Dover, Kent, England
Dover Castle sits on top of a Norman motte on the White Cliffs of Dover overlooking the English Channel and France.
Today’s castle is from the time of Henry II onwards and as well as the castle the site has a Royal chapel, a Saxon church and a Roman lighthouse over 80 feet tall, all in good condition.
The castle site is surrounded by miles of protective curtain wall with semi circular and square towers of varying heights. In the centre a four storey castellated keep; the largest in England, with buttress turrets at each corner and pilaster buttress’ in between are all surrounded by another protective wall.
The castle is open daily from 10am until 6pm between April and September, until 5pm in October and November and until 4pm the rest of the year.
Visitors can experience what life was like in the past with virtual tours and interactive displays, visit the shop, café, coffee shop or restaurant all serving local produce.
Very popular with visitors to the castle are the tours of the war time tunnels. Tours operate on a timed ticket system so arrive early to avoid being disappointed.
The site's strategic position means it has been used in defense from the Iron Age, with the first castle being Anglo Saxon with William the Conqueror building an earthwork castle and a Norman Motte.
The castle was significantly improved and remodeled during the reign of King Henry II. It was then that the gatehouse was repaired, the eastern wall was rebuilt and the outer bailey completed with its twenty towers. This was also when the Great Keep, one of the last rectangular keeps to be constructed, was built.
Although the walls were strong they were breached in 1216 by Louis VIII of France in an attempt to take the English crown. During this attack the castle’s defenders tunneled outwards to attack the French on the other side creating the worlds only counter tunnel, which is still visible today.
Henry VIII improved the defenses and made them suitable for canons and also added a Moat Bulwark , with further improvements being made towards the end of the 18th century during the Napoleonic war. The outer defenses were redesigned with extra gun positions and the roof removed to accommodate yet more canons.
In 1803 due to the important nature of Dover and the castle large numbers of troops needed to be garrisoned there. It was decided to construct a series of tunnels below the cliffs housing over 2000 men. The tunnels were left abandoned until 1939 and the outbreak of the Second World War when they were used as air raid shelters, a military command centre, a telephone exchange and a hospital.
Today the castle its tunnels and land are owned and run by English Heritage.
The castle has been used for many TV and films including Doctor Who, Strange True, the 1990 film version of Hamlet directed by Franco Zeffirelli, The Oher Boylen Girl (2008), to Kill a King (2003) and Lady Jane (2006).
Other Castles in the Area
Deal Castle, Kent
Walmer Castle, Kent