A Love Letter to Dover Castle
Whenever my wife and I drive from our home in Headcorn to my parents’ place in Walmer, there are two roads that we can take.
The first is the quickest, most direct route, along the A2 and up through Dover Docks. It’s a route for the days when we’ve overslept and understand the need for speed. It’s also a route from which we can admire the town’s iconic white cliffs, spot cruise ships in the port and watch the ferries make their way to and from the continent.
But my favourite of the two roads, by far, is the one that meanders through the town and rises steeply to be met by the iconic fortification built during the reign of Henry II (the Conqueror’s great-grandson) and once described by castellan Hubert de Burgh as ‘the key to England’.
This is Dover Castle.
It’s a place that has stood defiantly for hundreds of years and captivated me for the last 20.
Our road skirts around the castle’s outer defences, offering the driver and her delighted passenger views across the tank-trap-studded moat, past the barbican rebuilt following Prince Louis’s disastrous 13th-century siege, and over the first concentric walls to be built in Europe.
I tell that last fact to my wife as we slip out of the castle’s view and continue on our way.
“I’ve heard that one before.”
“Probably on our last visit, or maybe it was on one of the previous thousand.”
The number is actually much closer to 100.
As part of those 100 visits, I’ve dropped countless pennies down the Great Tower’s unfathomably deep well; raced friends through the medieval tunnels during my birthday party; been knighted outside the caretaker’s cottage; had plenty of picnics in unsuitable – and frankly unsafe – weather conditions; begged my parents for all manner of things in the gift shop, and even interviewed to become a volunteer guide.
I was four years old when my family moved to Kent, and Dover Castle was the first place we visited together. I won’t call the castle my oldest friend because that would make me an oddball. But I can understand why somebody else might.
It is the place that means more to me than anywhere else in the world.
We’ll always choose the second route. And I’ll always keep coming back.