Perched high on a hill looking down on Dover is the splendid Dover Castle. There is so much history packed into this iconic castle, from Romans to the second world war.
We hit the castle on a fine bank holiday Monday, with more vehicles than the site is clearly designed to cope with (albeit the marshals did an excellent job of finding spaces and allocating cars to them).
First stop (for us) was the “Tower”. This was built in the 1180s, and has many similarities with the Tower of London.
Take yourself back to medieval Britain and the court of King Henry II. The kitchens are bustling with activity, meat is hanging and there are pots to stir. The bedrooms are colourful and unexpectedly inviting. The dining hall is fit for a King. And – best of all – there are spying holes in the gallery (where you can see just who is plotting against you).
Better than above ground though, was what was happening below. The chalk cliffs are full of tunnels, some dating from the siege of 1216 (when the dastardly French led by Prince Louis invaded) and others from the second world war. The medieval tunnels can be explored at will, whilst the other tunnels have tours. There are actually three sets of tunnels from the second world war, with tours around two of them (the third is not usually open to the public).
Our favourite was the hospital tour. Set in tunnels in the side of the hill, safe from enemy fire, was a hospital. We had a 20 minute tour of the hospital tunnel, “following” the experience of a patient who had been shot down over the Channel. The lights flickered, we could smell dinner, see the Mess and hear the discussions. It was fascinating.
It is quite a sizeable site and pretty hilly as you would expect, but little legs were motivated to explore by the number of cannons and “hideouts” around.
There is a pleasant coffee shop and a NAAFI restaurant for food. Queues were longer than they should have been…
Tickets cost £18 (per adult), £10.80 (per child) and £46.80 (for a family of four). It is free for English Heritage members. The castle is open 10am – 6pm every day.