There is nothing quite like the experience of sailing up the English Channel and seeing the iconic White Cliffs of Dover rising 300 feet straight up from the sea and stretching for 10 miles. The dark English Channel meets the massive, glowing white cliffs that are topped with lush green grasses. It is an artist’s dream come true.
The white cliffs of Dover, visible for miles from the sea, are one of the most recognizable symbols of England. The cliffs which face France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, are made of white chalk. They are so uniquely white, they seem to glow. It is quite a sight.
Located on the southeast British coast, Dover has been a strategic site since Roman times. Julias Caesar landed just off Dover in 55 B.C. Three miles of tunnels behind the face of the cliffs have been used since the Napoleonic Wars and housed some of Winston Churchill’s military headquarters and an air-raid shelter during the Second World War. The tunnels are open to the public and include an underground hospital and command center. At the time of our visit, photography was not permitted inside.
Situated in a strategic location on top of the cliffs, Dover Castle is the largest castle in England. Though the medieval castle was constructed in the twelfth century, one of two Roman lighthouses from the first century still stand. If you are like me, you will not be able to keep from stepping inside this ancient structure, touching the rough stone walls for yourself and imagining the history that has passed through this spot in 2000 years.
The Great Tower has been decorated to appear as it may have during the reign of Henry II. The military weaponry and armor displays are very educational. The views from the tower are exceptional. The historic collections depicting medieval life are enlightening.
There is a steep incline to enter the castle and we waited approximately 45 minutes in line. It is a large site and requires a good amount of walking. A trolley tour can be purchased.
Dover is also known as the gateway to Kent. Kent’s rolling green countryside is dotted with castles and medieval towns. Leeds Castle, built on small islands in a lake, has a very “fairy tale” look and feel. It is visited by over 500,000 tourists a year. The castle houses an aviary, a grotto, a golf course, and a maze consisting of more than 2000 yew trees. There are many spectacular and unusual things to see and do on Leeds Castle’s 500 acres including The World’s Smallest Museum - The Dog Collar Museum.
Nearby Canterbury, the home of Canterbury Cathedral, is a must-see when visiting the Dover area. The Cathedral, in the heart of the town, is the oldest in all of England and is simply stunning. Canterbury Cathedral’s history is dated to 597 A.D. when St. Augustine established a cathedra (seat) in Canterbury. Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral in 1170 A.D.
Canterbury Cathedral is one of the most visited sites in England. It’s Romanesque / Gothic architecture is approximately 520 feet long. The cathedral has more than twenty bells in three towers. The oldest bell – Bell Harry – was cast in 1635!
The Cathedral houses an 11th century Romanesque Crypt, a 12th century Gothic Quire, a 14th century perpendicular nave, and beautiful medieval stained glass windows illustrating the miracles and stories associated with St. Thomas.
Dover, in the county of Kent in southeast England on the English Channel, is not only a tourist attraction well worth visiting itself, it is a gateway to several other spectacular and unique historic sites.
For GLBT travelers, The Nelson on St. James Lane in Dover calls itself "East Kent's Premier Gay Venue" with a "fun and friendly atmosphere, cabaret, DJ's, karaoke, quizzes and promotions throughout the week!" Visit http://www.nelsongaybar.co.uk for more information.
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We visited Dover, Kent and Canterbury in 2006 and 2010.
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