Castle Capers,Castles,England,Exciting England,Sights,Travel

The Cathedral, the Cliffs and the Castle (Canterbury and Dover)

A few weeks ago I ventured out of the city of London to see some sights further afield.  I went on a day-trip through the company Anderson Tours, travelling to Canterbury and Dover to visit Canterbury town and Canterbury Cathedral, the white cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle!

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As an English major Canterbury is of course inextricably linked in my mind with Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” so I felt it was a place I really needed to visit.  The city itself is very pretty, filled with old buildings, cobblestone streets and sections of the original walls from Roman times.
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The Cathedral itself is absolutely beautiful.

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Whenever I visit Cathedrals like this I am always in awe of the amazing architecture, particularly when you think that it was built so long ago, before cranes or machines or blueprints!
Of course the reason pilgrims such as the ones in Chaucer’s tales travelled to Canterbury was to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket.  Thomas Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of King Henry II who was murdered by followers of the King (the story goes that the King wanted someone to kill the Archbishop but then disavowed all knowledge after the deed was done).
He was canonised not long after and pilgrims would travel to Canterbury to visit his shrine in the Trinity Chapel (part of the cathedral).  During the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 King Henry VIII ordered the shrine destroyed.  All that’s left today is a candle where the shrine once stood.
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After visiting the Cathedral I wandered around the town a little.  Not only is it home to the famous Cathedral and shrine but Canterbury is also where the playwright (and peer of Shakespeare) Christopher Marlowe was born.  There is also a little ‘shrine’ for him.

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After wandering around some more I also discovered an amazing old-fashioned lolly shop!

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After fortifying myself with some chocolate I hopped back onto the coach for our next destination, the cliffs of Dover!  Unfortunately I had some technical issues with my camera after this so the rest of the photos aren’t fantastic quality as I had to use my ipod.
The weather had been mostly sunny, but became much more ominous as we reached the coast.  We walked along the cliffs above the port (where ferries leave for France) but I didn’t go very far as it was freezing and very windy!  Being up there, looking across the English channel and seeing the waves crashing so far below, it was simply stunning.
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The cliffs are white because the stones are made of chalk.  You can even pick a bit up and try it out!

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View towards Dover Castle, our third and final destination

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The largest castle in England, Dover Castle was founded in the 12th Century and has always been an important fortification, guarding the shortest distance across the English channel between England and the continent.
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The Pharos (lighthouse) which dates from Roman times.

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While it was initially founded in the 12th Century (and there is evidence of fortifications from before the Romans invaded) it was during the reign of Henry II that the great keep (as seen below) was built up for defence.  Today there are displays within the keep to show how it would have looked during his reign, with the throne room (in rather garish colours in my opinion), kitchens, bedrooms and the King’s private chapel furnished in the style of the time.

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The “Secret Wartime Tunnels” are also interesting, you can enter the tunnels built into the cliff-face under the castle and see where the British coordinated their defence of the English channel during the Second World War.  It was in these rooms that the evacuation of Dunkirk was directed and there is even some footage of German and Allied forces warships fighting just beyond the harbour walls.

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The weather became even worse as the day came to an end, with fierce winds and rain coming up which led me to decide that living in a castle would not have been pleasant at all!

The tour company I used Anderson Tours was quite good; only a very small group of six people in a minivan and we got a tour and information as we walked into Canterbury and plenty of free time at the sites to explore on our own.

If you would like some more information on Dover Castle the English Heritage page can also be found here.

The Cathedral the Cliffs and the Castle

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