going local: destination rochester and castles

destination Rochester .jpg

Let the English discoveries continue:  today’s destination is Rochester in Kent, just 30 miles south-east of London. Rochester is located by River Medway and is one of the oldest towns in England. It is best known for its large cathedral (the second oldest in the country), for founding the second oldest school in the world, the King’s School, and for being a favourite town for Charles Dickens.

Upnor village, Kent, England
‘The day starts in small, yet eccentric village of Upnor and it’s old castle’

The town centre has a pedestrian area and it’s really picturesque and therefore Rochester and it’s surrounding areas make a perfect day-trip destinations. My top tips for places to visit there are old Rochester Castle, the Cathedral next to it, the pretty Upnor Castle and the village of Upnor – and depending on your interests I would also recommend visiting the Dickens World (especially at Christmas-time with the Dickensian Christmas theme) and the Historical Chatham Dockyard (which our youngest children absolutely loved).

When in town and ready for a little break my recommendation for a lovely lunch, cream tea, or a delicious coffee break would be a small, quaint tea-shop/gift store called Capture the Castle. Everything there looks absolutely adorable and tastes great!

Upnor Castle, Kent, England
‘Upnor is great place for fans of old guns as it was built as part of the coastal defense system and has plenty of artillery still in place’

I started my latest visit to Rochester at Upnor. The village is tiny, and the high street is just couple of hundred meters, but the houses are beautiful and unusual and there is a lot to admire when walking through the village to the riverfront where the castle entrance is. There are also two pubs, one of which is dating back to 1780 if I recall correctly – some history of brews being served there!

Upnor Castle, Kent, England
‘Upnor lies by river Medway. Across the river you have both old shipyards and new high-rise buildings, quite an interesting contrast’

The centre of Rochester is really picturesque with colourful bunting and lots of little shops, cafes and restaurants. Coming from Upnor one needs to cross the river, and the bridge is quite spectacular in itself with ornate flowers and cherub details on it, revealing the importance of this town in the past.

Rochester bridge
‘The old bridge across river Medway is lovely with its lions and all pretty details’

Rochester Castle is located right after the bridge by the river and the famous cathedral is right behind it – and the busy town centre lies right next to these historic landmarks.

Rochester Castle, Kent, England
‘ Like Upnor Castle, Rochester Castle also has a strategic riverside location and where the old walls are missing, colourful flower and making the area even more beautiful’

Rochester Castle has such a colourful history dating back to 1067, and it’s 12th century keep is one of the best preserved in Europe. It stood several battles and eventually became too costly to keep and was abandoned. The town of Rochester eventually bought the property and opened it as a park for the public in 1870s and it’s still to date a very popular area to visit.

Rochester Castle, Kent, England
‘ The 12th-century castle looks very impressive from the outside, but when you enter, you discover that it’s just a shell’

Typical to many castles, the interior was made of wood for cost purposes and was destroyed in due course. As most of the stairwells were built into the outside walls it’s possible to climb up to the top where the 360 views stretching over the river and town are magnificent.

Rochester Cathedral
‘Rochester Cathedral as seen from the top of castle’

Rochester Cathedral is another amazing building. My history had a bit of a hole here, as I thought it was rather new and was astonished to discover the origins being more than 1400 years old. it has been beautifully renovated and has none of that old feel you get say in Notre Dame or some of the old Spanish cathedrals. Also the interiors are much more modest compared to its southern European counterparts. The cathedral is definitely worth a visit also!

Capture the Castle in Rochester
‘ Time to break the pattern: on this trip the traditional cream tea was replaced by this fresh and absolutely delicious summer berry tart in Capture the Castle tea room in Rochester’

If you have been visiting my site more frequently you probably have realized that I quite like castles and all the history that goes with it. I must admit though that I haven’t always been that keen on history, but England is just so full of it, and with enthralling stories that weave these properties together (especially Henry the VIII seems to have been everywhere – and he’s been brought alive by movies such as The Other Boleyn Girl too) – and I feel quite lucky to be living in England. So I will raise my next Pimm’s glass (such a refreshing and tasty English summer drink enjoyed with strawberries and cream of course, especially at Wimbledon…) for my lovely England and it’s beautiful castles and other treasures. Cheers until next week!

A day in Rochester
‘ Tour of Rochester from Upnor Castle to Dickens World’

English Summer Adventures 2014

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