In October, Matt’s parents came to visit and we all went away on a long weekend trip to Dover on the southeast coast of England. Dover is known for it’s awe-inspiring white cliffs, atop which sits the amazing and imposing Dover Castle looking out across the English Channel at France.
We opted to travel to Dover via train — it didn’t take much longer than driving, and we didn’t have to worry about directions and fitting eight of us into one vehicle. The train trip from London to Dover was about 2.5 hours, and we were all able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. It was a great decision and it made the trip so much more enjoyable.
Dover Castle is perched at the top of quite a tall hill, so we took a cab from our hotel rather than hike up there. Even so, we had to climb a pretty steep incline once we got into the castle grounds. It’s an English Heritage site, so admission was free with our membership.
The oldest parts of Dover Castle were built by the Romans over a thousand years ago, and some sort of fortification has stood on that spot since then. It is an enormous complex and there was so much to explore, from the underground tunnels used in WWII to the huge and imposing main castle to the ancient Roman Lighthouse and the sprawling grounds. It was a full day trip and throughout the entire day, the children (and the adults) were enthralled.
The modern areas of Dover Castle were used right up through the second World War. Pop Pop gave the boys a lesson in artillery that I think was highlight for both he AND the kids.
I really did not know enough about this historical event, but it saved the lives of over 300,000 British and French soldiers and was a major turning point in WWII. The tour, which took place in the very underground tunnels where the operation was planned and carried out, was informative, captivating, and moving. Even my two youngest were able to understand what happened, even if they couldn’t grasp the enormity of it. It was one of my favorite parts of the entire weekend.
You could explore almost the entire castle, which was absolutely larger than life. We saw the interior kitchens and the enormous dining halls with fireplaces that seemed big enough for all 8 of us to stand in together and the huge bedrooms hung with tapestries.
Then we climbed to top of the castle walls where the views in every direction were nothing short of breath-taking…
Scattered across the grounds were smaller buildings and giant stone walls, an ancient lighthouse and a gorgeous church, military office buildings and residential homes, some over a thousand years old and some less than one hundred years old.
The boys, with newly acquired swords and shields, did their best to reenact some of Dover’s more epic battles.
We absolutely loved Dover Castle, and are planning to go back again in the summer and maybe take the ferry across the channel to France where we’re hoping to explore Normandy. Dover was one of our favorite trips so far, and the Castle was just day one. (I’ll write another post about the White Cliffs — they deserve their own description.)
Also, our first castle tour in England was pretty amazing.