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Sep 2019

Roam through 900 years of history from the Romans to the twentieth century in an action-packed day out.

Kent Coat of Arms

It's a castle, in Dover, alright, but this is  English Heritage™'s big hitter and it's pushing £20 a pop!

Dover Castle

There's a chance, therefore, to get back into 'profit' by applying the same false economy that's been in play since being so beguiled by Belsay.

Classic motte-and-bailey, it's thought you'll all agree, whatever that means exactly, and like there's any other kind?

Dover is being greedy and can claim three baileys, whatever they are exactly, and access to the middle one is through Colton's Gate, a 13th-century octagonal job of which not that much more is known.

Dover Castle - Colton's Gate Dover Castle - The Church of St Mary in Castro Dover Castle - Roman Lighthouse

You think that's old? Check out the Saxon church that's back to the 600 ADs although some Victorian restoration may have been necessary. You think that's old? Check out the Roman lighthouse, yes, a Roman lighthouse, that just misses out on being in the BCs.

The oldest standing building in Britain, they claim, and one of only three of its kind in the world, they say. One of the other two is also in Dover but at barely  4 foot high, it's thought that shouldn't even count.

There could and should now follow, perhaps, a catalogue of historically-significant buildings but you can find all of that out  elsewhere.

That would include the keep, of which at least it's known what one of them is, and they'll let you up and inside where a mazeful of musty tapestries, not shown, lead, not unexpectedly, to the top.

Not unsurprisingly, decent views from up here including down to Dover and her harbour and marina.

From Dover Castle - Harbour and Marina From Dover Castle - Downtown Dover

Some disparaging comments on downtown Dover have been overheard this week despite the dissenters descending from the  Danes who disembarked at Pegwell Bay, probably, and it's thought you know what's being said, sadly.

But that harbour doesn't look large enough to be one of the worlds largest passenger ports, not to mention the handling of up to ten thousand trucks a day?

That's because the Western Docks[1] isn't, and doesn't, but the Eastern Docks is, and does, and one particular 8-year-old would have loved a model of that!

Dover Castle - Eastern Docks

Not that the roads are  so clear at the end of a forgettable 2020 but, back at the castle, there's an even bigger queue.

[1] Head out to the end of the harbour wall and that, officially, is the closest point to France, right fact fans?

Dover was already a garrison town by the time Napoleon really decided to include England in his European vacation plans and you might want to pull up a chair...

Berthed and prepped just over the water in Boulogne, extra troops and ammunition were required here to match the little fella's 200,000-strong Armée d'Angleterre. Bit of a problem, however, simply not enough room to put them up, this still being largely all fields round here in 1803.

No problem, dig a 3-mile network of tunnels in the notoriously-soft chalk cliffs and house them underground, unbelievable! When Waterloo came and went, there was no further need and they fell into the inevitable state of disrepair and is when they were filled in and closed off, never to see the artificial light of day again.

Well, not until 1938 when another potential threat saw them reopened, reinforced and repainted for their original purpose. This soon became HQ for  Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk evacuation, and the flotilla of rescue vessels was coordinated from here.

There would later be a hospital for emergency surgery in dim and flickering lighting before the injured headed off inland to hopefully heal. They'll let you down and inside if you're prepared to wait in that queue and a health and safety-heavy guide will keep a close eye out for anyone nicking off into a cranny.

Inventive wall projections and sound effects recreate the atmosphere and conditions during World War II and it all leads down to a balcony built into the cliffs and a gift shop where there's an awful lot of Keep Calm and Carry On going on.

Oh! They don't let you take any photos down here, neither.

There's been no real sense of the famous white cliffs, so far, so for that head less than a mile east and a big car park. Not so much bluebirds over, more like blue words (in) Dover and that should be a clue that it's National Trust™-run, HOW MUCH?

For that, though, they'll let you, and quite a few others, follow the clifftop paths where most folk will leg it to the lighthouse at South Foreland. The daredevil's option is a right up-and-downer but the occasional kink in the coastline gives a glimpse of what made this so songworthy.

Near Dover Castle - White Cliffs of Dover Near Dover Castle - White Cliffs of Dover

There's a ladder down to the beach down there somewhere, seriously, where palaeontologists can poke around for fossils for which this stretch is famous, apparently.

Not that this pair of wobbly-sufferers[1] are having any of that, preferring to keep things firmly on the flat.

Dover Castle - White Cliffs of Dover Dover Castle - France

Besides, and much more interestingly, that's France over there man!

[1] Yes, that'll be the old vertigo.

Meanwhile, back in the tunnels, the world-weary guide is an ex-NHS nurse so she's seen and done it all. Questions are invited and yes, that is the original corrugated iron strengthening and yes, it is pretty much intact, isn't it?

Here's a chance to find out more on Operation Dynamo, perhaps, or the build up to the  Battle of Trafalgar?

A lady pipes up at the back... 'Are there any ghosts?'

There may have a roll of the eyes but in her ten years she's not seen anything unusual and, while she respects other people's beliefs, she brilliantly manages to paraphrase 'You don't believe in that cobblers, do you?'

'I was reading and then a friend told me that many people had died so there must be ghosts?'

Any ghosts down here? Just yours if you don't leave it, lady.