White cliffs, ghosts, and military tunnels: Dover Castle
Where: Dover, Southeast England
When: 12th Century
History: Britain’s second oldest defence post, whose underground tunnels, carved into Dover’s white cliffs, played a key military role in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Go there for: A ghostly tour with a psychic investigator to spot one of the castle’s many resident spooks
No fortress in England can boast a longer history than Dover Castle. Commanding the shortest sea crossing between England and the Continent, it has served from the Iron Age onwards as a vital strategic centre. One of the country’s biggest castles, it sits high above Dover’s famous white cliffs, protecting the gateway to England. It has played an important part in British history due to its prominence to mainland Europe, lying just 22 miles from France, divided by the English Channel.
History of Dover Castle
There has been a defence on this site since the Iron Age but it was King Henry the Second who built the castle which is on this site today back in the twelve century. Dover is the oldest recorded defence post in Britain.
Not only do the white cliffs provide the backdrop to the Castle, hidden inside them is a fascinating and secret world – a network of tunnels carved into the chalk deep inside the cliffs. They were built back in the Middle Ages but played an important part in theNapoleonic war invasion in the nineteenth century (1798), then again during the Second World War (1939 to1945). Seven tunnels were built that could hold over 2,000 troops – the only underground barracks ever built in Britain. The castle walls have heard secret war stories, seen death, and were the nerve centre of Operation Dynamo when 338,000 allied soldiers were evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940. In the early 1960s the almost empty tunnels were again equipped and modernised, this time to serve as a Regional Head of Government. The whole complex remained on the Secret List until it was abandoned in 1984.
If you visit the Castle it is possible to take a tour of the tunnels, which are also thought to be haunted. Although there are many sightings of ghosts in castles, there has been a particularly high number of reported apparitions in Dover Castle. Visitors and staff have seen a headless drummer boy, a lady in a red cloak walking through the keep, and the lower half of a man in the king’s bedroom. English Heritage also runs evening tours with a psychic investigator to delve deeper into the paranormal activity at the Castle. The ghost walks are held weekly during October and November for an additional charge.
How to get to Dover Castle
Dover Castle lies high on a hill about one mile out of the town center. Dover can be easily reached by train or bus from London and regular ferries run form here to Calais in France. The Castle also has a large car park and disabled facilities. The Castle is open year round.
English Heritage: Dover Castle
Telephone: +44 (0) 1304 211067
By Emma Jones