On 8th September 2015, one day after our trip to Chatham, we left for Dover Castle. When we were on our way there, I was rather indecisive whether I should explore the castle or go on the hike instead. I did not know whether the castle was worth spending several hours there. The hike sounded good as well but I wondered whether the distance might be a bit too long for me. When we arrived at the castle, I finally came to my decision: I would stay at Dover Castle in order to explore the huge area surrounded by massive stone walls. Even before we entered the castle, I was astonished by the size of the castle grounds and the depth of the surrounding moat.
After negotiating a discounted entrance fee, we had some trouble collecting the right amount of money but after we had achieved this glorious goal, we entered the grounds. Right afterwards, we enjoyed the wide view over the sea and the harbour. Most of us headed towards the inner bailey and strode across one of the wooden drawbridges. There, we reached the Great Tower, the centrepiece of Dover Castle. Some stairs led into the entrance of the tower. I was surprised by the way how English Heritage tried to show the use of the following rooms: From time to time, there were glazed rooms that contained a glass screen each. On these screens, one could see projections that looked like holograms because of the transparent background. I think this was a really smart idea because the persons that were shown in the projections seemed to merge into the background.
One room after another showed the former furnishings and the use of these premises: We found dining rooms, a throne hall, a chapel, a bakery, a kitchen, bed rooms – and the proof of ultimate luxury – an earth closet. The rooms were all connected by narrow passageways and winding stairs. Sometimes we wondered whether we missed anything because we lost any sense of orientation. From time to time, we went up some steps, found another room, walked up some other steps, reached stairs that we went down and found a totally new area. It was rather twisting. Shortly before we reached the top, there was another area, called the gallery. We did not really know what to expect but we found long corridors with lots of windows. We wondered about the use of these corridors until we noticed that there were not only windows facing outside but also other windows leading inside the building – they were located at the top of the throne hall.
Finally, we reached the top of the tower where we enjoyed the brilliant view over the surrounding area: From above, we saw the castle grounds, Dover and Dover Harbour, the English Channel, the chalk cliffs and smooth hills and valleys. We spent some time at the top until we decided to have a look at the souvenir shop at the foot of the tower. There, we were really amused by the products that were offered by English Heritage: Apart from post cards, pens and magnets, one could buy costumes, swords, cuddly toys and board games in specific variants, for example “Monopoly” with significant places in England (kept by English Heritage) and “Guess Who?” as well as playing cards with characters from the British history. We struggled to find the connection between Dover Castle and a plush tortoise with giant eyes – but there must be one! Probably back in the British past…
After leaving the souvenir shop, we spent some time at a small museum and then sat down at the Great Tower café. Most people of our group thought that we had already seen enough, so we stayed there for a while. In the meantime, I had a look at the map that we had gotten and decided to walk further. I discovered a small church (the Church of St. Mary-in-Castro) and a Roman lighthouse. After seeing this, I walked up to the wall surrounding these buildings and enjoyed the view over the surrounding area. Afterwards, I headed for the Secret Wartime Tunnels at the coast. If I had taken a closer look at the map, I would have known that the place I was heading for, was only an exhibition with a shop and a café. However, I did notice when I reached this spot. A bit disappointed, I had another look at the map and decided to walk to the Medieval Tunnels near the Great Tower. I did not have much time to find and explore the tunnels but at least, I wanted to try. I quickly discovered some small passageways with windows at the end to observe the coast but I could not find the Medieval Tunnels. According to some signs, they must have been there and I already wondered whether these were supposed to be the Medieval Tunnels. However, there were definitely no “eerie, winding Medieval Tunnels” as described on the map. I only found another small tower, the Avranches Tower, that looked really interesting. Unfortunately, I did not have any further time for searching the tunnels as I had to go back to the bus.
After visiting Dover Castle, we stopped at St. Margaret’s at Cliffe, were we went to a viewpoint. The way was lined by blooming flowers and small trees that had clearly adapted to the wind from the sea as they were strongly tilted away from the sea. When we reached the viewpoint, people started to pull out their cameras or smartphones in order to keep the brilliant view of the white chalk cliffs in front of the blue sky. Fortunately, even the water of the sea looked clear blue. We stayed there for a short time, before we had to leave in order to meet the hiking group in Deal.
In Deal, we had a break for some time to get something to eat and spend time at the beach. Afterwards, we went back to Canterbury where we spend the evening individually.
written by Julia Horstmann