Castles and Canterbury in Kent

 

Out last full day in London on this end of our trip wasn’t spent in London at all, but rather visiting Kent. We took a train (Southestern) from London’s St. Pancras International station (which we accessed using the Underground and a six-block walk) for an hour ride through the beautiful green countryside. The white cliffs of Dover were visible from miles away,  a sure sign the hour-long ride was neary over.

Our guide, Yvonne, met us at the Dover Priory station along with a driver who negotiated the many single-lane, super slim roads to get us to a number of attractions.

First up was an overview of Dover. Because this town was extremely important during World War II, there are a number of garrisons still visible in the hills overlooking the port.

Those structures silhouetted on the opposite hill were our next destination. King Henry II’s Dover Castle, St. Mary-in-Castro Church, and a light tower leftover from the Roman days are part of the fortifications that have protected the English coast for over 2,000 years.

There are a few staged rooms in the castle along with some accessories, like chain (or mail, depending on the language), a really deep well, and lots and lots of spiral staircases up the turrets to the top. The view from above is amazing, though, so it was worth the climb.

This castle featured a dry moat that’s still very must in evidence. The grass is kept trimmed by the sheep that were brought in to do the job of maintaining the grounds.

A short drive north brought us to Walmer Castle & Gardens, a fortress built by King Henry VIII to defend against the church in case they retaliated against him for replacing Catholicism with the Anglican Church. A newer facility, it’s also the home to the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Duke of Wellingham was one such, and he actually died while in residence here.

The Queen Mum enjoyed visiting this castle because of the tranquil gardens. The 95-foot long pond was installed on the occasion of her 95th birthday. This castle also features a dry moat, probably one of the prettiest you’ll ever see.

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Next, we took a quick drive past Deal Castle on our way to St. Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury. There’s not a lot left of the Benedictine structure—it was founded in 598—, but it was this particular monk who managed to get the King of Kent, Aethelberht, to convert to Christianity (his wife, Bertha, was already a Christian). The king ordered that a church and monastery be built.

Here are some of the gates leading into the abbey. Gothic arches rein in the town of Canterbury, as do a few surprises.

We caught the 4:25 train out of Canterbury back to London and then had dinner at London’s oldest restaurant, Rules. Established in 1798, this elegant eatery features picture-covered walls, interesting statuary, and excellent service.  We’re off to bed now. Ta-ta for now!

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