Stay in an apartment or cottage in one of England's lovely castles on the Kent coast, now available to rent through English Heritage, and enjoy Dover Castle, riddled with both medieval and modern tunnels, and the lovely Walmar Castle once home to the Duke of Wellington. Enjoy stunning cliff walks, bracing sea breezes, lush orchards, and quaint half-timbered towns and villages, from your base in these aristocratic homes. You'll have free access to the properties while in residence plus some of the best accommodatin available in the county.
A Weekend in a Castle - the White Cliffs Experience
Live like royalty for a week, or even a long weekend, in one of England's lovely old castles. For glorious countryside and beaches try Dover and Walmer in the County of Kent
Dover Castle, Kent
Castles and keeps are many in Kent but one in particular is guaranteed to engage visitors to the area, Dover Castle, for centuries England's first defence against her European enemies. Medieval tunnels run through the cliffs which are used in the presentation of the Siege Trail, an atmospheric presentation of the Siege of 1216 which uses the latest light, film and sound technology to bring history to life. The smell of smoke from burning timbers and the desperate cries of men in combat, go down well with kids from nine to ninety.
There are more modern tunnels in the castle too, and their use in the Second World War offers a unique insight into what Britain faced during that period. In 1938, the old Georgian barrack tunnels under the cliffs were adapted as the nerve centre of the War Command, and in what was one of the best kept wartime secrets, the war operations rooms, a fully equipped hospital and up to 10,500 troops were housed deep in the cliffs. The castle probably had its finest hour since the 1216 siege, when from the war operations rooms, Vice-Admiral Ramsey and Sir Winston Churchill masterminded the evacuation of up to 400,000 troops from Dunkirk in 1940. These rooms, with original switchboards and telephones, charts and maps, are part of the popular Secret Tunnel tour.
The special effects throughout the tour constantly remind visitors of the war years - lights dim, the dull drone of bombers can be heard overhead, ghostly footsteps and whispering voices echo down the corridors, ambulance bells clang, and amid the piles of bloodied bandages in the hospital, the groans of wounded men, and the pungent smell of ether, leave little to the imagination.
More to Dover than Tunnels
There's more to Dover castle than tunnels, however. Walk the battlements which give stunning views over the castle's defences and surrounding areas, check out the state apartments and the chapel of Thomas a Becket.
A visit to the town Museum in Dover to see the world's oldest known sea-going boat (3,550 years old) in the Bronze Age Boat Gallery and to relax in the Gallery cinema as you watch the film of its recovery is a good follow-up to the castle visit. Or take a bracing 3-mile walk along the top of the White Cliffs to the South Foreland Lighthouse from where Marconi made the world's first ship to shore radio transmission and watch the world's busiest shipping lanes below.
Walmar Castle and Sandwich
Nearby Walmer Castle, one of the cinque port Castles, has the original pair of wellington boots, made from leather in 1816 for the Duke of Wellington, one time resident of the castle as well as the great man's false teeth made of walrus ivory set in gold on a wooden frame. The guide will entertain you with tales of the bloody battles won by Wellington and the story of how his hearse overturned as it processed through London. Built in 1540 and interesting as part of Henry VIII's chain of coastal defences, Walmer is today more stately home than castle, but it has some intriguing artefacts on display.
Or take a bite of Sandwich and learn how the first fast food item came about as you stroll the medieval lanes of the town and photograph the half-timbered houses with crooked doors and bulging walls. Join The Trail of Blood, the Ghost Walk, or "Knuckles the Herring Counter" in a stroll through twisting alleys enlivened by real street theatre provided by actors who accost and entertain you with vivid sketches and scenes.
Staying at one of England's Castles
With a few days to spend, or even a week, I would recommend booking accommodation at either Walmar Castle Apartments or the Sergeant Major’s House or Peverill’s Tower in Dover Castle from English Heritage. They all sleep 4 in comfort from £280 for 3 nights with free parking and come furnished with dishwasher, microwave, ‘fridge, freezer, cooker, washing-machine, all cooking utensils, quality china, cutlery, ironing board, linen, towels, hair dryer , TV, CD player and DVD player, and a welcome hamper on arrival. All heating and lighting is included in the price and guests have free use of the English Heritage site while in residence.
From these properties you can explore the whole of the Kent coast or concentrate on the nearby towns of Deal, take brisk walks along the cliffs, stroll into Deal for some of the best fish and chips in the county, and enjoy superb surroundings.
Telephone: + 44 (0)370 333 1187
Dover Castle (01304 201628) open all year
Dover Museum, Market Square, Dover (01304-201066)
Walmer Castle (01304 364388)
Sandwich: Performances on Friday, or book in advance.
Enquiries: 01304 369576