Dover Castle is one of the oldest and most important castles in Britain. Thanks to its geographical location, it has been the countries first line of defence for centuries. It is also one of the oldest structural sites in the UK, with evidence of construction going back to the Iron Age.
Situated high above the White Cliffs, the castle looks over what has always been England's most vulnerable point: the closest point to mainland Europe. Today, you can explore the castle's rich history, from the grandeur of the medieval Great Tower to the fascinating story of the mass evacuation of troops from Dunkirk in the Secret War Time Tunnels. There are also a host of restaurants, shops and other sights to see within the castle's grounds.
Explore the Dover Castle with Dan Snow
By Car - If coming into Dover on the A20, continue straight, following signs for Dover Castle. Turn left onto Woolcomber Street at the traffic lights, still following signs for the castle. Turn right onto Castle Hill Road and make your way up the hill before turning right into the entrance to the castle.
If arriving via the A2 from Canterbury, take the third exit onto the A258 at the Duke of York roundabout. Continue down this road for just over a mile, before turning left into the castle car park.
By Train - The nearest station is Dover Priory, roughly 1 mile away and a 20 minute walk. Taxis will be located outside the station, taking rougly 10 minutes and costing no more than £10.
By Bus - Take the number 15 bus from Pencester Road towards Sandown, getting off the bus outside the castle, opposite Cannons Gate.
By Ferry - If arriving into the ferry terminal, head to the Travel Centre and take the number 15 bus from here towards Sandown, before getting off the bus at the castle opposite Cannons Gate.
History of the Dover Castle
Standing as one of the oldest fortresses in Britain, Dover Castle has long been the first line of defence from invaders from mainland Europe. Situated high above the iconic White Cliffs, the site is believed to have first been used as a hill fort in the Iron Age. The Romans built two lighthouses on the site, one of which still remains and is one of the best preserved Roman buildings in Western Europe. After the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons left their mark through the construction of a church, believed to have been part of a Saxon fortified settlement. In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded Britain and, after his conquest, converted the settlement into a timber-stockaded castle.
It was in the medieval period, however, that the castle became, arguably, the most important fortress in England. King Henry II built the Great Tower, the centrepiece of the castle, along with huge stone walls, and a palace to welcome extinguished guests. The royal palace was used by many kings and queens throughout the medieval period, including King Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Charles I's Queen, Henrietta Maria.
Up to 200 parking spaces are available upon your arrival at the castle, allowing you to park free of charge. There are male, female, disabled toilets, as well as baby changing rooms at five different locations on the site.
There are two shops available: The Great Tower, selling military items, and the Secret War Time Tunnels shop selling WWII inspired memorabilia. Dogs are allowed on a lead in the 80 acres of gardens around the castle, however they are not allowed inside any of the attractions. There is a play area/playground for children, with picnic areas also available.
Food & Drink
There are a whole host of eating options, ensuring you don't have to leave the castle grounds to grab bite to eat. If you are looking for hot lunches, sandwiches or snacks, then try The Great Tower Cafe, built in 1901, it is located in the Great Tower keep yard. Alternatively you could head over to the NAAFI Restaurant which is housed in the 1886 Regimental Institute and was once used by soldiers stationed here. They too offer a selection of hot lunches, snacks and ice creams.
If you just fancy a cup of tea and cake, then the Secret Wartime Tunnels Tearoom, built into the original Napoleonic tunnel complex, offers just that. There is also an ice cream parlour located next to the NAAFI Restaurant.
If you fancy eating outside, all eateries apart from the Secret Wartime Tunnels Tearoom offer outdoor seating. You are welcome to bring your own lunch, with picnic tables spread across the grounds and great spots to eat above the White Cliffs overlooking the Channel.
Things to do
Aside from all the attractions already inside the castle's grounds, there are a number of events taking place throughout the year. These include events such as a sleepover on the Great Tower, where you get the chance to wine and dine as King Henry II did, before staying the night. There are also guided tours available and special events for kids.
The Great Tower
Immerse yourself in the medieval history within Henry II's royal court. The Great Tower has been decorated in a way that recreates what life would have been like if you were actually walking around the site in the 12th Century. The interiors feature magnificent wall hangings, lavish furnishings, and fascinating, intricate objects placed around many rooms throughout the tower. These include the King's chamber, guest hall, guests chambers, kitchen and more.
At certain times of the year, costumed characters will be walking around the castle, acting out their daily lives. You will get to meet and interact with a variety of characters in every room, spread over three floors. If you are arriving on a day when there are no costumed characters, projections of characters and information panels will give you a good insight into the history of the tower.
Explore the Great Tower at Dover Castle
Secret War Time Tunnels
It was not just in medieval times when the castle played a pivotal role in war. During the Second World War, Dover's geographical location was key in assisting with the evacuation of over 300,000 ally troops from Dunkirk. The heart of the castle was where army generals plotted the evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo. It was through the Secret War Time Tunnels that Admiral Bertram Ramsey, who masterminded the rescue, held his naval head quarters.
Now, you can take a self-guided tour through the tunnels. Thanks to video footage, realistic sets and sound effects, you will relive the horror and the danger of the war and life in the tunnels. There are a number of rooms to explore through the tunnels, including the Gun Operations Room, Telephone Exchange and The Underground Hospital.
The tunnels' history dates back further than the Second World War, with the first evidence of their use dating to the Napoleonic Wars. Explore all of the underground tunnels and relive the history of their importance during war in Britain.