We recently took a family day out to visit the beautiful Dover Castle. It really is one of Britain’s national treasures, even Hitler had his sights set on the castle itself.
This is the reason the castle survied unscathed through World War 2 when the rest of Dover was badly hit as Hitler ordered for it to be left alone as he wanted to take it over for himself.
Dover castle stands proud on its iconic hill overlooking the historic port and out on to the English Channel. The castle was built to impress, even the drive up to the castle is dramatic as you sweep up the step circling hill to reach the entrance.
We visited the two museums that are on site one that has the history of the castle and the monarchy of England and the other museum was The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment Museum. Both of these were jam packet full of information and had interactive games for the children to play with allowing them to take in some of the history in bite size portions.
The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment Museum has tons of war paraphernalia some as far back as World War 2 and the Cold War. There was even tributes to soldiers who had lost their lives in the recent war in Afghanistan. The museum had a vast array of war medals and official hats worn by the regiment throughout the years which made it a very interesting place to visit.
The remains of the light house that still stands at Dover Castle was built by the Roman’s and is the oldest standing lighthouse in the country and one of the oldest in the world. It is built directly next to the Anglo-Saxon church.
We visited the Castle on a Sunday morning and as the church is still in use there was a church service going on. The big doors at the back of the church were left wide open so we could peak in to the see. At the time we were there the parishioners were all in full singing mood which bought the church to life with the beautiful harmony’s reflecting from the stone walls.
The main part of the Castle is called ‘The Great Tower’ however in my opinion the word ‘Great’ just does not do it justice. It is stupendous with its sheer size and grandeur.
As you walk through the rooms you discover bit by bit the depth of the castle as it slowly reveals itself to you. It measures 100 feet in each direction with corner turrets and passages throughout. There are vast rooms spread out over 3 floors and a roof terrace on top.
English heritage has done a spectacular job of recreating the medieval time period with authentic replicas that you can see and touch. You do get the feeling of being transported back in time. We were lucky to have attended on a day that they had costumed actors roaming round and playing instruments from the time period to really bring the castle to life.
In the castle you will find throne chairs that you are allowed to sit on and take pictures, replica swords, shields and chain mail that you can pick up and try on giving you the true sense of what it would have been like to wear them into war. The chainmail in particular had me amazed the sheer weight of it was unbelievable I am astonished how anyone managed to wear it let only be able to fight in it.
You can access the rooftop terrace where there is a breathtaking view of Dover, you can see the white cliffs and the port from there. For the children this was the main talking part of the trip being on top of the world. The stairs to get to the top are big stone steps but are very wide so are accessible for young children. Even if you are carrying them up to the top you can go up a floor at a time and explore the rooms on each floor before reaching the top so as not to have to carry them up numerous flights of stairs in one go.
Outside you can walk around the grounds and follow the walls around the outskirts which has replica cannons and aircraft rifles which my girls enjoyed and pretend to shoot the ‘Pirates’ out to sea.
The Castle has some lovely cafes that serve a selection of hot meals, sandwiches and mouth watering cakes. If you didn’t want to purchase food there is plenty of space on the grounds that you could sit and eat your own picnic. They do have an ice cream stall that you can treat the kids to and a gift shop.
Once we had thought that we had seen all that Dover castle had to offer we were stunned to find that underneath was a vast tunnel system.
To see the tunnels there is two guided tours that you can take one is called Operation Dynamo which is 45 minutes long and the other is a tour of the underground hospital. The Operation Dynamo tour takes you down below where they once used these tunnels as a command centre to put into action the safe withdrawal of troops from Dunkirk. The tour does not involve too much walking so young children will be fine and I think you can take pushchairs in there. The slope on the way down is steep and a bit slippery but the rest of the tour is on the flat surfaces.
During the videos that they show on this tour there are a few images of the war that children may find upsetting and the tunnels are quite dark when the lights turn off before the videos come on so be wary if taking small children on the tour. In saying that my 8, 6 and 4 year old were all fine and found it an enjoyable experience.
Dover castle turned out to be an amazing family day out for us all. Our day was packed full of fun and adventure and best of all our girls got to learn about History first hand. I would highly recommend a visit if you are near Dover.
We are English heritage members which is well worth the subscription. The price for us alone to have gone to Dover castle for the day is £52.50 with gift aid (which is definitely worth the money if you don’t have membership), this cost is over half of what you would pay for the annual joint membership. So even if you went to the same site twice you would have made the membership worth the while. English heritage do own over 400 sites across the UK to visit so it is well worth getting the membership.
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