It is rather sad that I have to say that although I have lived in Kent for some 55 of my 62 years, I have never been to Dover Castle (I’ve never been to Broadstairs, Whitstable or Herne Bay either).
So last Sunday, Leo and myself decided to pay a visit there. He’d already been twice (he’s only 20!!).
There was good and bad news about going there in early February; the bad being it was freezing and I was reminded by a newspaper article a few years back when Mel Gibson, speaking about filming ‘Hamlet’ at Dover Castle, said he had never been colder, but the good news was there were very few people there and it gave us a pretty full on view of all the interior.
Looked after by the English Heritage, it really is an impressive place. The Guides in each room really know there stuff and only too obliging to share that knowledge to you individually.
What really struck me were the beautiful colours. Apparently the paints made from substances from the Mediterrean were rare and a sign / symbol of one’s wealth. The oranges, reds, blues and greens are as up to date as any Furniture Store.
Something else I learnt was the fact that the King (in this case Henry 2nd) sat at a table slightly raised from the rest. Those lucky enough to share the table with him were the only one’s allowed knives and the only only one’s allowed bread. Hence the old English saying ‘The Upper Crust’.
With an amazing view over the English Channel at it’s shortest point, you can see why this Castle had so much strategic value. It is like he who owns this Castle, owns the Channel.
This indeed rings true and the Castle has served many purposed over it’s long history, especially so in WW2 when Churchill and Vice Admiral Ramsay put underground war rooms there and planned the evacuation of Dunkirk.
The name of the operation ‘Operation Dynamo’ comes from the fact they would speak to each other about the evacuation behind the huge noisy dynamos where no one could hear.
The rooms sported a Hospital, Telephone Exchanges and enough space to house 1,000 people for up to three months. This was also seen as having a similar use should the Cold War have developed into something too nasty to even imagine.
The tunnels measure over 4 miles apparently.
So, a great afternoon out, a reasonably priced cup of coffee in their Tea Rooms and a lot of our past learnt in the process.
The other thing that was noticeable was the fact that the vast majority of visitors were from foreign soils. This is good for our tourist income and I guess they are like us and enjoy the discounted prices off season, but there is so much of our own history not yet seen and it’s well worth every opportunity to take a look at our past to see where we come from, why we think like we do and if not that, just enjoy the beauty we are lucky enough to have around us.
So, if you’re popping accross the Channel, don’t do as I do and cut it short in catching your Ferry, stop off for a few hours and enjoy some of our great past.