Dover... what are you going there for?
This is what I heard overwhelmingly often upon telling people I was headed to Dover for a day trip this weekend. “What’s in Dover other than the white cliffs?” (Like that’s not reason enough to merit a visit... trust me, it is!) “Are you going to Calais? No? Then why Dover?”
In answer to that last question, the answer is a simple one... a Kiwi friend suggested a day trip to a new town none of us have seen, one that is not too arduous a journey from London, and Dover seemed to him a good idea. Being Kiwis I think, my boyfriend Jesse and I are of the mindset that any opportunity to explore more of Britain, to see a new place while we are here, is an opportunity worth taking. So, knowing nothing about our destination other than its famed white cliffs, I bought a ticket (around £30) and excitedly told people I was off to explore Dover this weekend. The reaction was a little underwhelming.
For the most part, people questioning my decision to go have themselves never been. I have now decided I will never ever disregard a place due to the thoughts of others; I will always go to find out for myself if it is worth seeing, as it almost always is. In my experience, Dover was nothing short of spectacular. Here’s why.
It has a castle that is officially one of the coolest places I have ever visited. We glimpsed it on the train ride in, and walked straight from the station to where it is visible towering over the town from its spot on the hill.
We arrived at the castle just after opening hours, and let me assure you it is well worth leaving London early (even if that means while slightly hungover... ergh) to experience this place near empty. It filled up before long, but having some time in the morning walking around this ancient site by ourselves was all kinds of epic.
The most disappointing thing I experienced all day was finding a dead end down a passage or path I chose to explore. Even then, this place was so great to poke through that I didn't really mind. Here's me trying to go through a door to nowhere.
The locals who work - in costume by the way - in the castle are adorable. I have nevr enjoyed just watching someone talk before as with the man in the bottom left of this photo who educated us about the process of making paints before modern technology with such gorgeous enthusiasm. The passion he had for what he was describing, especially considering he does this every other day, was amazing. He also kept resting his hands on his belly when he paused, and I just can't get enough of that.
From the top of the castle, you look back on the town of Dover, and you might say it's not too shabby a view.
Look the other direction and you see the magnificent Saint Mary in Castro Chruch and the ancient Roman lighthouse, before your eyes go out to see and - on a clear day - all the way to France. S.P.E.C.T.A.C.U.L.A.R.
Walking through the incredibly well-maintained castle truly feels like walking back in time. This is aided in part by performers who occupy the King's Court and private chamber who act out scenes merely as if they were in fact King Richard III and his contemporaries walking through his house. Personally I wasn't very enamoured by the theatrics, but some people were loving it. What I adored the most was the beautifully carved and crumbling stone around all the windows... why don't we do this anymore?!
I had the chance to take a casual photo with one of the best backgrounds ever. Between the ancient Roman gate on the left, the Union Jack majestically flying the background, the insane, invigorating wind that was coming in off the sea, and the view I was looking out to, this was definitely a magical spot.
The castle has an exhibition in the old wartime bunkers detailing the battles in which Dover has played a hugely significant part. Being the UK shore which is closer to the continent than any other, Dover has a long defensive history. Set up at the exhibition were screens where we could watch video footage from WWII of planes and ships fighting in the very channel we saw before us. It is a very cool, but somewhat chilling experience.
Walking out to the lookout point for the cliffs, a bit beyond the town's border, you walk down a lane of pretty pastel-coloured houses that literally baack onto the famous white cliffs. Their massive size is not done justice in this photo, but the way in which they stood so bright and strong high above me facing out to the sea gave me chills (the good kind) something fierce.
En route to the lookout, there are places to stop and take a rest which kind of trump most park benches.
Walking along the white dusty path, the moment I turned the corner that provided me this sight was one of those times you just gasp with the excitement and disbelief of seeing something so renowned for the first time. That, and the fact that it is genuinely a magnificent sight to behold.
So much so I actually just sat gazing at it for a wee while like a child sits before a Christmas tree.
I found a perfectly sized little piece of chalk which I carried with me on the walk along the coast. And I may have cemented my reputation as acting like a little girl by drawing the following chalky love heart. I'll have you know that an actually little girl stopped on her way past and said "pretty loved heart!" and beamed at me before carrying on. Oh yeah.
Also, the chalk is so crumbly and falls away from the cliff in such a way that it leaves scenes like the one below which is just too beautiful not to photograph.
I have so many more photos I would love to share, but I know they would make this post far too long, so I shall leave you with the last below, and a a simple piece of advice: If you ever have the chance to visit somewhere new that you know nothing about, for the love of God, do it.