This is a guest post by Ann Kelly of The Road is Life
Perched upon the spectacular White Cliffs of Dover, overlooking the English Channel is the magnificent 800-year-old Dover Castle. One of Britain’s most important and strategically placed fortresses, Dover Castle has played a significant role in defending England since the 11th century!
Take a step back in time and discover some of Britain’s most iconic historic events that once took place at Dover Castle. Before the castle was even built, the Romans and Saxons once had settlements on the site. Some of these amazing ruins can still be seen today inside the grounds of Dover Castle.
From its fascinating history to its beautifully decorated medieval interiors and breathtaking views from the Great Tower, visiting Dover Castle makes an excellent day trip from London to the countryside of Kent. There are so many fun attractions and activities taking place at Dover Castle, it’s the perfect day out for all ages.
A Guide to Visiting Dover Castle
Highlights of Dover Castle
The most popular thing to do at Dover Castle is explore the Great Tower that was built by King Henry II in the year 1180. There are 3 floors to see and each one has been decorated and furnished to show how life would have looked inside a lavish medieval palace.
Admire the vibrant decorations of King Henry II’s bed chambers, take a seat on his throne in the throne room and wander through the banquet hall which was designed to impress noble guests and hold special events.
As you climb your way upward through the narrow spiral staircase, you will finally arrive at the top of the Great Tower where an awe-inspiring panoramic view over the English Channel and surrounding countryside awaits you.
The dark maze of tunnels below Dover Castle were built in the 1200’s to protect the castle during the French sieges of the middle ages. They were carefully designed to defend the castle from its most vulnerable side with canons lining both sides of the tunnels.
Take a walk through these tunnels and try to imagine what life would have been like during those dark days of wars and invasions. At certain times throughout the year, Dover Castle will hold a special “siege re-enactment” event where you will be able to watch a real-life siege unfold before your eyes.
WWI Fire Command Post
Due to its prime location, Dover Castle played a significant role in both world wars. During WWI the castle was the designated military headquarters responsible for protecting Dover’s harbour.
At the Fire Command Post within Dover Castle’s grounds you can see the large anti-aircraft gun from 1915 which is still in working condition. On weekends through the summer, there are frequent demonstrations where you can watch the gun in action!
During WWII a hospital complex was constructed underneath the castle, completely separate from the medieval tunnels. The hospital was built in the 1940s in order to treat and stabilise injured soldiers before sending them to larger and better equipped hospitals further inland.
As you make your way through the underground hospital, you’ll find a series of re-created rooms designed to give you the complete experience of wartime life for an injured soldier. The sights and sounds will transport you back to a darker time in British history.
Secret Wartime Tunnels
Within the same tunnel complex as the hospital, you’ll also have the option of exploring the “secret wartime tunnels”. This is where the dramatic “Operation Dynamo” was mapped out and executed.
Thousands of British soldiers were rescued from the Dunkirk beaches in a race against time before German forces approached. Inside this secret tunnel you will be able to watch this remarkable event take place with special effects and real life footage.
Within the grounds of Dover Castle stands the oldest surviving lighthouse in all of England. This incredible Roman lighthouse was built on the cliffs to help guide ships sailing across the channel into Dover’s harbour. It dates back to the year 43 AD and you can find it next to the old Saxon church which dates to sometime around 1000 AD!
Inside the secret wartime tunnels, you can have the thrilling experience of an Escape Room inspired by real historic events of the Cold War. This activity is fun to do with friends or family where you will work together gathering clues and completing challenges.
The price of this activity differs depending on the size of your group. Find more information about prices and booking the Escape Room here.
Adjacent to the Great Tower, you’ll see the PWRR Museum which is the official museum of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. This museum is only small but well laid out showcasing the history of the royal regiment dating back to the 1500s. There are plenty of interesting displays including historic artefacts and staged scenes from the wars.
Events at Dover Castle
There are many events that take place at Dover Castle throughout the year. Medieval jousting tournaments, siege re-enactments, and seasonal events specific to Halloween or Christmas are just a few examples of what to expect.
Check the English Heritage website before visiting the castle to find out if there is something on that might interest you.
Dover Castle Opening Times & Tickets
Dover Castle Opening Hours: Daily from 10am – 5pm
Tickets: £17 – Adult, £10.20 – Child
Buying tickets to Dover Castle should be done online in advance from the official website.
More things to do in Dover
Looking for more sights to see in Dover? Why not take a scenic stroll along the White Cliffs after you finish your tour of Dover Castle? The cliff walk is so close to the castle that it’s easy to fit into your day trip.
If you’re interested in history, you should also check out the Dover Museum which is located in Dover’s town centre. This museum is home to many amazing historic artefacts including the world’s oldest seafaring boat, the Bronze Age Boat. Best of all, the Dover Museum is free to enter.