Dover Castle, Kent. The invincible guard of the southern coast of England.

dover castle

During the last tumultuous millenniums of wars and conflicts between the British Islands and the Continent, the Strait of Dover, having been kept apart from France only by 26 miles, had been a somewhat of Achilles heel of England that was in desperate need of strong fortification. Knowing that, the inhabitants of the site began to strengthen it yet in the Iron Age, the Romans and then the Saxons maintained this tradition but also added their own touches. The first - by erecting two lighthouses, and the second ones - by putting up the church of St Mary-in-Castro. The ruins of one of the lighthouses (also called pharos) and adjoined to it church are still can be seen in the grounds of Dover castle.
William the Conqueror also appreciated the strategic significance of the place; the first construction that was built straight after the Battle of Hastings was his made of earth and wood version of Dover castle.
But the imposing proportions of 35-acres Dover castle, as we know them now, started to appear purely in the 12th century, during the reign of Henry II. The castle became one of the first concentric castles (walls within walls) in Britain. Its square severe keep, the last of its kind, from both sides was enclosed with 30 metres long and 24 metres high walls, surmounted by 14 towers.
lighthouse pharosThe ruins of the Roman lighthouse at Dover castle
Another 30 towers crowned the outer wall. It was a masterpiece of engineering skill of its time and supposed to keep any enemy siege. The castle had the possibility to prove it in 1216, when besieged by the troops of French Prince Louis VIII, aiming to seize the throne from unpopular John Lackland. Although the numerical superiority wasn’t on the party of 140 residents of the occupied castle and the French managed to inflict some destruction, the assault was successfully repelled. In fact, during this brief triumph of Prince Louis as the king of England, Dover and Windsor castles were the only castles that resisted the French campaign.

During the subsequent centuries Dover castle was undergoing the numerous improvements, like for example the complex system of subterranean tunnels during the conflicts with Napoleon, which could contain up to 2,000 troops. These tunnels also did a good turn during the first and second world wars, having been transformed into the headquarters and military hospital. From here was launched the operation regarding the evacuation of British and French soldiers from Dunkirk during the World War II.

If you expect to see the regal-looking interiors and luxurious artefacts while visiting Dover castle, you might have a slight disappointment. Although the fortification used to accommodate the members of royal family and their guests, the main purpose of the castle was to defend, but not to entertain. It’s fair to say that the castle can’t boast a lot of exhibitions. One illustrates the siege of the 1216, another one is devoted to Henry VIII and his Court. But there are no lack of empty but mysterious rooms, nooks and corridors where you can use your wild imagination and draw up the lack of interior.
dover castle
A lot of people believe that Dover castle is haunted, according to some rumours and stories there are some regular ghosts in the castle, one of them is believed to belong to Anne of Cleves. Every now and then the sprite of a soldier is noticed in the Secret Wartime Tunnels. The highlight of the castle is a fantastic view across the English Channel from the keep’s roof. If the English weather is magnanimous enough you will even see the shoreline of France through the haze. Well, probably Dover castle is not as posh as its neighbour Leeds castle but it certainly doesn’t suffer from lack of character and specific atmosphere as well as from lack of outstanding sceneries.

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Emm said...

I went to Dover Castle last year and I really enjoyed it, despite some of the worst weather I have encountered! I must make a turn to Leeds Castle too - would you recommend it then?

Anna said...

Oh yeah,Emm, i had the similar experience with the weather in Cornwall about 2 years ago,it was blowing so violently that i couldn't even go down to Tintagel castle that was the aim of our destination. As to Leeds castle - i would definitely recommend it, though personally i would better go again to Arundel castle. I think there are more things to see in and around than at Leeds castle.

Emm said...

I hope to go to all the major castles in southern England eventually! You and I obviously have similar interests!

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