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Dover Castle

The Great Tower at Dover Castle
Click Photos For Slideshow © Shutterstock / Dani 3315
Secret tunnels, an underground hospital, a defensive keep and a Roman lighthouse - these are just some of the unique features awaiting visitors at Dover Castle.

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.

Battlements at Dover Castle
© Shutterstock / Allen Furmanski

Castle Origins

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.

Colton's Gate astride the footpath at Dover Castle
Colton's Gate © Shutterstock / Fulcanelli

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.

The impressive entrance at Dover Castle, Kent
The Entrance © Shutterstock / David Maska

French Invasion!

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.

Distant view of the exterior walls of Dover Castle
© Shutterstock / Palis Mikalis

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.

High view of Dover Castle
© Shutterstock / BS Karan

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 Wars

The Roman Lighthouse at Dover Castle
Roman Lighthouse © Shutterstock / Deborah McCague
Jump forward again in time to the 18th century when this castle again was of huge strategic importance.

The castle above ground is indeed impressive, but the chalk cliffs had a secret. They were riddled with miles of medieval tunnels, a hidden bunker constructed for a garrison in the Middle Ages.

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.

Dunkirk Evacuation

In 1940, these underground chambers became the control centre for Vice-Admiral Ramsay's preparation for the Dunkirk Evacuation.

The roman pharos and the castle of Dover
Roman Lighthouse © Shutterstock / Kamira

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.

Winston Churchill

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.

Panoramic view of the St Mary in Castro church in the grounds of Dover Castle in England (UK)
St Mary in Castro Church © Shutterstock / Fulcanelli

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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By Bus:
Stagecoach in East Kent, 15/X, Kent Passenger Services 593 from Dover (pass close to Dover Priory railway station).

By Road:
On east side of Dover, signed from M20, A2 (junction 1 of M2) and from town centre.

By Train:
Dover Priory Station (1 1/2 Miles)

Dover Castle Postcode for SatNav: CT16 1HU


+44 (0) 870 333 1181
+44 (0) 1793 414 926

Harold's Road
CT16 1HU

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