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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.