Dover Castle has guarded the Strait of Dover (the narrowest point from England to continental Europe) for around 6,000 years. Some of the most famous names in history have walked the halls of this medieval castle, from William the Conqueror to King Henry II. (The latter of whom I had a pleasure of meeting during my visit.) Dover Castle is just one part of the history that has played through time on Dover’s hilltop. You can still visit the ruins of a lighthouse built by the Romans in the second century AD, a beautiful Saxon church from 1000 AD, and the secret wartime tunnels from World War II where some of Britain’s most famous war strategies were played out. Dover castle has recently gone through a major renovation to make the rooms appear how they might have looked in the 1100′s. Bright tapestries adorn the walls, royal red and blues and golds throughout. It really adds a bit of magic as you pass through the rooms, almost like you are visiting a working royal castle. The details throughout Dover Castle are incredible, and you can see everything from a royal toilet chamber to a chess set copied from an original at the British Museum. I enjoyed seeing the original features best of all. Gorgeous wood beams, fireplaces used hundreds of years ago, and the beautiful chapel dedicated to Thomas Beckett who King Henry II had killed.
Breakfast at Peter’s Yard. Get suitably caffeinated and fueled (you’ll need to for your jam-packed day ahead!) at this effortlessly stylish and contemporary artisan-Swedish bakery. It’s centrally located in Old Town, next to The University of Edinburgh’s central campus and the lovely Meadows park right beside it. Walk off your breakfast with a pleasant stroll towards Princes Street. You’ll walk over North Bridge to give you breathtaking views of Old Town, New Town ahead of you, the Scott Monument, Calton Hill and the spectacular Edinburgh Castle to your left.
South Foreland Lighthouse
Taking a nice 45 minute stroll along the White Cliffs of Dover you will come upon the South Foreland Lighthouse. This is not you everyday lighthouse. A beacon has shone onto the English Channel from this spot since at least 1730. While the technology has changed drastically along the way, the South Foreland Lighthouse has been a pioneer of the lighthouse industry since the beginning. I immensely enjoyed walking the catwalk of the lighthouse. The view on a beautiful day is just spectacular. Walking around you can enjoy a panoramic view of both the English Channel and the surrounding coastal landscape. South Foreland Lighthouse was the first lighthouse in the world to use an electric light. When you consider the amount of time and manpower it must have taken before this, it is a truly remarkable achievement. The National Trust took over the property and you can now take guided tours of this fascinating piece of maritime history.
White Cliffs of Dover
We love to go hiking around, and up and down, these beautiful cliffs along our coast. If there is one thing I would miss the most if I left England, the White Cliffs would be it. As gorgeous as these chalk formations are, they are also an important symbol of England. For thousands of years they have greeted invaders and visitors alike as they came over from continental Europe. What the Statue of Liberty was to immigrants arriving in America, the White Cliffs of Dover are to those arriving in England. And wow, what a welcome. These cliffs owe their striking white color to the white chalk they are mostly composed of. They are 350 feet at their highest and provide the most incredible views. On clear days you can easily see France across the English Channel, an amazing view for a Sunday stroll.
The Shell Grotto
One of England’s most mysterious attractions, the Margate Shell Grotto is a bizarre underground cave that is (possibly) up to 3,000 years old. The walls in the Margate Shell Grotto are covered in beautiful mosaics made up of over 4.6 million seashells. This is off-the-beaten-path at its best. Margate is an adorable seaside town that has been in the process of revamping its image, as well as adding new attractions to draw in visitors. The Turner Contemporary Museum is the newest kid on the block, and has been opened to rave reviews from art critics and visitors alike. (I love it!) When you arrive at the property it looks like every other dilapidated building in the area, but don’t let this deter you! As you walk inside you are directly in the visitor’s center and gift shop where you can purchase your ticket or buy tacky souvenirs. With ticket in hand, you can descend into the humid cavern below. I am telling you, it is fascinating.
Deal is located on the English Channel, in south-east England. It was once the busiest port in England due to it’s close location to France, which is only 25 miles across the water. (A neighbouring small town called Walmer is believed to be the location where Julius Caesar first arrived in Britain.) These days Deal is a quiet city that comes to life a couple of months a year when the tourists come for some time by the sea. It is most known for the castle that remains here from the 16th century. The best thing about visiting Deal Castle is that they give you total free reign on the property. Explore the rooms on your own, discover secret passages, walk the moat. Entirely unsupervised. It makes it feel like you have discovered your own special abandoned castle. I especially loved the ‘dungeon’ area. The water was above our ankles in places, and there was no electric lighting. So much water has been dripping down there over the centuries that stalactites have begun to form from the ceiling.
It is a home that is a castle, but it blends into the forested surroundings, the deer grazing on it’s corners, as if it grew there itself. Knole House is a quintessentially English country estate, one that would not be out of place in the most romanticized stories of 19th century England- and in fact, may have inspired many of them. Located in Sevenoaks, Kent the property boasts stunning countryside scenery, yet is only 25 minutes from London. Knole House is one of the largest houses in all of England, and has been home to some of some of the most powerful families in English history. It has inspired famous authors- Virginia Woolf based her fictitious novel ‘Orlando’ on the home and family of her lover. The best part of Knole House is the incredible 1,000 acre deer park that surrounds it. We had a wonderful time climbing trees, deer spotting, and running around the forest. It is a great place to take the family, get out of the city, or just enjoy nature for a day. We really enjoyed ourselves, and plan on returning very soon!