Situated just 12 miles from the coast of France, Dover is the southeast’s principal cross-Channel port and abounds in historic attractions.
The town’s chief attraction is Dover Castle, a superbly positioned defensive complex, begun in 1168 and in continuous military use until the 1980s. The ancient Roman lighthouse stands beside the 7th century Saxon-built church, St Mary in Castro, with motifs graphitized by irreverent Crusaders still visible near the pulpit. The impressive, well-preserved Norman keep is situated further up the hillside. Inside, there’s an interactive exhibition on display; you can also climb its spiral stairs to the lofty battlements for spectacular views over the sea to the low cliffs of Calais. The castle’s other main attraction is its network of secret wartime tunnels dug during the Napoleonic war. Known as ‘Hellfire Corner,’ the tunnels were extended during World War II and used as a headquarters to plan the Dunkirk evacuation.
Several other enthralling attractions of historical interest are spread around the town. The Roman Painted House possesses some reasonable Roman wall paintings, the remains of an underground Roman heating system and some mosaics; while the nearby Dover Museum has extensive, informative displays on Dover’s past. The high ground to the west of town, originally the site of a Napoleonic-era fortress, retains one interesting oddity, the Grand Shaft, a triple staircase by which troops could descend at speed to defend the port in case of attack. The early Victorian New Bridge development along the Esplanade is a tasteful example of the town’s efforts to spruce up its tourist image.
Being one of England’s busiest ferry ports, Dover has ample and wide-ranging accommodation. There are also several excellent restaurants and cafés, and the town’s pubs offer great food and evening entertainment. Entertainment of a saltier nature is offered by Dover’s legendary White Cliffs, which dominate the town and have long been a source of inspiration for lovers, travelers and soldiers sailing off to war.