Hidden Gems of the UK - DOVER our guest blog for the HIDDEN GEMS series
The White Cliffs from the Western Docks, Dover
DOVER... The majority of visitors to Dover arrive through the frankly uninspiring Ferry Port on the Eastern side of Dover Harbour, drive off the ferry and get out of Dover as fast as they can Others arrive at the Western Docks by cruise ship and are herded onto a coach trip to see the sights of London! So while most of these arriving passengers will have spotted the famous white cliffs from the sea and some may even have noticed the famous Dover Castle perched high above the port they are missing out on some real hidden gems. There is a lot more to Britains oldest port than white cliffs so make time on your visit for a little portExplore.…
the harbour wall is through the door at the end… photo: portExplore
1. Old Dover Maritime train station … at the western edge of the harbour is a large brick built doorway with a steep flight of stairs. red these lead to a long glazed walkway. Every passenger travelling from London to Calais would have used this passage from its construction in the 1920s until the late 1960s - a very evocative space. At the very end of the passage you can see down into the old ticket hall and past that is the entrance to the harbour wall. Although is owned by the Dover Sea Angling Association they are normally happy to let visitors walk it. This is a really good camera op and makes for some wonderful pictures of the port, cruise ships, the White Cliffs and Dover Castle.
Shakespeare Beach photo: portExplore
2. Shakespeare Beach & Cliffs… Walk back through the station walkway and at the bottom of the stairs turn left, follow the road round past the fishermen’s huts onto the shingle of Shakespeare Beach. Although not a good place to swim because of the serious undertow this is a good beach for a nice crunchy, bracing walk. Go right to the far end and you will find Shakespeare’s Cliff - it is called that because it is mentioned in the play King Lear. Shakespeare wrote a description of the Samphirepickers who scrambled down from the cliff top, clinging to a rope and clutching a basket to pick the green samphire - a local delicacy which you can still see growing on the cliff. Don’t attempt to climb around the headland or onto the cliff though as it is quite unstable, with frequent rock falls
Shakespeares Cliff … a lot of the green is the samphire he mentioned...
3. Samphire Hoe… further to the west, on the other side of Shakespeare Cliff, but only accessible from the top of the cliffs, is an award winning nature reserve.To find it follow the footpath out of Dover, marked as The North Downs Way, it will take you to the tunnel entrance and down through the cliffs to Samphire Hoe. A stunning location and outstanding scenery with peace and quiet, walks, wildflowers, birds and wildlife. The site becomes wilder the further you get from the visitor centre but most of the Hoe is accessible for wheelchair users and the mobility impaired who can follow a route marked on the map displayed by the Cafe. If you turn and look up the cliff you will be able to see remnants of the old footpath which used to be the only access but is now defunct and extremely unsafe. The 30 hectare site with amazing biodiversity, a peaceful place to see plants, butterflies, sheep, dragonflies and birds. The location of the Hoe, just across the Channel from mainland Europe, means it is an important area for migrant birds.
Samphire Hoe reception centre and cafe
4. The Lanes Pub… after all this walking you will be pleased with choice no 4!! The Lanes Micropub in Worthington Street, Dover, was named at Kent named as Pub of the year 2018 by CAMRA, the real ale society. It is small, friendly and family run and if you’re not a beer fan they also sell Kent wines, Mead, ciders and Perry (cider made form local pears.) They don’t do food but are quite happy for you to buy something from the Deli opposite and bring it back! A refreshing change in these days of Gastropubs - good conversation, board games, no keg beer, lager, or piped music- a proper pub!
me of the beers on sale at The Lanes Micropub
5. Music Gone By…
If you are interested in Vinyl do not miss this quirky little shop in London Road which is stuffed full of old vinyl records at really good prices!! Otherwise shopping in Dover is a bit meh although you can sometimes find a real bargain in the De-Bradleigh Wharf Outlet stores down by the marina.
Views right across the Channel to France from the Western Heights photo: portExplore
6. Western Heights
Climb up to the Western Heights, a wooded area above the port western docks for amazing views across to France on a clear day. You can follow various trails through the cliffs and discover the remains of a Knights Templar chapel, a roman lighthouse, WW1 dugouts and gun emplacements as well as the massive defences built to defend against invasion by the French, that never actually happened.You can see these Napoleonic defenses… forts, barracks and a unique triple Helix staircase that run 140 foot down through the cliffs - lots to explore and see, or maybe just sit and look at the view!
I hope you enjoy your time in Dover, let me know below what you think and especially if you want to add any more of your own Hidden Gems!!
Thanks to Connie for asking me to join this great programme, which is covering Hidden Gems all over the UK. Make sure you look at all the other Hidden Gems posts to see if there is something close to you!