The 27th of May, Monday, was one of the very few bank holidays that come immediately before or after a weekend in 2013. A 3-day trip from 25 to 27 May to Kent was just perfect. We went on this circular route from London to Down House, and then Bayham Abbey on the way to Dover where White Cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle were must-see, from Dover to Canterbury via Walmer Castle and Deal Castle, and finally got back to London via Rochester Castle and Upnor Castle.
From the car rental location at Westfield Shopping Center in Shepherd’s Bush we departed on Saturday morning for Down House, Home of Charles Darwin located only 35 km southeast. It was already midday when we arrived, however, as it was such a pain to drive through the congested traffic in London. Luckily, weather was very nice though. Home of Charles Darwin, one of the major visitor attractions in the South East, is a unique museum of history of science that tells how Darwin developed his ideas. Equally interesting were glimpses we got into the life of the Darwins in the family rooms. We also strolled through the extensive gardens that so inspired this great scientist. For those with an interest in science and evolution, this is a place for a great day out in Kent. Next, we continued to head southeast to Bayham Old Abbey, impressive ruins that include much of the 13th to 15th-century church, the chapter house, and a picturesque 14th-century gatehouse. This abbey was quite an extensive attraction definitely worth a visit, especially as we did not get annoyed by a crowd of tourists in that remote area. We were approaching Dover at around 18:00. There was no time to lose, we managed to park the car somewhere in Saint Margarets Bay and went on that scenic coastal trail. We were so happy we could take enough nice pictures of the beautiful White Cliffs of Dover under bright sunshine and also at twilight. By the end of this wonderful day we had a delicious seafood dinner at Cullins Yard at the marina, before settling in our accommodation nearby.
Dover Castle is probably the most popular attraction in Dover. There were just too many tourists. Even though we departed early at half past nine before the castle opened at ten with the aim of beating the queue, we finally ended up at the end of a long queue, after having the car parked in the very crowded parking 10-minute walk away. Known as the “Key to England”, Dover Castle spectacularly situated above the White Cliffs of Dover is a magnificent castle which has guarded shores of England from invasion for 20 centuries. Main things to see included darkly atmospheric Secret Wartime Tunnels and colorful richly-furnished Great Tower. This is a huge castle, so a minimum of 4 hours is required for a thorough visit. Just 15-minute drive northeast there are Walmer Castle and Gardens. Originally designed as part of a chain of coastal artillery defences, Walmer looks more like a big beautiful house nowadays, in contrast to the military Dover, as it evolved into the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1708. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll in the sunshine in the Broadwalk, The Kitchen Garden, The Queen Mother’s Garden, etc. Another 5-minute drive north we arrived in Deal Castle, one of the finest Tudor artillery castles in England among the earliest and most elaborate of a chain of coastal forts, including Walmer. Instead of going straight to Canterbury, we headed north to Broadstairs where we stopped by Joss Bay to admire the views of White Cliffs of Kent. White Cliffs together with its shadows under sunshine looked gorgeous.
On Monday morning we checked out from our hotel in Canterbury but left the car parked there, as we anticipated difficulty parking the car around the city center nearer to tourists attractions. The decision was proven right, firstly because parking in the city, if any, costs quite much, and secondly Canterbury is a compact city best explored on foot. It was a sunny nice day, again. We visited St Augustines Abbey, a great abbey founded shortly after AD597 by St Augustine and originally created as a burial place for the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent. The impressive abbey is situated outside the city walls and is sometimes missed by visitors. Next, we walked into the city center where attractions included Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury Castle, and Westgate Gardens. We left this small pretty city at around 13:00 and headed northwest to Rochester, where we visited Rochester Castle, an imposing fortress with a complex history of destruction and rebuilding. The Norman tower-keep of Rochester Castle consisting of three floors above the basement was built about 1127. In 1215, garrisoned by rebel barons, the castle endured an epic siege by King John. Rebuilt under Henry III and Edward I, the castle remained as a viable fortress until the sixteenth century. On the top we had bird eye’s views over the city of which River Medway and White Cliffs looked spectacular on that beautiful day. We also visited Rochester Cathedral, before departing for Upnor Castle, which was not as fascinating as Rochester Castle but conveniently situated nearby. It was a very happy weekend trip with excellent weather.