“There’ll be blue birds over, The white cliffs of Dover”. The words of Vera Lynn immediately spring to mind when I think of The White Cliffs of Dover. A landmark of the English Channel, the white cliffs are a must see for anyone visiting Kent.
Whilst working in Kent throughout last September, I knew that I had to make the most of the weekends – of course, following travel regulations and social distancing rules. At this point, we were allowed to travel, and my sister came to join me for a weekend – we were both alone, and needed some company. Being situated right next to Dover, I knew that we had to take the chance to visit the White Cliffs, and a late September heat wave made this the perfect plan.
Why visit the White Cliffs of Dover?
The White Cliffs of Dover are an iconic part of the Kent coastline – immediately hearing those words, you can picture the great white cliffs looking out over the English Channel. The cliffs are made from chalk – with streaks of black flint.
A section of the cliffs are owned by the National Trust, who have construction an information centre to tell you about the history, ecology and heritage of the White Cliffs.
There are plenty of trails leading across the White Cliffs, which provide stunning views across the channel. On a clear day, you can even see the coastline of France in the distance.
The History of the White Cliffs of Dover
The cliffs have a long history, that can be explored whilst walking the trails, or visiting at the Dover Museum. When the south of Britain was submerged by a shallow sea, around 70 million years ago, deposits of white mud were filled with coccoliths (skeletons if tiny algae from the waters surface), as well as the skeletons of urchins, ammonites and sponges. Over a very long time, in a very slow process, the mud became chalk, with deposits of up to 500m. As the earth has moved, the chalk has lifted out of the sea, to become the cliffs that we now know – filled with fossils of sea inhabitants. During the last Ice Age, these deposits of chalk were flooded by the English Channel, cutting Britain off from mainland Europe.
The White Cliffs of Dover have become a symbol of Britain, and intrinsically tied with the heritage of the south. During WW2, Dover Castle was used as Channel Command for the Battle of Britain, and artillery posted along the cliffs. Vera Lynn sang of the White Cliffs of Dover, making them a symbol of hope for Britain.
Places to Visit on the White Cliffs of Dover
Fan Bay Deep Shelter
As we visited during covid, the tunnels were closed, however these are well worth a visit for those interested in WW2 history . The tunnels were dug in 1940/41 for a gun battery. You can book in for a tour of the tunnels, where a guide will take you deep underground and you can discover the history of the tunnels.
Find out more here: Fan Bay Deep Shelter – National Trust
South Foreland Lighthouse
South Foreland Lighthouse dates to the Victorian times, when it was first built to guide ships through the Strait of Dover. The lighthouse uses an electric light to shine its beam, which is the first lighthouse ever to do this!
The lighthouse is a 2 mile walk from the National Trust car park, along the top of the white cliffs, with a marked trail to follow. You can visit the lighthouse by guided tour, or stop off for a tea or coffee at the tearoom.
Dogs are welcome around the grounds, and you can ask in the shop to borrow a kite for free if the winds are favourable!
For more historic sites to visit in the UK – check out my guide to Edinburgh!
Getting to the White Cliffs of Dover
The white cliffs are accessible by car and walking. There is a car park, which costs approximately £5 to leave your car at.
Walking from the beach of Dover is easy and sign-posted. Don’t do what we did and walk into town and follow directions for the castle first – this will take you eventually to the cliffs, but its a long and unnecessary journey when there are paths that lead from the edge of the beach.
Have you ever been to the White Cliffs of Dover?