The White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury
Sea Princess docked in Dover a day early, having had to miss Germany due to bad gales which prevented entry into the port of Warnemunde – which was closed to ships exiting or entering.
A Short Visit to Dover and Canterbury in Kent, the Garden of England
It felt really strange for me to be ‘coming home’ but not to be visiting my Mum or Sister who live on the opposite side of the country in Devon, about a five and a half hour drive away.
I have to admit to being a wimpy creature at heart, because on our first day in port, I had a bit of a homesick wobble.
But I manned-up when I thought of the countless people who had set sail from the gleaming white cliffs of Dover for war, never to return to see their loved ones again ever. Their sadness must have been incomparable.
I also thought back to my own departure from England in 1977 when at the age of 19 I set off from Dover on the cross channel ferry bound for Belgium to work as a groom for a show-jumping family. Just me, my rucksack, a guitar and a whole lot of hope! Bye Bye White Cliffs!
Dover has also conjured up emotive feelings for British writers such as Matthew Arnold who in his book Dover Beach poetically describes the white cliffs … “From the long line of spray where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land.”
- Dover is a coastal town in England’s southeastern county of Kent.
- It’s a major port for ferries travelling to Calais, in France.
- Dover was originally built to repel invasions from Europe.
- Medieval Dover Castle looms like a fortress over the town (there are secret wartime tunnels in the castle.)
The White Cliffs are considered a natural wonder and stand at Britain’s closest point to Europe.
After immigration formalities, we decided to walk into Dover, then catch the train to visit historic Canterbury, a short 15 minute ride from Dover, rather than go into London, which we’ve visited many times before.
The walk from Terminal 2 to the train station took about half an hour, and the cost of a return train ticket was around 9 Pounds.
Other people we spoke to were going to visit nearby Rye, one couple went to Callais (caught the ferry for a slap up lunch in France!), others were doing the sights of London, some visited Dover Castle and some we met in Canterbury.
We started our day in Canterbury with a guided walking tour which began at the picturesque Butter Market just outside the cathedral, and then proceeded on an interesting tour for around 90 minutes which cost 7.50 Pounds Sterling.
Our guide Moyra gave us a riveting account of Canterbury.
Canterbury – Potted History
From the earliest times Canterbury has always been a very important town in England due to its religious connections. Its history dates back to Roman times for in the 1st Century AD the Romans took over an iron age settlement and build a town at Canterbury.
The first Cathedral in Canterbury was built by St Augustine in around 597.
In 603AD Canterbury was chosen to be the seat of the first Archbishop
In 851 AD Canterbury was raided by the Danes
The Cathedral which we see today dates from 1070 just after the Norman Conquest of 1066.
On the 29 December 1170, four knights, believing the king wanted Thomas Becket out of the way, confronted and murdered him in Canterbury Cathedral.
In 1173 Thomas Becket was made a Saint and his shrine in Canterbury Cathedral became an important focus for pilgrimage.
Soon after the death of Thomas Becket, he was canonised by Pope Alexander and the murdered priest was elevated to sainthood. Becket’s shrine at Canterbury became the most important place in the country for pilgrims from all over Europe to visit and during the Middle Ages Canterbury offered many pilgrim houses, for poor and wealthy pilgrims to stay, and some of these old timber-framed houses can still be seen today.
5 Things to do in Canterbury
- Visit Canterbury Cathedral
- Take a guided walking tour
- Visit the Roman museum
- Go to the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge
- Book a boat and go punting down the river
There are a whole list of great things to do in Canterbury on Trip Advisor.
The White Cliffs of Dover
On our second day in Dover we met up with Dave’s sister and brother-in-law who drove down from London, and we had a wonderful day with them, the highlight of which was a 4 mile return walk along the White Cliffs of Dover, which is considered to be one of the world’s best cliff-top walks.
The cliffs are a striking feature of Great Britain and the views were exhilarating but there was an even more exhilarating breeze which blew off my hat, and almost took me off my feet (some FEAT!)
We had unsurpassed views of the Straits of Dover in the English Channel, the world’s busiest shipping lane, and lost count of the number of ferries we watched come and go.
We marched along the cliffs to South Foreland Lighthouse which was built in 1843. This once guided shipping around the treacherous Goodwin Sands,. It was a life saving beacon for mariners and interestingly the first lighthouse in the world to use an electric light.
White Cliffs Walk, Hints and Tips
- A two mile walk (one way) along the cliff top path from the visitor centre takes you to the lighthouse. Check National Trust White Cliffs for opening times of lighthouse and Mrs Knott’s tea room.
- It took us 2.5 hours (there and back) with about a 20 minutes stop at the lighthouse.
- Wear comfortable shoes as the path can be steep and uneven in places.
- Wear layers.
- If you wear a hat make sure it fits snugly!
5 Things to do in Dover
- Visit Dover Castle (there’s so much to do and see. Don’t count on less than 2 hours but to enjoy all that’s on offer factor in half a day to a day).
- Watch the ferries come and go from the Cliff top path – Dover is the world’s busiest passenger port.
- Catch the ferry to Calais in France for a French lunch!
- Walk the white cliffs to the viewpoint (20 mins) or walk to South Foreland Lighthouse (50 – 60 mins). Enjoy the wild flowers, rare plants and insects that make the cliff top their home.
- Have tea or coffee in the lovely National Trust tea room and gift shop at the start of the cliff walk.
5 Facts for trivia buffs!
- Dover’s white cliffs are made up of chalk which makes them white enough in colour to be called a natural wonder.
- The chalk is made up of seashells and tiny sea creatures.
- Dover is situated in Kent which is known as the Garden of England because of its many orchards and hop gardens.
- Swimming the English Channel is a sport in Dover.
- Dover sole is traditional fare.
- Ian Fleming wrote about Dover in a ‘Moonraker’ whilst staying at Mermaid Cottage in Dover.
After a chilly but interesting day we said a sad farewell to Dave’s sister and brother in law and round 10pm that night Sea Princess set course for Cobh in Ireland.