Welcome to England! We have been here for a little over a week, and will be here for the next 3. We have extremely gracious hosts just outside of London. We are staying in their house while they are on holiday in the US!
Jeff and I have been extremely picky about what castle’s we spend our time and money at. It seems that everyone (and their brother) in the UK have a castle and visitors are welcome- for a price. Instead of spending money touring the inside of Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, we decided to take a day trip to the east coast of the UK to check out Dover Castle and the white cliffs of Dover. And we are really glad we did!
The drive to the east coast is about an hour and a half from where we are staying in Essex. The ride there was pretty uneventful, minus the tractor trailer we passed that was on fire going the opposite direction at 11:30 am (this comes into play later). We arrived at the Castle around 12:30 pm and purchased a visitor pass that is good for 9 days and will save us money if we go to enough other properties included in the pass (Stonehenge next week!).
It blows my mind that, first, there are castles everywhere here. And second, that many of them are still functioning or have actually served a functional purpose in the last 100 years. I guess you can say our exposure to castles has been extremely limited. In America the oldest fancy buildings we have are from the 17th century, and no one built a castle to live in. Kind of what the Founding Fathers were trying to stay away from… Castles are supposed to be some ancient buildings with moats and knights and princesses in distress, right?
Dover Castle was built by Henry II in the 1180’s and it has been changed over time to remain standing as military fortification. Dover has a deep military history due to its location. It is so close to France that we could see the French shoreline! First we toured Henry II’s tower (castle building) and learned about his crazy family. His son’s included King Richard the Lionhearted and King John.
After experienced some real-life Robin Hood (NOT the Men in Tights version), we had a picnic lunch and went to take a tour of the Secret Wartime Tunnels. Some tunnels were first dug during the Napoleonic Wars, and used up until WWII. During WWII, they were expanded. They served as a dressing station (form of hospital) and as the an operation center for all branches of the British Military. Most notable, it was the British Navy’s HQ for Operation Dynamo, which saved thousands of Allied troops by evacuating them from Dunkirk, France during a deadly Nazi advance. After WWII, the tunnels were used during the Cold War. They were to be used as a safe space for important government officials to survive and set up a satellite government in the event of nuclear apocalypse.
Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in the tunnels- we think it’s due to the fact that the government still technically owns the tunnels and could use them in the future….except they aren’t secret anymore….
Above the tunnels, a lookout provides a beautiful view of France, and the white cliffs!
On the way home we ran into some traffic. Apparently the fire-y hay bale of a truck still wasn’t cleared from the highway. All of Kent county was a stand still traffic jam. Due to my fine navigation skills (and getting out of the car to tell other drivers where to move to), it only took twice as long to get home. But we were able to see some areas of Kent that we other wouldn’t have seen!