Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dover Castle

As far as medieval castles go Dover Castle is one the best examples there is.  The keep was designed by King Henry II's architect 'Maurice the Engineer' and sits high atop the iconic White Cliffs of Dover.  With walls 21 feet thick it's no wonder that the castle has stood the tests of war and time to be carefully restored to 1184.  Actually, we learned that a train of thought is that Hitler had his eye on the castle for his own use so enemy bombers were warned off.  Step inside...

There were elementary school-age children running around the entire castle, the little cherubs, and keeping their minders on their toes but I was able to get this shot of the kitchen while they were busy in another area.  Notice the thick walls.  The castle itself is beyond rustic, as you can imagine, without much in the way of adornment and halls leading in every direction like a rabbit warren.  The floors were quite bumpy, the stairs quite steep and we could only imagine how cold it would be have been without a fire raging in every room.

The underground tunnels were what initially attracted me to the castle.  These tunnels have been in use since the Napoleonic Wars and expanded during World War II.  Entering from the road we walked down what felt like a 45 degree slope until we were deep underground and I can't imagine spending more than a few hours in this environment, much less days, weeks or months.  In the photo above we were passing through the kitchen area, the corrugated steel is original to the Second World War and you can see writing by servicemen and women in some places.  During our almost hour long tour film clips were played along the walls featuring film clips from the war and speeches from various political figures of the day.  And just in case the atmosphere wasn't spooky enough - supposedly there's a ghost that wanders around the place.

There are rooms leading off of the long tunnels filled with communications equipment.  We learned about repeating stations that were needed to send messages on to distant locations as the signals weren't strong enough to go from A to B without being repeated at intervals across England.  We also passed through a tunnel lined on both sides by bunk beds without any of the comforts of home and nowhere to store belongings, giving the impression it was simply for the exhausted to grab some shut-eye.  Another set of tunnels take you to an underground hospital where we heard a tape being played of some gruesome surgery while a bombing raid affects the power system.  If you're looking for a romantic version of wartime this isn't the place.

I wanted to see the cliffs from the beach area and not just from on top so The Heiress and I walked down the steep pathway towards the town.  My 14x zoom came in handy but if you click on the photo you can better see the tunnels coming out on to the cliff face.  Oh, and you've never seen larger seagulls than the ones patrolling the area around here and they're bossy!

After a fascinating, not to mention full, day of exploring the castle, the grounds, both tunnel systems and the town, we caught the train back to Canterbury.  Arriving back five minutes before the last boat tour of the River Stour The Heiress and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be entertained by one of their warm and friendly guides.  We sailed past historic buildings and ducked under bridges that were hundreds of years old and I could well understand why so many people have mentioned how beautiful Canterbury is.  Its residents should also be very proud of how incredibly clean the river is - no litter floating by or on the banks.  Perhaps the ducking stool hanging like a beacon in plain view from the High Street serves as a warning as to what happens to those who break the rules.  The Heiress chose one of the loveliest places to spend a year of study and I felt sorry for her having to leave.

After dinner it was time to pack up, we had to catch the 10:25 am train from Canterbury West station out to London.


  1. I remember doing that boat trip once with my mum.

  2. Love the photographs especially the last one!

  3. The tunnels are amazing aren't they? It's years since I explored them. Loved reading about your visit.

  4. We visited Dover Castle (and Canterbury) some years back and thought it was fabulous, and very atmospheric.

  5. Living here in Western Australia, one cannot begin to comprehend the sheer size let along the sense of how old they are. Thank you for sharing, most enjoyable. I will get there one day.