going local: castle adventures in dover and walmer

Dover Castle, Kent

This English summer appears to be rather nice: we’ve had lots of blue skies and warm days, today included. A while back we visited the south coast of Kent around Dover, and the weather wasn’t the greatest, but the castles were still magnificent. This day called for exploring the largest castle in England, Dover Castle, which is also known for its long underground tunnels used during WWII.

The other nearby stop on the way we did was in Deal, where small, but beautiful Walmer Castle resides right on the beach, surrounded by lovely gardens. Both of these properties are managed by English Heritage and if you can visiting several properties over a year I’d recommend getting an annual membership to save money.

Dover Castle, Kent

If history is your passion, then these castles have a lot to give, as Dover dates back to Roman times with a lighthouse still in situ, early parts of the fortress from 1160, to the reign of Henry II, to Henry VIII, and all the way to Second World War.  Walmer Castle is part of the coastal defense line Henry VIII built along Kent, Sussex and other counties.

Dover Castle, Kent

I would recommend booking several hours to visit Dover as the underground tunnels normally have queues with timed entires every 20 minutes or so, and the great tower has a lot of events from historic enactments such as pictures here the writing of legal documents rising from property disputes. My 9-year-old daughter loved these sessions and we all learned something new in a fun and entertaining way.

Dover Castle, Kent

One can pretty freely explore the grounds, the medieval underground parts, the church, roman lighthouse and artillery. Dover Castle is built atop the famous White Cliffs and therefore have magnificent 360 views of the coast and valleys around it.

Dover Castle, Kent

The castle looks very majestic, and has both ruins and restored parts showcasing the old way of life to explore. There is also a cafe and restaurant on site to enjoy a little sandwich, a refreshing cream time or more.

Another nice activity to combine with the castle visit would be a walk along the White Cliffs to the lighthouse, which is a nice 2-3 hour round tour. We did this last year and the children loved it, as the lighthouse has kites and games for the children and a perfect strong, albeit gusty wind for flying kites (see the post here on White Cliffs and the Lighthouse).

Walmer Castle, Kent

Our second castle stop was Walmer Castle in nearby Deal, some 10 minute drive away along the coast. It is famous for being the residence of Duke of Wellington and for the frequent visits by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

The shape of the castle is most fascinating with a circular courtyard and four semi-circular bastions and it’s surrounded by a now-dry moat. The gardens are a burst of colour and have details such as clipped topiary to spell out a dedication to the queen. The interior is mostly preserved with elaborate wallpapers and furnishings and definitely worth touring around.

Walmer Castle, Kent

The children loved spotting tiny frogs in the lily ponds and playing old garden games from toss the rope rings to croquet on the lawns, and walking in the woodlands.

Walmer Castle, Kent

So quintessentially English landscape gardens with burst of colours ad all clipped topiary. If you want to find out more about English Landscape Gardens and get some visit ideas read my older post about a feature I wrote for the  Skimbaco Lifestyle magazine {here}.Walmer Castle, Kent

My favourite part of the garden? This little old wooden door in the walled garden, partly because I’ve been reading the kids The Secret Garden and the door just reminded me of that: a bit secretive and mystical….

I hope you enjoyed this Kentish castle tour which is part of my English Summer Adventures from strawberries and cream in tennis tournaments to castles and beach trips, celebrating all things so quintessentially English.

English Summer Adventures 2014

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