Dover located in the south east tip of England is steeped in the history of the British Isles. Its close proximity to the continent means that on a clear day you can see France. The origins of its port can be traced back to Roman times. Julius Caesar is said to have mentioned the use of the port area.
Its famous White Cliffs are probably what it is best known for today, which have been referenced by the likes of Shakespeare in King Lear. Its strategic position has meant that it has played an important role in military operations and wars in the past.
While still operating as a major ferry port Dover today can feel very much like a sleepy Kent town for visitors from bustling metropolises or frenetic cities. But there again that is part of its charm as a quiet port town by the sea. Flashy and ostentatious it is not. Nature wild and un-manicured it is.
Laid back and tranquil its rich heritage just part of the landscape and its history. A heritage which includes some of the oldest buildings in the UK and make it fascinating for anyone interested in culture and history.
Image Dover Seafront
After a couple of hours on the train from St Pancras International I arrived at Dover Priory station to be greeted with some seriously inclement weather. Torrential rain and howling winds. And so I set off fighting a battle with the elements and losing after about 5 minutes when I was one Tote umbrella down.
A fairly short walk later I got to my destination on the seafront at the Dover Marina hotel – fairly drenched and windswept. As I had a bit of time before being able to check in I ordered some mussels and a bottle of Kopparberg cider.
The mussels cooked in a cider and bacon sauce served with warm bread rolls were delicious and a perfect pick me up tonic as I read the day’s Times newspaper and felt that all was good again in the world. After my life reaffirming lunch and beverage, a little banter with some American guests and checking in I headed out again for Dover Castle.
Just a short walk found me staring at the castle in the distance elegantly framed against the backdrop of the town below. A pleasant green foliage path took me up to the castle where I kicked off with a tour of the underground war tunnels getting an insight into the conditions for servicemen during the war effort which included a small medical facility.
The castle itself was founded in the 12th century and is the largest castle in England. There is a lot to explore in the acres the castle resides in. From the medieval foundations of the Castle, the Great Tower and even a Roman lighthouse dating back to the 1st century. For those that need some help getting round there is a converted land rover mini train to transport you to different points on the grounds.
There is an excellent National Trust shop on the site where you can sample some unique wines and range of sweet and savoury preserves. I tried some of the mead wines which are made from honey. Mead is thought to be one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world.
Initially the drink was conceived of as a way of treating water which was making people and animals sick. And so honey was fermented to produce mead and given to men, women, children and even horses. I tried a number of wines but definitely liked the unusual yet satisfying taste of the mead best.
It gave me the same sensation of tasting warm honey and lemon with a nip of alcohol and the natural therapeutic and medicinal properties that go with it.
Of course no trip to Dover would be complete without a walk along the famous White Cliffs. There are a number of paths along the cliffs leading from the visitor’s centre. Along the way you can stop to take a tour of the underground war tunnels which are a new attraction to the area.
After which you can head to the Victorian South Foreland lighthouse. It’s well worth extending your walk further to St Margaret’s Bay at Cliffe for a closer perspective of the cliffs and also to check out the amazing looking white art deco house which used to be owned by playwright Noel Coward and later by James Bond creator Ian Fleming.
Image Ian Fleming’s old Art Deco house, St Margaret’s Bay. Will Lord via Flickr.
As it started to rain I thought I might be stranded but spotted a nearby pub, The Coastguard, by the bay which turned out to be an excellent spot for a light lunch with the sea and the White Cliffs both visible. A nice way to end an afternoon after walking along and taking in the cliffs.
After the two star attractions of the castle and the cliffs I would make time to walk around the port and the marina and also check out the museum in the market square. If you can, a boat trip is a good idea to get a neat perspective of the cliffs. Local tip wise, Tony’s Fish and Chips in town is said to be worth making the pilgrimage to. If you have extra days nearby Deal and Sandwich are definitely worth a visit.
I visited Dover as a Travel Ambassador for RoomAuction and stayed at the Best Western Plus Dover Marina and Spa Hotel and the Ramada Dover. I would recommend both hotels. The Marina has a great location right on the seafront and near the Castle, Cliffs and Town Centre. It also has a nice cosy, buzzy feel to it as a popular spot with locals and holidaymakers. The Ramada has a really good layout and design – very low key and relaxed, perfect for a business or stopover.