White Cliffs of Dover Walk – A day trip from London
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A great hike near London is the White Cliffs of Dover Walk. The chalk cliffs are a symbol of England. Before air travel existed this was the first and last sight of Britain for travellers. The English Channel has its narrowest part here. It is also called The Strait of Dover. Only 33 kilometres (20 miles) separates Great Britain from the rest of Europe at this point. In fact, during our time on the cliffs, our phone often got confused and thought we were in France. We decided to do this trip ourselves and used public transport. But you can also book an organised tour, which includes transfer by couch and even a sightseeing stop at Leeds Castle or Canterbury.
How long are the White Cliffs of Dover?
The cliffs are approximately 8 miles (13 km) long. They start near Folkestone and stretch all the way until around Kingsdown. The cliffs reach a height of 350 feet (110 m).
Why are the White Cliffs of Dover white?
The cliffs are made from chalk, which is a soft white, very finely grained limestone. The chalk layers built up gradually over millions of years during the Cretaceous period in the Mesozoic era. The shells and skeletons of billions of tiny sea creatures fell to the bottom of the sea. Over the years they combined with the remains of other creatures and algae and formed chalk that shapes the cliffs today. As the seabed became exposed it resulted in the iconic White Cliffs of Dover. As the sea constantly erodes the base of the cliffs and washes the chalk, it keeps it fresh and bright white.
White Cliffs of Dover Walk
The path along the cliffs is very obvious. It can be busy on a weekend near the Visitor Centre, but as you get further and further away from it, it gets significantly less crowded. Most people just come to take some pictures of the cliffs near the Visitor Centre. Some walk to Foreland Lighthouse, as this is the recommended route by the National Trust. But the cliffs go on and the trail gets much quieter. The views are stunning along the way and you can even observe a wealth of wildlife.
At this English Heritage site, you can discover the castle’s vital role in the two world wars. There is even an Escape Room game in one of the bunkers where you have to find clues, solve puzzles and complete challenges to make it to safety. If you are interested in the history of this place in more details, then book your ticket here.
A section of the coastline was purchased by the National Trust in 2016. There is a Visitor Centre at Dover and this is probably where most people start their White Cliffs of Dover Walk. It has a car park, but you can also reach it by train from London. There is a souvenir shop and cafe on-site. This is also a good opportunity to go to the toilet as these facilities are limited along the coastal walk.
Port of Dover
Dover has one of the world’s busiest passenger ports. It is really interesting to see ferries and cruise ships at the port. You can sit at the Visitor Centre and observe the shipping from a comfy bench.
Fan Bay Deep Shelter
The tunnel complex was constructed in 1940/41. It was used as accommodation for the gun battery above. You can buy tickets at the tunnel entrance if you want to go on a guided tour inside. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the entrance from the Visitor Centre. Ask about opening hours at the Visitor Centre before you walk there to avoid disappointment. As part of the tour, you will also have a chance to see two sound mirrors.
South Foreland lighthouse
The South Foreland Lighthouse was built in 1843, to mark the dangerous offshore banks of the Goodwin Sands. It was home to several historic moments, including receiving the first international radio transmission from France, in 1899. The bright white lighthouse is home to a lovely tearoom, which is definitely worth a visit. Mrs Knott’s tearoom was named after the family who used to live there with their 13 children. It is possible to go on a tour to see the top of the lighthouse if you book tickets online.
However, just looking at the distinctive lighthouse from outside is also a nice sight. The field next to it is a lovely place to play games and fly a kite with the family. It takes about 50 minutes to reach the lighthouse from the Visitor Centre.
St Margaret’s Beach
A lovely shingle beach with possibilities for a swim and watersports. We saw many surfers and paddleboarders out on the water. When the tide is right you can explore rock pools and go fossil hunting. Families with beach huts like to come out for the whole day to have a picnic. There is a small kiosk selling refreshments at a reasonable price. There are also free public toilets on the beach.
The Coastguard pub is located on the beach with lovely views. They advertise themselves as Britain’s nearest pub to France.
Dover Patrol Memorial
The monument was built to commemorate the Royal Navy’s Dover Patrol of the First World War. The granite obelisk can be seen almost all along the coastal path. Apart from a car park, there are no facilities at the memorial. The views of the area are really outstanding, so well worth a visit even for that.
A secluded shingle beach, which is normally very quiet. It a nice place to come if you want to get away from it all. At low tide, some rock pools are exposed, making this a good place to hunt for sealife. There is a nice seaside pub with cliffs views, that is also worth a visit. Kingsdown International Camping Centre is a lovely place to stay if you want to spend more time in the area. You can also cycle to Deal on a seaside cycle path. This was the end of our White Cliffs of Dover walk.
We hiked from Kingsdown Campsite to the Dover Visitor Centre and then took the same route back. This hike was 24 km. It took us all day, as we stopped several times to take photos, have snacks and watch the surfers on the beach. It was interesting to see how the landscape changed, as on our way to Dover it was high tide and then on the way back we could see the same places during low tide. The whole place had a very different feeling to it.
How to get to the Cliffs of Dover
Reaching the white cliffs of Dover from London is very simple. It makes a great day trip by public transport.
By train: Take the train from St Pancras International to Dover Priory. The journey time is about 1h 5 minutes. From the train station, it is 1.8 miles to reach the National Trust Visitor Centre.
By car: There is a car park at the Visitor Centre. Parking fee is £5.
You can also book a tour with transfer. Some options also included a short sight seeing tour in Canterbury or at Leeds Castle.
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