Visiting Dover


Dover isn't on most bucket lists, and generally falls into an itinerary as a jumping off point for cruises that leave England, or as a gatway for taking a ferry across the English Channel (is any visitors still make the crossing as opposed to taking the Chunnel.)

As we had one night before boarding our cruise ship in Dover, we chose to overnight here and check out the town. The transfer from London Heathrow to Dover is about two hours by car, or one hour by high-speed train. Dover is a small town of about 30,000 residents. It’s become a bit run down as the local council doesn’t have funds for much development, and there are number of empty retail spaces. However, an investment is being made to redevelop the seaport, a considerably large project.

There are a few notable things to see in Dover. Most prominent, and protecting the English Coast for over 2,000 years is Dover Castle, towering over the town, with its long history from Henry II, who built it in the 1180s, through its use in World War II during Operation Dynamo, in the rescuing of British troops at Dunkirk.

The medieval castle-- the Great Tower-- was refurbished five years ago today (Aug 1) and provides a wonderful view of life during the 12th century, including the kitchens, bedrooms, great hall and other rooms. Other zones on the site depict various aspects of the British at sea and at war. There’s an intricate array of tunnels below the castle grounds that one can tour.  A surprise was learning there are holiday cottages on the site, where guests can overnight and have the castle to themselves after closing hours.

In town there are the unearthed ruins of a painted Roman house, the only such Roman house found in all of Britain. For those with an interest in history or archaeaology it is well worth the visit.

Maison Dieu, once a church but now a space used for local events, is interesting to pop-in if open, if just to see the wonderful painted windows that depict historic events.

I don’t know if I’ve ever previously noted flint being used in buildings or walls, but in Dover there are many instances of it.  Flint is black and glassy-looking and gives a building an interesting quality. Of course, Dover’s most famous landmark is probably its white cliffs.

Dover doesn’t offer much by way of upscale accommodations. There are a variety of bed and breakfasts, and the Best Western Dover Marina where we stayed, While not exceptional, the hotel is across the street from the seaside and pebbled public beach which, on a sunny day, becomes the heart of activity. Rooms on the first floor (second by US measure) have balconies one can sit at and enjoy the views, and watch the numerous ferries and cargo ships arrive and depart the harbor. WiFi is complimentary and rooms were clean.

I was told the owners are from Sri Lanka, and there are some Indian items on the menu here, including Thursday night’s Bombay buffet, a wonderful and good value Indian spread for 17 pounds.  Otherwise, possibly the most upscale accommodation would be the Marquis of Alkaham.

Dan Ilves