Your guide will pick you up from either your Canterbury hotel or the train station in Dover, depending on your wishes. You head first to St Margaret’s Bay, a tiny village just north of Dover, which nestles at the foot of the cliffs.
A steep and winding road descends through a leafy tunnel of overhanging trees, offering glimpses of the ocean beyond just before you reach shore level and get your first views of the enormous cliffs looming above you.
From here, you’ll drive a short distance along the coast toward Dover, stopping at the stretch of the White Cliffs cared for by the National Trust. Here, a short looped path takes you along the top of the cliffs, giving impressive vistas across the coastline and beyond. On a clear day, you can see as far as the north coast of France.
Dover Castle is about a five-minute drive from the cliffs, sitting impressively above Dover town and port, one of the busiest passenger ports in the world. The castle is a medieval fortification whose oldest structures date back to the 11th century, although the site itself is thought to predate the Roman invasion. Its location has made it of supreme strategic importance throughout England’s military history, most recently during World War II.
The malleable chalky land here allowed inhabitants to reshape the hill on which the castle sat over the years into ditches. The various buildings that comprise the castle fortifications now perch on the top of a steep mound.
Inside, the rooms are in medieval style, and as you explore you’ll learn about the history of the castle and the sieges and battles that occurred here, as well as the fortification’s more recent military uses.
Extensive tunnel networks run below the castle, some constructed in medieval times, others during the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century. These tunnels played a hugely important role during World War II, when one functioned first as a hospital and then as barracks for the Royal forces, and another as a place of command for Operation Dynamo, a secret mission to rescue allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk. The operation was the subject of two Hollywood films in 2017: Darkest Hour and Dunkirk. Both tunnels now contain exhibitions, which explain their history.
Once you’ve had some time to explore the castle, your guide will take you back to the station or your Canterbury hotel.