Yes Virginia, They Really Are White! Dover, England - August 2022


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Europe » United Kingdom » England » Kent » Dover
August 11th 2022
Published: August 11th 2022
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A town and major ferry port in Kent in southeast England, Dover faces France across the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel, just 21 miles from Cap Gris Nez. Immortalized in books, movies, and songs (remember Vera Lynn?) over the years, the White Cliffs of Dover is the region of English coastline facing the Strait. The cliff face reaches a height of 350’ and owes its striking appearance to its composition of chalk, accented by streaks of black flint, deposited during the late Cretaceous period. The cliffs on both sides of the town stretch for 8 miles, and a section of coastline encompassing the cliffs was purchased by the National Trust in 2016. At this point, Britain is closest to continental Europe, and on a clear day (yes, they do get these occasionally), buildings are visible from the French coast.

A Little Bit of History:

A possible Iron Age hillfort has been discovered at Dover, on the site of the later castle. This area was also inhabited during the Roman period when Dover was used as a port. A lighthouse survives from this era, one of two which helped shipping navigate the port. It is likely the region surrounding the surviving lighthouse was inhabited in early medieval times, as archaeologists have uncovered a Saxon cemetery here, and the Church of St. Mary in Castro was built adjacent to the lighthouse in the 10th or 11th century. It is thought that the Old English name for Britain (Albion) was derived from the Latin albus (meaning white), as an allusion to the white cliffs.

During the Battle of Ballon, which took place between England and France in 1216, Louis VIII of France used Dover’s mainland beach as a landing zone for his army, to depose King Henry III. Henry responded to this onslaught by ambushing Louis’ army from atop the white cliffs. This battle is marked as the beginning of the Siege of Dover, as the French were able to make their way into the seaside village, taking military control and forcing English troops back to Canterbury. French control of dover lasted for 3 months, after which English troops were able to push back and force the French to surrender and return home. England and France have been hereditary enemies for centuries – must be in the DNA!

No doubt, a clifftop walk tops many people’s bucket list and post-lockdown wish lists. Breath-taking views across the English Channel, spotting France on the horizon and watching cruise ships and ferries as they enter and depart from Dover Harbor. There is a huge variety of coastal and countryside routes to explore here, through beautiful rural landscapes with rare chalk grassland habitat and stunning panoramic views suitable for all ages and abilities. Dover is proud to have been awarded the Walkers Are Welcome status, and the town organizes an annual Walking Festival.

The so-called “Gateway to England” has been a significant port since medieval times and played a crucial defensive role during WWll. It was heavily bombarded by the Germans, but thankfully many significant historical buildings, ancient archaeological remains and areas of outstanding natural beauty, managed to escape unscaled. Don’t miss the Dover Museum which proudly houses the world’s oldest surviving sea-going vessel: the 3000-year-old Bronze Age Boat on display here, just yards from where it was originally discovered.

The most outstanding “must see” structure is Dover Castle, an icon of England. Built soon after William the Conqueror’s invasion in 1066, this mighty fortress has been the site of royal intrigue and epic sieges and was at the center of the crucial war effort to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk. It isn’t just another castle ruin. Step inside the Great Tower and immerse yourself in the royal court of King Henry ll. Experience the color and opulence of one of England’s most important castles. The secret wartime tunnels have provided shelter, safety, and secrecy to those defending English shores, for over 200 years. A new exhibition here allows you to delve deeper into the history of the tunnels, from Napoleonic times to the Cold War. Tours are conducted to different levels within these tunnels, lasting approximately 30 minutes each – you may want to give yourself extra time to visit the Wartime Tunnels exhibition. Experience the drama of the Dunkirk evacuation in the very tunnels where the desperate rescue operation was first masterminded. State-of-the-art effects and real film footage combine to bring those dramatic events of May 1940 to life. Travel deep into the white cliffs to explore the atmospheric Underground Hospital. Converted into a medical facility for injured troops in 1941, visitors today can experience the sounds, smells, and ambiance of this WWll hospital with its operating theater.

Even if you don’t have enough time to do anything else in Dover, DO NOT miss this castle – it’s a mind-blowing experience from the battlements to the dungeons – you could easily spend an entire day here and still not see it all. I think it beats the white cliffs by a mile.

Being immersed in history, adventure, and outdoor pursuits sure is hungry work. As expected in a port town, seafood of every description is available by the boatload (pun intended), from fancy fine dining to good old fish & chips – don’t forget the mushy peas and lots of malt vinegar – Dover’s eateries include something to suit everyone’s tastes.

Awaking to a simply gorgeous day with brilliant sunshine, blue skies and temps approaching the mid 70’s, I followed my usual routine and joined a pre-planned private minibus tour. There were 16 of us split into two buses with Matt and Mark as our drivers/guides. Britannia Coaches (www.britanniacoaches.co.uk) is the company I used for today’s adventure, and I can highly recommend them for the excellence of their guides, clean and comfortable minibuses with air conditioning and a very comprehensive all-day itinerary. Mark was my driver, who quickly proved to be a font of information delivered with the typical dash of English humor with a broad London dialect – I learned a lot from him over the next 7 hours.

We began with a viewing stop atop the White Cliffs – a little haze prevented a glimpse of France across the English Channel, but the vista was still stunning. Below and to right was the city of Folkestone with a rail line running beside the coastline. Directly beneath our feet was the beginning of the Chunnel, that amazing feat of engineering which opened in 1994. Running for 31 miles, it connects Folkestone with Calais in France. The massive amount of debris removed during excavation for the Chunnel, was used to reclaim some of the coastline to create a nature reserve, which is now home to several rare species of insects, birds, and plants.

Trains are a great way to explore Europe but if you’re on a budget, it is often cheaper to fly. Traveling from England to France via the Chunnel may be worth the premium though. You can take your car on this train – just remember, Brits drive on the left, Europeans on the right.

This stretch of the White Cliffs is known as the Jurassic Coast, approximately 300 million years old. It’s a hugely diverse and beautiful landscape, underpinned by incredible geology of global importance. In 2001 it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site (not surprised, I’ve lost count how many there are in the UK), for the outstanding universal value of its rocks, fossils, and landforms. It remains England’s only natural WHS.

A Fun Fact:

The railway line I mentioned above is the only one in the UK that Royal Family members are not allowed to use, due to the erosion (I cm or .39” annually) of the land and occasionally rockslides.

Leaving the coast we headed inland, along narrow bumpy country roads, each side bordered by endless blackberry bramble hedges, loaded with juicy plump berries just waiting to be picked and enjoyed. Now where did I leave my berry basket?

Arriving in the village of Denton was a visual delight. Located 7 miles northwest of Dover, this village is quite famous, as it has been used as the setting for the English TV series “A Touch of Frost”, and the movies “The Rocky Horror Show” and “Battle of Britain” starring Trevor Howard and Michael Caine. One house displays the black-and-white Tudor exterior complete with small leaded windows. In the center of this picturesque village is the main attraction: the Jackdaw Pub. This is the sort of English pub tourists dream about visiting. Built in 1645 during the reign of King Charles I, it started out as a farmhouse and up until 1756, was leased out to tenant farmers. Rumor has it there is a very strange atmosphere at the Jackdaw, lots of spiritual mysteries. There is an underground stream which apparently gives the spirits the energy needed to manifest. The cellar is a place most pub staff dread to go – too bad it wasn’t open for business during my visit – I would have headed immediately down there to have a chat with those occupants!

Next up was the ancient and marvelous city of Canterbury (yet another World Heritage Site, of course it is, what else could it possibly be?). Located on the River Stour, this city achieved world famous status through Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century. A university city boasting some of England’s finest medieval architecture, including one of its oldest cathedrals – Thomas O’Becket and King Henry II ring any bells with anyone?

A Little Bit of History:

This area has been inhabited since prehistoric times and was first recorded as the main settlement of the Celtic tribe of the Cantiaci. In the 1st century AD, Romans conquered this settlement and named it Durovenum Cantiacorum. As was the usual custom, the Romans rebuilt the city with new streets in a grid pattern, a theater, a temple, a forum, and public baths. Following the murder of the archbishop at the cathedral in 1170, Canterbury became one of the most notable towns in Europe, as pilgrims flocked here to visit his shrine. It continues to be one of the most visited sites in the UK today.

In the High Street I wandered for a while, taking photographs and people-watching, until I spotted a Sainbury’s store – of course I went in – and found cans of Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup on sale (1.50 pound) and more jars of real mint sauce also on sale (1.10 pound). I loaded up on both. As it was lunch time, I bought a piping hot beef & onion pie in thin flaky pastry (1 pound) and looked for a place to enjoy it. Walking down a side alley off the main street, I came across a private garden area surrounded by black wrought iron fencing with an open gate. Canterbury Three Cities Garden was small, with a couple of benches under a large spreading oak tree. I made myself comfortable in the shade of this tree and listened to the chiming of the cathedrals bells as they marked each quarter-hour. It was an oasis of peace and quiet, such a change from the frantic masses of tourists and locals in the city center.

My final stop was St. Margaret’s Bay, one of the White Cliff area’s best kept secrets. A stunning and secluded cove that was once home to James Bond’s creator Ian Fleming, who lived in the White House on the beach. It’s here you will find The Coastguard, Britain’s closest pub to France and an ideal spot to grab a quick meal. During low tide, the rockpools can be explored for fossils.

The southwest counties of England display this country at her very best. From thatched cottages to ancient monuments, to blackberry brambles, what more could you ask for?



A town and major ferry port in Kent in southeast England, Dover faces France across the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel, just 21 miles from Cap Gris Nez. Immortalized in books, movies, and songs (remember Vera Lynn?) over the years, the White Cliffs of Dover is the region of English coastline facing the Strait. The cliff face reaches a height of 350’ and owes its striking appearance to its composition of chalk, accented by streaks of black flint, deposited during the late Cretaceous period. The cliffs on both sides of the town stretch for 8 miles, and a section of coastline encompassing the cliffs was purchased by the National Trust in 2016. At this point, Britain is closest to continental Europe, and on a clear day (yes, they do get these occasionally), buildings are visible from the French coast.



A Little Bit of History:

A possible Iron Age hillfort has been discovered at Dover, on the site of the later castle. This area was also inhabited during the Roman period when Dover was used as a port. A lighthouse survives from this era, one of two which helped shipping navigate the port. It is likely the region surrounding the surviving lighthouse was inhabited in early medieval times, as archaeologists have uncovered a Saxon cemetery here, and the Church of St. Mary in Castro was built adjacent to the lighthouse in the 10th or 11th century. It is thought that the Old English name for Britain (Albion) was derived from the Latin albus (meaning white), as an allusion to the white cliffs.

During the Battle of Ballon, which took place between England and France in 1216, Louis VIII of France used Dover’s mainland beach as a landing zone for his army, to depose King Henry III. Henry responded to this onslaught by ambushing Louis’ army from atop the white cliffs. This battle is marked as the beginning of the Siege of Dover, as the French were able to make their way into the seaside village, taking military control and forcing English troops back to Canterbury. French control of dover lasted for 3 months, after which English troops were able to push back and force the French to surrender and return home. England and France have been hereditary enemies for centuries – must be in the DNA!

No doubt, a clifftop walk tops many people’s bucket list and post-lockdown wish lists. Breath-taking views across the English Channel, spotting France on the horizon and watching cruise ships and ferries as they enter and depart from Dover Harbor. There is a huge variety of coastal and countryside routes to explore here, through beautiful rural landscapes with rare chalk grassland habitat and stunning panoramic views suitable for all ages and abilities. Dover is proud to have been awarded the Walkers Are Welcome status, and the town organizes an annual Walking Festival.

The so-called “Gateway to England” has been a significant port since medieval times and played a crucial defensive role during WWll. It was heavily bombarded by the Germans, but thankfully many significant historical buildings, ancient archaeological remains and areas of outstanding natural beauty, managed to escape unscaled. Don’t miss the Dover Museum which proudly houses the world’s oldest surviving sea-going vessel: the 3000-year-old Bronze Age Boat on display here, just yards from where it was originally discovered.

The most outstanding “must see” structure is Dover Castle, an icon of England. Built soon after William the Conqueror’s invasion in 1066, this mighty fortress has been the site of royal intrigue and epic sieges and was at the center of the crucial war effort to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk. It isn’t just another castle ruin. Step inside the Great Tower and immerse yourself in the royal court of King Henry ll. Experience the color and opulence of one of England’s most important castles. The secret wartime tunnels have provided shelter, safety, and secrecy to those defending English shores, for over 200 years. A new exhibition here allows you to delve deeper into the history of the tunnels, from Napoleonic times to the Cold War. Tours are conducted to different levels within these tunnels, lasting approximately 30 minutes each – you may want to give yourself extra time to visit the Wartime Tunnels exhibition. Experience the drama of the Dunkirk evacuation in the very tunnels where the desperate rescue operation was first masterminded. State-of-the-art effects and real film footage combine to bring those dramatic events of May 1940 to life. Travel deep into the white cliffs to explore the atmospheric Underground Hospital. Converted into a medical facility for injured troops in 1941, visitors today can experience the sounds, smells, and ambiance of this WWll hospital with its operating theater.

Even if you don’t have enough time to do anything else in Dover, DO NOT miss this castle – it’s a mind-blowing experience from the battlements to the dungeons – you could easily spend an entire day here and still not see it all. I think it beats the white cliffs by a mile.

Being immersed in history, adventure, and outdoor pursuits sure is hungry work. As expected in a port town, seafood of every description is available by the boatload (pun intended), from fancy fine dining to good old fish & chips – don’t forget the mushy peas and lots of malt vinegar – Dover’s eateries include something to suit everyone’s tastes.

Awaking to a simply gorgeous day with brilliant sunshine, blue skies and temps approaching the mid 70’s, I followed my usual routine and joined a pre-planned private minibus tour. There were 16 of us split into two buses with Matt and Mark as our drivers/guides. Britannia Coaches (www.britanniacoaches.co.uk) is the company I used for today’s adventure, and I can highly recommend them for the excellence of their guides, clean and comfortable minibuses with air conditioning and a very comprehensive all-day itinerary. Mark was my driver, who quickly proved to be a font of information delivered with the typical dash of English humor with a broad London dialect – I learned a lot from him over the next 7 hours.

We began with a viewing stop atop the White Cliffs – a little haze prevented a glimpse of France across the English Channel, but the vista was still stunning. Below and to right was the city of Folkestone with a rail line running beside the coastline. Directly beneath our feet was the beginning of the Chunnel, that amazing feat of engineering which opened in 1994. Running for 31 miles, it connects Folkestone with Calais in France. The massive amount of debris removed during excavation for the Chunnel, was used to reclaim some of the coastline to create a nature reserve, which is now home to several rare species of insects, birds, and plants.

Trains are a great way to explore Europe but if you’re on a budget, it is often cheaper to fly. Traveling from England to France via the Chunnel may be worth the premium though. You can take your car on this train – just remember, Brits drive on the left, Europeans on the right.

This stretch of the White Cliffs is known as the Jurassic Coast, approximately 300 million years old. It’s a hugely diverse and beautiful landscape, underpinned by incredible geology of global importance. In 2001 it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site (not surprised, I’ve lost count how many there are in the UK), for the outstanding universal value of its rocks, fossils, and landforms. It remains England’s only natural WHS.

A Fun Fact:

The railway line I mentioned above is the only one in the UK that Royal Family members are not allowed to use, due to the erosion (I cm or .39” annually) of the land and occasionally rockslides.

Leaving the coast we headed inland, along narrow bumpy country roads, each side bordered by endless blackberry bramble hedges, loaded with juicy plump berries just waiting to be picked and enjoyed. Now where did I leave my berry basket?

Arriving in the village of Denton was a visual delight. Located 7 miles northwest of Dover, this village is quite famous, as it has been used as the setting for the English TV series “A Touch of Frost”, and the movies “The Rocky Horror Show” and “Battle of Britain” starring Trevor Howard and Michael Caine. One house displays the black-and-white Tudor exterior complete with small leaded windows. In the center of this picturesque village is the main attraction: the Jackdaw Pub. This is the sort of English pub tourists dream about visiting. Built in 1645 during the reign of King Charles I, it started out as a farmhouse and up until 1756, was leased out to tenant farmers. Rumor has it there is a very strange atmosphere at the Jackdaw, lots of spiritual mysteries. There is an underground stream which apparently gives the spirits the energy needed to manifest. The cellar is a place most pub staff dread to go – too bad it wasn’t open for business during my visit – I would have headed immediately down there to have a chat with those occupants!

Next up was the ancient and marvelous city of Canterbury (yet another World Heritage Site, of course it is, what else could it possibly be?). Located on the River Stour, this city achieved world famous status through Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century. A university city boasting some of England’s finest medieval architecture, including one of its oldest cathedrals – Thomas O’Becket and King Henry II ring any bells with anyone?

A Little Bit of History:

This area has been inhabited since prehistoric times and was first recorded as the main settlement of the Celtic tribe of the Cantiaci. In the 1st century AD, Romans conquered this settlement and named it Durovenum Cantiacorum. As was the usual custom, the Romans rebuilt the city with new streets in a grid pattern, a theater, a temple, a forum, and public baths. Following the murder of the archbishop at the cathedral in 1170, Canterbury became one of the most notable towns in Europe, as pilgrims flocked here to visit his shrine. It continues to be one of the most visited sites in the UK today.

In the High Street I wandered for a while, taking photographs and people-watching, until I spotted a Sainbury’s store – of course I went in – and found cans of Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup on sale (1.50 pound) and more jars of real mint sauce also on sale (1.10 pound). I loaded up on both. As it was lunch time, I bought a piping hot beef & onion pie in thin flaky pastry (1 pound) and looked for a place to enjoy it. Walking down a side alley off the main street, I came across a private garden area surrounded by black wrought iron fencing with an open gate. Canterbury Three Cities Garden was small, with a couple of benches under a large spreading oak tree. I made myself comfortable in the shade of this tree and listened to the chiming of the cathedrals bells as they marked each quarter-hour. It was an oasis of peace and quiet, such a change from the frantic masses of tourists and locals in the city center.

My final stop was St. Margaret’s Bay, one of the White Cliff area’s best kept secrets. A stunning and secluded cove that was once home to James Bond’s creator Ian Fleming, who lived in the White House on the beach. It’s here you will find The Coastguard, Britain’s closest pub to France and an ideal spot to grab a quick meal. During low tide, the rockpools can be explored for fossils.

The southwest counties of England display this country at her very best. From thatched cottages to ancient monuments, to blackberry brambles, what more could you ask for?


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