Advantages: fascinating historical site with spectacular views.
Disadvantages: no audio available and a lot of climbing inside and out.
From the late June to middle August I spent 7 weeks in China, so I missed the beautiful summer in the UK this year. It’s a great pity. Luckily the August bank holiday came shortly after I returned and the weather at the last day (30 August 2010) was gorgeous so I took a day trip to Dover Castle.
Brief introduction about Dover Castle:
Dover Castle is located in Dover, Kent. As the key to England Dover has always been in a strategic position to protecting Britain from potential invaders throughout its history. Commanding the shortest sea crossing between England and the continent, these fortifications on the very site of Dover Castle have played an important military role for over 2000 years. Going back to the 12th century Henry II built the present castle, and over the next 800 years, particularly during the second world war, it’s buildings and defences were adapted to meet the changing demands of weapons and warfare.
After parking my car I was ready to walk to the Castle. However at the exit I saw a staff standing there with a short queue. After inquiring the staff I knew the road towards to the Castle has a few steep slopes and it would take about ten walk minutes to get there. So English Heritage manage 4 free buses to commute visitors between the Castle and the parking. At the moment I didn’t know how long I would wait and I was ambitious to walk by myself, but the staff suggested me taking the walk when I come back. So I was queued up for the bus. Shortly it arrived. It is a minibus with capacity of 16 passengers and takes less than five minutes to reach the ticket spot. Sitting in the bus I realised I made a right decision. The road is really steep and narrow. After my visit I took the bus back without any hesitation.
Tip 2: Better to take the bus which commute between the Castle and the parking every five minutes.
Leaving the bus and walking upstairs I arrived the ticket office. The Admission Prices are £13.90 for adults, £7 for children and £11.80 for concessions if you are not the member of English Heritage. This includes the tour of the secret wartime tunnels that is operated by timed ticked system.
There was a short queue, but the staff worked efficiently. Because my visit to the secret wartime tunnels was managed in one hour, I decided to get around The Admiralty Look-out first which is just nearby the secret wartime tunnels.
Tip 3: Better to book your visit of the secret wartime tunnels earlier after you arrive, then you will have more flexibility to visit others.
The Admiralty Look-out is shown its role as a First World War Fire Command Post and a naval signal station, with superb views of the White Cliffs. As its name, it was used for spotting enemy ships and planes during First and Second World Wars. There you can see how they worked and try to figure out ships and airplanes of the enemies and British army. Figuring out these ships and airplanes was a bit difficult, but fun and interesting.
Tip 4: The views of the White Cliffs are superb, but not the best. Save your time for these later.
Later the English Heritage staff freed us to go by ourselves. As it’s one way so you would not be lost. I stopped at a small room in which Ramsay and his staff made the Dunkirk miracle happened. If you are interested in the history you can sit down to watch a short film about it. Nearby there are two operational rooms for communicating with ships and airplanes outside. It’s really amazing to explore these tunnels. However it’s so nice to have some fresh air and sunshine.
Tip 5: It’s important to follow up the English Heritage staff to get more information.
Leaving the tunnels and following the guide panels I first arrived the inner bailey and the Great Tower which was originally built by King Henry II. There is a big grassland inside the bailey that is used for kids to play some medieval games, also a small market selling drinks and food. First I visited an exhibition in Arthur’s Hall to learn about the builder Henry II and his troublesome family. The short film about his fight with his wife and sons is really funny and educational. There is also a quite descriptive explanation about the king and the rank of his officials.
Tip 7: Pay attention on the pictures that made the church more impressive.
Dover Castle opens in whole year, except Christmas and New Year holiday. There are two shops and one restaurant selling refreshment, cakes and sandwiches. The price is reasonably high. You can also buy some souvenir at the shops. The toilets are inside every shops and very easy to find out. Last but not least due to the location it’s always cold and windy, even under sunshine, so better to put warm clothes on plus a pair of comfortable shoes.