Garrisoned for over 800 years.
Dover castle is a prominent fortress high on the White Cliffs of the Kent coastline and has an incredible timeline.
Romans left a legacy of a stone lighthouse, it’s seen Royals come and go and clandestine secrets being formulated in its underground tunnels during WWII.
What a place for us to discover further, so, armed with our English Heritage cards we enter the battlement.
The grounds of Dover castle are fairly large, when you pass through the first stone gate, the main castle fortification will open up in front of you.
Before heading in, take a wander up to the ancient Roman lighthouse that was built between 115-40, and still stands today.
The lighthouse occupies a high vantage point across the harbour below.
Just next to the lighthouse is the Church of St Mary-in-Castro built during the late 10th & early 11th century.
Unfortunately, this little church suffered years of neglect on and off during the 16th & 17th century and was used as a coal store in the early 1800’s.
To the castle, you go
Crossing the drawbridge, you wander into the main fortification.
After William the Conqueror’s success in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, he had the original defences put in place at Dover Castle. Amazingly from then on (over 800 years) Dover Castle was garrisoned up until 1958.
However, it was Henry II who had the castle rebuilt as it stands today during 1180-89. The imposing structure of the Great Tower was really built as a palace more than a fortress. As Henry II would entertain his distinguished visitors.
Recreating the past
English Heritage has refurbished the interior of the Great Tower to give you a better understanding of how the Monarchs would have lived, both upstairs and downstairs.
As you stroll around the inside you’ll wander through the colourful bedrooms, the dining hall, there is even a fire lit, that’s burning wood which permeates through the castle as you stroll around.
However, these great Royal palaces don’t run on their own
What I like about the English Heritage run attractions, is that they always have friendly knowledgeable people on hand, ready to answer any question that you may have. You can tell they enjoy their work.
We continue through the castle branching off into the little side rooms, one of which was a tiny chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket.
Up on the roof
As we head further up the tower, we finally reach the roof and climb out on top of the castle, to see the wonderful views below.
During the 13th century, successive rings of defensive walls were added around the castle.
You can’t help yourself but venture down into the damp, dark winding Medieval tunnels, they were burrowed out under the castle, during Siege of 1216.
These were created to protect the most vulnerable side of the castle from attack, hopefully, what the enemy least expected.
At times wandering along the tunnels, we needed a torch to see where we were going.
The tunnels used in the Operation Dynamo & the Underground Hospital tours, were built at the end of the 17th century as barracks and storerooms.
However, at the start of WWII in 1939, they were converted into air-raid shelters. Then later into a military command centre and an underground hospital.
Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed in the tunnel tours.
However, it was one of the highlights of the visit. The Operation Dynamo tour takes around 1 hour and you are led through a network of tunnels.
The story unfolds as to how in May 1940, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey led the evacuation of French and British soldiers from Dunkirk, code-named Operation Dynamo.
You are taken through rooms to create an atmosphere to make you feel like you have been transported back in time.
You wander along graffiti tunnel, watch videos of how the invasion happened, and you gain an understanding of how close our troops came to being so nearly captured while under massive enemy fire.
It’s fascinating to see the communication rooms, plans and maps that led to the successful evacuation.
Dover Castle also played its part in WWI, with the Fire Command Post sitting prominently near the cliff edge.
From here a clear view could be seen across the harbour and the English Channel.
Inspired to visit Dover Castle?
Why not pack a picnic and come along and enjoy the fun?
Whilst you can stay in Dover, we would recommend Deal. A short distance away by rail & road.
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