Back in October we stayed just outside Dover at the Park Resorts caravan site for a long weekend for Daddy P’s birthday. I was actually born in Kent, but we moved to Surrey when I was small, and although I’ve had family in the north and east of the county, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to explore. Neither had Daddy P, so we decided to use this break to see some of the sights around Dover. Everyone I’d spoken to beforehand said we must visit Dover Castle. Well, you know me, mention the word castle and I’m there like a shot!
You can’t miss Dover Castle as you come into the port town. It stands on the hill guarding the town, it’s an impressive, even at first glance. I’d done some research before our trip, the castle is run by English Heritage and we decided to rejoin whilst we visited, as there were a number of other sites we fancied visiting during our trip. We had been members before Monkey was born, but I let our membership lapse when I stopped work as we only have a few sites nearer to home. But these days we’re often out and about so it makes more sense. Plus – kids go free with a paying member.
So once that was all sorted it was time to explore. Daddy P was eager to explore the tunnels and the World War Two tour, but we decided whilst we had good weather (it actually got better as the day went on) that we would explore the outside grounds first.
There is a lot to see at Dover Castle; I love castles and I was really impressed with this one.
We were all taken in by the Roman Lighthouse, which is certainly the oldest one we have ever seen. It’s amazing to think it has stood up to all weathers since the Second Century AD and was still being used in the 12th Century.
Right next to the Lighthouse is the Saxon church of St Mary in Castro which was used during the Napoleonic Wars as a court for a game similar to squash called Fives!
The Castle site itself is rather impressive, surrounded by a grass bank and wonderful castle walls. You can enter through either Colton’s Gate or Peverell’s Gate to see the Inner and Middle Bailey’s on the complex.
We found that there was something for everyone; points of interest from the earliest times of the castle, medieval tunnels to explore (these are rather dark but even my very cautious little boy managed them ok), museum areas to learn from and then there was the Great Tower itself to climb up.
The Great Tower is a great place to explore, Monkey wasn’t quite 5 when we visited, but he managed the stairs to the top of the castle easily. It was wonderful to show him what the vast rooms would have looked like in medieval days, with bright colours, large cooking pots and banqueting tables. I was so impressed with Dover Castle as it really brings history alive for children and my son was thoroughly engrossed all day. If you can instill a love of the past in a child of his age, there is a hope that a life long interest will remain.
When you reach the top of the Great Tower there are various information points as well as wonderful views over Dover.
The museums house a model of the castle which Monkey found fascinating and I enjoyed the Regimental Museum. I have family who fought during the First World War, in regiments that were connected to those shown in the displays. It’s great when you can incorporate your own family history into something you see during a family day out.
Canons always hold a fascination for children and take you away from the medieval period of Dover Castle as you head forward in time to the battlements of the Second World War, the Admiralty Look Out and the Casement Level Tunnels.
Something that really is well worth a visit is the Operation Dynamo exhibition. You do need to queue for this as the tours are timed, but it is very interesting, as you are taken through the secret wartime tunnels and immerse yourself in the Dunkirk evacuations. It was fascinating and a big highlight for Daddy P.
You can also explore the Underground Hospital, we didn’t manage to get this far, but I always like to have a reason to return! We all really enjoyed our day, and trust me, you will need a full day to explore everything that the castle has to offer. There really is something for everyone, and it’s somewhere I wish we lived closer to. It’s a gem of a castle and we will certainly return whenever we are in Kent again.