware of the internal condition, you may be taken aback when entering the Keep from below.
Looking up from the inside of the ruins of Rochester Castle to a bright blue sky
Looking up to the sky

Immediately you’ll notice the interior floors have all since disappeared. Way above, you can see birds soaring in the sky beyond the ramparts.

The interior walls within the tower have stood since the 17th-century. You can still make out the rooms’ layout and what they were potentially used for centuries ago.

English Heritage

Rochester Castle is one of over 400 historic places with free access to English Heritage members.

If you're planning on visiting the area then it's well worth considering, as Upnor Castle is only a few miles away.

You may also want to consider, Walmer Castle,  Deal Castle or Dover Castle

Or closer to London, Eltham Palace

If only Rochester Castle walls could speak

Can you imagine the scurrying footsteps?
It’s quite an eerie feeling being encased within the magnificent fortification and at the same time exposed to the open air.
Looking through an archway, inside of the ruins of Rochester Castle, to one of the square corner towers
Looking up to a square tower
We encompass the whole castle, winding our way up, higher and higher within the fortress and head out onto the battlements to the wall-walk. I’m not too sure if I would like to be here on my own after dark….

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Rochester Castle's Royal Disputes

Thomas Becket met his match
As history has previously told us, relationships between the monarchy and the Archbishops of Canterbury have been a bit turbulent at times. Particularly with Henry II and the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, who was executed in Canterbury Cathedral by four of the King’s knights.
A modern art piece consisting of 3 medieval swords above the spot where Archbishop Thomas Becket was executed in Canterbury Cathedral.
Where Thomas Becket was slain

Discover more English Heritage gems in Kent

We gave our thoughts on our favourite local English Heritage castles, which featured in '5 English Heritage locations to visit in Kent'

The 1215 siege of Rochester Castle

The Royal Army’s persistence paid off

However, in the early 13th-century new disputes between King John and the Archbishop culminated in the famous siege of 1215.

Rebels had taken control of Rochester Castle, and the King wanted it back. He therefore, laid siege to Rochester Castle with his army and continually bombarded them.

The raw stone arches inside of Rochester castle now open to the elements.
Built of stone
Looking at the inside of Rochester castle, with no floors separating the levels and just bare stonework
Once a grand Keep
The Royal Army’s persistence paid off, and they brought down the south-east turret by burning the fat from 40 pigs, which led to the weakening of the foundations. This forced the rebels to retreat within the castle, and eventually, they were starved out.

Discover more in Rochester

If you plan on spending some time in Rochester then why not check out '10 reasons to unearth Rochester'
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10 reasons to unearth Rochester, Kent, UK

by Janis on  13 Sep 17

The round tower of Rochester Castle

A turret with a difference
When wandering around the castle grounds, an unusual aspect to look out for is the turrets and their shape. When King John’s son Henry III instructed the Keep to be repaired, the square turret destroyed by the army in the 1215 siege was replaced with a circular tower.
Looking up to the southern edge of Rochester castle where you can see one square tower and one round tower
The round tower of Rochester Castle
The shape isn’t actually immediately apparent; however, keep an eye out as it is an unusual feature.

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.

Kent's Strangest Tales Cover

Head to the rooftop of Rochester Castle

Wind your way up the spiralling tower

Although you can no longer tread upon the floorboards of former Kings, you can certainly climb the turrets and enjoy the fantastic views across the River Medway.
 
Wind your way up and up through the spiralling towers stepping upon the ancient stones that lead you to the rooftop. The views across Rochester and beyond are incredible.

A narrow stone corridor within Rochester castle
The stone corridors of Rochester Castle
Janis with her back to us in one of the narrow stone corridors in Rochester castle
Exploring Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle Keep is the tallest building of its kind in Europe and stands at 125ft (38 metres) high.
 
As you spiral around the towers and keep popping out at each level, take a stroll around, you’ll appreciate how the castle layout would have been centuries ago.

Inside Rochester Castle

How grand it would have been!
Wandering around the Keep, continually peer across the inner fortress. You’ll be amazed how you can easily make out the medieval doors and arched stone windows, where the more elegant rooms would have been. From these banquet halls, Kings would have been feasting and entertaining.
The outline of what would have been one a grand stone fireplace within Rochester castle
A grand fireplace in Rochester Castle
Rochester Castle's stone well, with the date 1826 on it so, therefore, a later restoration
A recent addition from 1826
It almost looks bizarre at times as the ancient fireplaces are still identifiable and appear to be just left hanging in mid-air.
A thick stone diving wall in Rochester Castle, featuring large ornated arches for what would have been a grand hall.
Just a little imagination required

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.

Strolling Rochester Castle ramparts

The River Medway and beyond
However, if you don’t mind heights, the greatest view across the Kent landscape is from the ramparts.
Looking inwards, from the upper levels to the remains of Rochester Castle
Climbing to the top
You can stroll all around the fortification and gain an incredible bird’s eye view of Rochester Cathedral. From the ancient walls, you’ll also spot the cobbled lanes of Rochester town stretched out below, which were once the inspiration for Charles Dickens’s.
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
Amble around the parapet, and you’ll then be greeted by the River Medway snaking its way through the countryside. And Rochester Bridge, which centuries ago was once the main route into London from Kent.
Looking down on Rochester cathedral from Rochester Castle with River Medway meandering through the landscape in the background.
Rochester Cathedral

Discover Rochester Castle gardens

A free stroll around the grounds
As mentioned, Rochester Castle gardens are free, so can you bring your hamper and rug, enjoy a picnic on the grounds and watch the world pass by.
Looking up at the Keep of Rochester Castle from the now dried out moat that surrounds it.
Rochester Castle from the moat

To burn off that delicious sausage roll, head out of the main gardens and take a stroll through Rochester Castle’s lawned moat.

From here, you catch a magnificent viewpoint of the castle.

Where to stay in Rochester

- 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.

Where to eat & drink in Rochester

Rochester has a fine selection of places to eat & drink, some of our favourites are;
  • The Cooper's Arms - A great traditional pub, just a short stroll from the Castle & Cathedral
  • Café Nucleus - great little place at the Bridge end of the high street for a coffee or more
  • The Two Brewers - Another traditional pub, this time a Shepherd Neame one, midway down 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
  • Thai Four Two - A splendid little Thai restaurant on the High Street
  • Crêpe & Co - Something a little Norman, close to the Castle

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