Battleaxe does Dover and has now Come Home…

Yes, our holiday is now thoroughly over, after our final trip to Dover. We enjoyed it, but it was a bit of a mixed bag.  Come home? Spare us. Despite Battleaxe half-hoping that England will lose six nil tomorrow (yeah, you did read that right – so come for me now if you think you’re ‘ard enough….), despite that, I’ve got that irritating ear-worm in my head… ‘Three Lions On a Shirt’… Philosopher vows he will hit anyone who says ‘It’s coming home’ to him.  Will try and sneak out and get one of the neighbours to knock on our door and say it heh heh. If the footie wasn’t bad enough, we have got the utterly insane prospect of the ditching of all Covid regulations coming up, despite soaring case numbers.  Clearly, the Government has given up on us all. And, oh, the weather is absolute rubbish…

Dover Castle from the White Cliffs

So, Dover first. I know it is just down the road but we have never explored it, or been to Dover Castle.  I had booked us in to the Churchill Guest House, in Castle Hill Road, which turned out to be absolutely wonderful. It is in one of the few surviving Georgian bits of Dover, a grand old house tucked below the Castle. We had a fabulous room with our own private little conservatory and Italian Garden patio. Battleaxe would totally recommend. Just across the road was an excellent old pub, the White Horse. Very good food, pretty little garden, pleasant staff – ideal.

Our little conservatory – with large tree fern.

We inspected the town – of course, it was bombed to bits during WW2, and there is very little of the original townscape left. As we had suspected, much of it was a bit grim. Either very run down, or soulless new retail blocks. However, we discovered the town museum, which again, Battleaxe would recommend.  Of course, Dover is solid history, from the Bronze age to the Romans, to Henry II building the Castle in the 1180s, through to the Napoleonic Wars – WW1, WW2… it just goes on and on.  Who knew the Romans bought a load of elephants with them? However, the highlight of the museum is the Bronze Age Boat, dating from around 1,500BC but only discovered in 1992.  It’s construction is amazing – no nails, held together with ties and wooden beams.

The Bronze age boat – and a reconstructed section showing how it was made.

The next day, it was a dull, cold, very windy day. We walked – yes walked all the way up the hill, to  Dover Castle.  Of course it is old and interesting up there – we looked at the Roman lighthouse first – but the castle itself was a bit of a disappointment. The underground WW2 tunnels were shut because of Covid which was a shame. As for the rest of the place, they have majored on Henry II, and a very kitsch and artifical reconstruction of life in a medieval court in the Great Tower. They had installed a one-way route round, which necessitated climbing what felt like a million steps right up to the battlemented roof and all the way back down again. Exhausted, we stumbled into the English Heritage cafe for coffee and cake, only to be served what I’d probably judge as the worst scones and weakest, most tasteless coffee ever…

Roman lighthouse

Philosopher and I felt that it would have been better to present the Castle’s role throughout history, the many sieges and skirmishes it has endured, and the different constructions and defences built at different periods.  For example, on the way back down we walked along Victoria Park, an enormous, impressive but sadly run-down terrace of huge houses built for officers in the Napoleonic wars.

Battleaxe and Philosopher do Dover Castle

I had planned for us to walk from the Castle to the White Cliffs later on, not realising that the geography would not allow it – and it was too cold for cliffs anyway. So back in town, we visited the Roman Painted House.  Well, it is supposed to be of great architectural importance but when we eventually found the place it was closed – parties of school kids only. As we were a bit taken aback, the staff then told us we could go in. Turned out to be a very rapid visit indeed – a stuffy semi-underground building full of maskless shrieking teenagers. We held our breaths and raced round – can’t actually tell you what it was like!

The next day was much better – warm and sunny.  We drove up to the White Cliffs and had a beautiful walk – so many wild flowers and great views. It was interesting looking down at the port – ferries coming and going with hardly any traffic on, and the lorry parks almost empty. I guess it is a combination of Brexit and Covid, but it does not look good for the economy…

Looking down at the port – suspiciously empty.

As you can see,  the path was right by the cliff edge. Are these chalk cliffs not liable to collapse, like Beachy Head?

We saw some interesting wild life – this marbled white butterfly, and a green woodpecker eating something on the path. The National Trust have a very good visitors centre up there, with a nice cafe and a proper shop. Battleaxe would recommend

So, what did we think of Dover? We liked the little Georgian corner where our guest house was. Museum – excellent – and FREE – eat dirt, Dorchester.  The Castle would have been better on a sunny day in Covid-free times… White Cliffs? Lovely but are they that different from Beachy Head? There was a lot we didn’t see, either because it was shut or we didn’t get round to it.

‘Three lions on my…’ BOOM



  1. Susannah Farley-Green
    July 10, 2021 / 4:18 pm

    Hi Steph

    Dover hasn’t changed much since I stayed in the Churchill Guest House some years ago. Rather like Calais, it has its interesting and historical buildings but suffers from run down shops and half closed attractions. Neither town seems to grasp the need to improve their status as the gateway to their country and extend a welcome. The guesthouse, however, still appears to be as charming as I remember it and the owners have made a great effort for their visitors.

    We love staying in Deal for short breaks as it is a beautiful town with some interesting places to visit and excellent restaurants. We have booked up for a few days in September and are looking forward to exploring more. Walmer Castle is very well worth a visit if you are thinking of exploring more of the Kent coast in the future.

    • July 11, 2021 / 7:49 am

      Fancy you staying at the Churchill – what a coincidence! Was Alex in charge then? I think they have changed it a bit since you were there and have further plans to change the ground and first floor rooms into self-catering apartments. Should be lovely. We have been to Deal on a couple of occasions – like it! We have been to Ramsgate briefly, and liked that very much, but intend to go back again for a more detailed exploration.

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