Situated in Kent on the white chalk cliffs of Dover, this fortress has guarded the short sea crossing between England and France since the Iron Age, when the original ramparts were laid.
When William of Normandy passed through Dover in 1066 en route to the Battle of Hastings, no doubt he took note of the strategic location of the Anglo Saxon fortress. After defeating Harold at the Battle of Hastings he made arrangements to build the first earthwork castle on the site.
Later, in 1180, Henry II erected the Inner Bailey and the impressive monumental keep which is still an important focal point of any modern-day visit. Maurice the Engineer made this the heart of the concentric rings of defences which can still be seen.
Admire the ingenuity of the design of the keep - probably what allowed it to survive the past 900 years of history, battle and feud.
Its elaborate three-towered structure holds the entrance staircase and two chapels, the upper of which was clearly for royal use with its rich decoration.
Imagine the fine decoration which would originally have graced the royal apartments.
First stop on any informative visit to Dover Castle should be the exhibitions and film show which sets the historic scene for the castle.
One of the earliest crises it faced was in 1216 when French supporters of the Dauphin attempted to invade England and seize the throne from King John.
Dover Castle would have been the key to their success but it held fast under siege, and it was the future Louis VIII who blinked first and admitted defeat.
Henry VIII's Visit
The second excellent exhibition by English Heritage gives a snapshot of Henry VIII's visit to Dover Castle. After his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry had powerful enemies and he arrived at Dover Castle to oversee the build up of his defences in this key port.
Henry did not travel light and the exhibition shows his hunting equipment, provisions, strong-boxes, documents and even his furniture and home comforts which he would have brought with him.
Napoleonic WarsJump forward again in time to the 18th century when this castle again was of huge strategic importance.
A tour of the secret tunnels shows how they were made ready for use as underground barracks for 2,000 troops during the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1940, these underground chambers became the control centre for Vice-Admiral Ramsay's preparation for the Dunkirk Evacuation.
The tunnels were the protected nerve centre of the operation which rescued 338,000 troops and 139,000 french soldiers in a dramatic rescue operation.
Finally, visit the primitive underground hospital where wounded Battle of Britain pilots were operated on, and see the command centre in which Winston Churchill coordinated the Allied victory.
Both the 12th century above-ground fortress and the amazing secret tunnels have played a vital role in maintaining British freedom, making this a top historic attraction to visit.
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Dover Castle Postcode for SatNav: CT16 1HU