Explore Dover Castle: Britain’s first line of defence

For 2,000 years Dover has played host to military fortifications, from Iron Age earthworks to William the Conqueror’s wooden castle to Cold War bunkers. Julian Humphrys penetrates a historic hilltop stronghold

Aerial view of Dover Castle

Dover is one of Britain’s greatest castles. Its clifftop location, overlooking the shortest crossing between England and France, has given it an immense strategic importance, and as a result its defences have been rebuilt and adapted over the centuries to meet the changing needs of warfare. Spend a day there and you’ll discover 2,000 years of military building, from Iron Age earthworks to Cold War tunnels.

The importance of the site wasn’t lost on the Romans, and the lighthouse they built on the heights to guide their ships into the harbour below still stands within the castle walls. It’s the most complete standing Roman building in England. The upper part dates from the 13th century, when it served as a bell tower for the adjacent Anglo­Saxon church. The church was heavily restored in Victorian times but some Saxon features remain, notably the now­blocked south door.

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