Sweetbriar Dreams

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Saturday, 11 March 2017

Tales of Kent (Part 3 - Dover Castle)

There are some places that I visit where I wonder why on earth I have never been before.  Dover Castle is one of them.  If you are ever in Kent you MUST visit this place but make sure you have a whole day spare to go around at your leisure, take advantage of the tours and thoroughly enjoy every step you take!  The weather was grey but I love this as it makes the experience more atmospheric, the company was colourful, intelligent and inspirational, so are you ready to follow in our steps?   Let's start our journey with showing you just how thick a castle's walls should be!  In some places they are 21ft thick (6.5m), a fortress indeed.


This place has it all, centuries of history, with each room a history lover's treasure chest and walking within a fortress that was originally built as a Motte and Bailey Castle.  The Motte was a man made hill which the castle would sit on as the final fighting area.  The Bailey was the area that was occupied by people and animals in peacetime.  Dover's Motte and Bailey castle was built in eight days with around 500 men working on this and a wooden 'castle' built at the top with removable ladders for defence.  From 1180 - 89 Henry II wanted the Castle rebuilt and it was continued to be built during King John's reign and completed during Henry III's reign c. 1217.  From the shot I took below, you will see just one of the many rings of defence that surrounded part of these magnificent buildings.


Looking through Coltons Gateway, a Saxon work first, and the Great Tower beckons you in to explore its walls.  Can you imagine the centuries of people walking under this arch?


Once through the gateway, the Tower stands, foreboding, oozing history and willing you to explore.


King Henry II, who was father to Richard the Lionheart and the tyrant that was King John, would entertain his court here, showing off his wealth and power.  I loved the burst of colour in these rooms which the historians have kept true to the time.



The kitchen, certainly the heart of the Tower, would have been alive with servants constantly running to and fro with chargers full of the food of that time and plenty of mead I daresay!



All running to keep the man who was waiting here, happy!


In one little side room I was intrigued by the simplicity of it and the rope that hung over a step.  Sitting on the step and looking down, I realised that this was a very deep well, one that actually had mist rising from the bottom!  A penny was dropped in and the chinking of it hitting the sides went on and on and on.  It turns out that this well was built by 12th century builders into the chalk and sunk over 122m deep.  It is as deep as Salisbury Cathedral's spire is high and may have been envisaged as being used as a refuge if the Castle fell.


We continued upwards through side rooms, worn stairways that had been trodden down over the centuries (a favourite thing of mine when visiting older properties), and eventually reached the turrets.  Windy, chilly, grey, but still a wonderful view...



As well as high above, you can travel back in time down below too.  One tour we took was to see the tunnels which were originally burrowed and finished in 1803 with around 2000 officers and troops using them as barracks for a Napoleonic invasion.  This never happened but they were used again for Operation Dynamo (unfortunately photos are not allowed here), if you visit the Castle, this is a must see.  This tour took you to the tunnels that were reused to plan Dunkirk and the final leg of the tour takes you to a tunnel where the evacuation of the troops is displayed on the walls, reflected planes flying over you and showing the explosions to the left and right of you.  Very well done and as my Grandpa was one of the fortunate troops who managed to escape this, very humbling to see what he went through.

As well as this tunnel, there are the medieval tunnels which were burrowed under the Castle during the Siege in 1216.  You descend around 26m as you go into the tunnels, and the atmosphere is incredible!





You come out to see Cannon pointing out to defend the castle.  An avenue of them, and you can imagine the energy of those ready to defend the castle.


Once outside, we came across this church and Roman lighthouse.  The lighthouse is the oldest still standing in England.  It was used to guide the Romans to England from France with fires burnt from the top.  Another stood at the other side of the port so that the ships could navigate their way through.  Amazing that after all these centuries it still stands and now has a neighbour in the Anglo Saxon Church of St Mary in Castro.



Inside the lighthouse the only activity now was the chatter and cry of seabirds, but to look up at this incredible history, breathtaking!


The Church has had many makeovers over the years, the last being William Butterfield.  But, I'm sorry to say, the tiles on the wall did feel a bit public toilet, you know the ones that used to be underground?!  




Once again, the stained glass, as in Canterbury Cathedral, was stunning.


And so there you have it, Dover Castle, another one that I will definitely be back on a sunny day to admire more of its beauty.

Have a wonderful weekend and week ahead.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for the great tour. It made me want to travel to Dover one day.

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  2. Loved this post. What a truly fascinating place!

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  3. Good Sunday Morning Chel,
    I love that you share these beautiful tours with us. You are so lucky to be able to tour these beautiful places so full of history. What a wonderful place to visit.
    Have a great new week.
    Kris

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  4. Hello there! Haven't been by to visit n a while but as always, I toroughly enjoyed the tour. To live so close to all the amazing places you take us is so awesome! I simply cannot imagine it. I hope you are doing well. Have a lovely Sunday.

    Hugs, Vicky

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  5. Wow, love it. I'd love to see it in person. Thanks for the tour!

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  6. Excellent tour and beautiful photos.

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  7. So interesting! The thickness of the walls is incredible and I was amazed to read that they built this in 8 days!

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  8. I've often read about this castle, but I never had a chance to visit it when I was in England, so I enjoyed the tour very much. The view from the top is amazing!

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