Back A Thousand Years At Dover Castle

Dover Castle is not just about the tunnels and war history. Built in the 12th century the strategically placed fortress has kept an eye on the narrowest stretches of the English Channel for a very long time and has a wealth of fascinating history. We spent the morning in the tunnels immersed in war stories, the afternoon though was all about the Plantagenets.

08.02.22 - Dover castle

08.02.23 - Dover castle

08.02.24 - Dover Castle

The Great Tower and Keep were top of our afternoon list. As we walked through the impressive drawbridge Son was more than thrilled to discover a whole raft of children’s activities going on. He arrived just in time to be “recruited” for King Henry’s army and set to this job with gusto. The king arrived, told the “soldiers” about the army and what he expected, then this crowd of warriors was led through the kitchens and other rooms in the Great Tower by costumed guides, parents trailing a distance behind. The children were told in a fun and interactive way about the life of a soldier, given “weapons” and then led outside on the grass to fight for the king. Entertaining, captivating and so well done, Son had a blast joining in, we found it all incredibly entertaining.

08.02.25 - Joining the king's army

08.02.26 - Joining the king's army

08.02.30 - The army

Army training complete we wandered back through the Great Tower to look in a bit more detail. Three floors to explore, the ten metre thick walls are from the 12th century but everything else is a recreation. Superb attention to detail, the whole place has been transformed and furnished to look as it would have done in the days of Henry II. I found the bright colours surprising, apparently more expensive and thus more impressive, this was indeed a luxury castle.

08.02.27 - In the keep

08.02.31 - The keep

The King’s Hall and Privy Kitchens were my favourites – cuts of meat hanging from the ceiling and hands-on utensils in the kitchen were great fun. Costumed guides in all the rooms ready to chat as they went about their business added to the whole atmosphere. Son loved the experience and could have hung out here all day long. Nothing is off-limits for children, they can touch everything so a relaxed feeling prevails for parents. We wandered around the three floors and exited onto the roof for some great views.

08.02.32 - The keep

08.02.36 - Dover castle

08.02.37 - Dover castle

08.02.39 - Dover Castle

An exhibition next door about King Henry and his offspring was interesting, we also briefly looked in the Princess of Wales Regimental Museum. Fascinating too, this has information on that regiment with displays on battles fought and finishes up with their role in Afghanistan.

We had some time in the grounds but with eighty acres to explore that almost requires a day out on its own. The Roman Lighthouse and church are worth a look, we walked around the battlements and explored some of the beautiful gardens.

08.02.43 - The Pharos

08.02.44 - The church

08.02.46 -  The castle

08.02.47 - The castle

Leaving at closing time, we spent a very packed day at the castle. Unable to squeeze in everything here but impressed nonetheless at how much we did manage and especially at our fresh view into 12th century life. So much to see and do at this mightiest of fortresses, I think someday we’ll have to go back.

39 thoughts on “Back A Thousand Years At Dover Castle

  1. Looks great! I visited Dover with my family very briefly on our last trip to England (about 5 years ago now!). I remember seeing the castle from a distance but we didn’t end up going in – I think we had arrived too late in the day, because we were only in Dover for a very short time. I think I’ll have to go back again some day!

  2. We were the people who always passed through the port at Dover and never spent any time there–although we’d heard that the history of the tunnels is fascinating. I knew nothing about the castle–it sounds fabulous too. Okay, next time we stay a day instead of just passing through. Thanks for the tip and the history!

    • We might have been those people too were it not for the time of our ferry and a long drive to get to Dover! Made sense to stop and take a look around – very glad we did!! The castle is wonderful, definitely worth a visit if you find yourselves back in that area again.

  3. They have really improved the engagement factor at Dover Castle since I was there (decades ago) which is great to see. My kids always love all of those interactive performances about history and little activities to do throughout a site and it is great for Mr Pict and I as it means we can actually spend time exploring details while they have fun.

    • This was such a lot of fun for everyone – like you say, engaging the children gives you the chance to actually look at things in a bit more detail. It was so well done here as well – and being English Heritage members all free for us. A superb day out.

      • Those memberships are wonderful, aren’t they? We were always members of the National Trust for Scotland and Scottish Heritage (who have reciprocal arrangements with their English counterparts) and we always got more than our money’s worth out of them while also knowing we were contributing to preserving these great buildings.

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  5. What a great post and pictures. So much history. It makes your mind swim with all the stories packed inside these walls. Nicely done. Have a great weekend, Joy.

  6. Another great historical post Joy and right up my street! Looks like they’ve done a great job at Dover Castle of bringing history to life and have some really good ideas to keep the children interested. I must say it does look quite luxurious compared to some of the old castles I’ve visited in the past! Have a great weekend too 🙂

    • It was luxurious but none of it is authentic, they’ve recreated it but in a great way and encourage children to be hands-on and go anywhere they please. That always makes life a bit easier and more chilled for frazzled parents worried about inquisitive fingers!! The whole castle is incredible, you would probably need more than a day, we barely got to peek at the Roman lighthouse before we had to leave. Definitely plan to revisit sometime!!

      • It’s great that they are engaging children in history even if it is a modern reproduction in parts. Great for parents too it can be quite exhausting trying to keep them from touching things when you’re visiting museums!!

  7. I love how attractions like Dover really go all out and make the historical facts fun and interesting for the kids (and adults) who visit. That is brilliant your son got to join in all the fun. The castle inside looks so much to take in – the cuts of meat hanging is a really nice touch! I will definitely stop by here when we eventually get to visit!

    • It’s so interesting for adults and loads of fun for kids. No worries about little hands touching things or climbing and clambering – in fact they encourage it. We had such a fun day out here and would definitely go back.

  8. Hi Joy
    Thanks so much for liking my post on Suitcases and Sandcastles. I’ve enjoyed taking a look around your lovely blog. I love visiting Dover Castle. My two boys would really like to do the activities you’ve written about here.

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