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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Speed

The White Cliffs of Dover

The iconic White Cliffs of Dover are synonymous with the history of Britain. With good accessibility and facilities, they are a great place to visit and a firm favourite of mine.




Don't need accessibility info? Jump to The Visit to find out more about this historic site.


Location


Langdon Cliffs

Upper Road

Dover

CT16 1HJ


Access


Parking is available on-site and is managed by the National Trust. Blue Badge holders and National Trust members park for free, all others must pay to park. For details click here. There are designated disabled bays in various sections of the car park, including close to the visitor centre.


The Grounds are in good condition in the car parks, at the visitor centre, and on the accessible routes mapped out by the National Trust. Other routes involve uneven terrain as you would expect on a cliff. The main path to the viewing point is suitable for mobility scooters and most wheelchairs but could be a challenge for self-propelled wheelchairs. Benches are provided along the main path and at scenic spots. Click here for the Trust's full access statement and a map.


The Visitor Centre has manual doors but staff are happy to assist if required and the inside is wheelchair friendly. A BSL trained member of staff can be requested in advance. Food and drink can be purchased. Picnic benches are available outside and are accessible.


Toilets are available on-site at the rear of the visitor centre and include an accessible toilet.


The nearest changing places toilet is located 1.9 miles away at Dover Gateway.




The Visit


In whichever period of history your interest lies, from the earliest histories of the Earth to the histories developing in your own lifetime, you're sure to feel a connection to the past when you're at these cliffs.


Geological studies have shown that the chalk cliffs tell us a lot about the formation of Britain as an island and the shaping of its chalk downlands. Dover Museum provides a good summary of the geology here. The chalk cliffs are a truly beautiful sight.




From this coastal path, visitors can see the historic Dover Castle in the distance, a reminder of the naturally defensive location and of the centuries of conflict and threat of invasion seen by these cliffs. On a clear day, you can even see France across the Channel.



I particularly love to sit and watch the ships come and go and contemplate how many momentous events and voyages are linked with this port, from the P&O Scandal of 17 March 2022, back to the Crusades and beyond. If you would like to do the same, some of my favourite histories are introduced in the following paragraphs.


Dover Museum's White Cliffs of Dover Factsheet tells us that:


The first recorded description of Dover describes the scene that Julius Caesar saw in 55 BC when, with two legions of soldiers, he arrived near Dover looking for a suitable landing place for the Roman invasion.

Dover's strong defensive properties, according to Caesar's The Gallic Wars, Book IV, deterred the Romans from Dover, but of course, did not stop their invasion. With the sight of the enemy positioned on the cliffs, able to attack invading forces landing below, the Romans decided against landing here and sailed further along the coastline to Deal.


Centuries later, in December 1189, Richard I of England set sail from Dover to go on Crusade. However one feels about the Crusades, one can't deny that they are a huge part of world history, and Dover is right there in that history. The occasion was beautifully depicted by Glyn Warren Philpot in his 1927 mural located in the Houses of Parliament.





Spoiler alert! The next paragraph contains details of the death of a historical figure who is fictionalised as a character in Conn Iggulden's Stormbird. If you plan to read it and want to avoid knowing about the fate of the characters, skip the next paragraph by clicking here.



The fifteenth-century Wars of the Roses provides one of the most interesting events in the history of Dover. On 1 May 1450, William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, set sail from Dover having been exiled from England to the continent by King Henry VI. Following a disastrous French Policy, Suffolk was accused by rivals of maladministration and other charges which seemed petty, bitter, and desperate compared with the facts of a failed French policy. Suffolk's downfall was inevitable. Yet his demise must have been a shock to the king, whom he had served for seven years, and the queen, whose marriage to the king was literally at his hand (de la Pole arranged the match and stood as proxy for the king in the marriage ceremony). Suffolk never made it to the continent: he was captured during his voyage across the Channel and beheaded the following day (May 2nd) in a boat following a mock trial. Conn Iggulden describes Suffolk's death superbly with heartbreakingly grim detail in chapter 24 of his fictional novel Stormbird, the first book in his Wars of the Roses series.


A couple of centuries later, the port again plays an iconic role in the history of Britain. The English Civil War brought about the death of King Charles I. Charles was a Stuart, son of James I of England, VI of Scotland — they were a Scottish royal house. Following Charles I's execution on 30 January 1649, the Scottish parliament soon proclaimed his son King Charles II, but that was not to be matched in England, which was declared a republic soon after. England had been ruled by a monarch since its formation in 927, so the execution of a king and the formation of a republic was a hugely significant event, but perhaps even more significant was the return to monarchy in 1661, and this is where Dover comes into play. As explained on undiscoveredscotland.co.uk:


On 1 January 1660, General Monck, led an army south from Coldstream in Scotland to London, and brought about elections that returned a largely Royalist Parliament, who he then persuaded to restore Charles II to the throne. Charles landed in Dover on 23 May 1660, to be greeted by Monck. He was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661.

This momentous occasion, like that of Richard I departing from Dover, was depicted in a work of art that can also be seen in the Houses of Parliament. The recurrence of Dover in the artwork of the Houses of Parliament is a testament to the role it has played in the nation's history.


More recently, the cliffs have played a part in history through the use of modern technology, with a pro-European Union video projected onto the cliffs ahead of Britain's exit from the union.


The cliffs have provided a beautiful backdrop for some of Britain's historic moments and have framed kings, and thanks to an accessible route, they can do the same for you. Why not take a trip there and capture the moment with a photograph or create your own work of art?


Here is a postcard-sized artwork I made for a charity, showing the cliffs as seen from the accessible viewpoint.





Top Tips


  • Contact the National Trust in advance if you require a BSL trained member of staff

  • Be aware that there is a charge for parking unless you have a blue badge or are a National Trust member

  • Consider visiting the nearby Blériot memorial before or after your visit



Final Note


There are so many things to do in and around Dover, yet many people only go there to get on a ferry. I love visiting the area and hope you will, too, if you ever go there. Next up will be my write-up of the Bluebird Heritage Trail in Dover town centre.


Until then, happy travels!



*Disclaimer: This blog is written as a travel blog with a disability focus and history theme. It is intended to entertain and inform but is in no way a comprehensive guide and I do not attempt to provide a full accessibility guide for any site. Readers planning to visit any sites should check site websites or contact sites directly for up-to-date information on opening times, facilities, accessibility and other required information.



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