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Holly Loftus
28th June 2023

With its rich history, it should come as no surprise that Kent is home to many stunning and remarkable English Heritage sites. With stories spanning the Romans to World War II, these exceptional castles, forts and gardens are the go-to destinations to uncover some of the country’s most key moments in history. With stories to uncover in every corner of these magnificent sites, it’s in English Heritage’s nature to create unmissable experiences and share some of Kent’s most important moments, from the arrival of the Romans to the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Ready to get exploring? Let’s take a look at those iconic sites and discover why they should go to the top of your list this summer…

Dover Castle

Discover the history...

The key to England, Dover Castle, has been standing tall over the famous White Cliffs since 1066 and has an incredible depth of history. The castle we see now was built in the 1180s by King Henry II and its defences and tunnels have been adapted to meet the changing demands of warfare for over 800 years. So, why visit? Well, the obvious reason is of course to see the stunning castle and the breath-taking views across the Channel, but did you know there’s so much more to see and do, especially if you’re looking for a day out with the family?

Things to do...

We’re starting off with a hint of something exciting that's just reached Dover Castle - brand new to 2024, the northern defences will now be open to visitors, but we'll tell you more about that later... 

Walk through history as you step into the hidden Secret Wartime Tunnels, deep within the White Cliffs of Dover and experience state-of-the-art special effects, dramatic projection and real film footage of the rescue of the British Army from the beaches of Dunkirk. You’ll then head for the Underground Hospital and experience the castle’s Second World War dressing station with the sounds, smells and atmosphere of the operating theatre, wards and corridors.

Another must when visiting the castle is the medieval court of Henry II inside the Great Tower, and be sure to check out the WWI fire command post. You can also spot some impressive views from the Great Tower, and on a clear day you might be able to catch a glimpse of France! You’ll also be able to uncover Dover’s Roman and Saxon stories including, the oldest surviving lighthouse in the country, and one of the oldest in the world, the Roman Pharos.

Feeling hungry?...

Discover Dover Castle's range of eateries including the NAAFI restaurant selling hot and cold drinks, snacks, sandwiches and a range of hot meals, The Secret Wartime Tunnels Tearoom, perfect if you’re looking for a snack or sweet treat or The Keep, a family-friendly café tucked in the walls of the medieval castle.

Dover Castle - Summer Family Events

Now for some family excitement, let’s take a look at what events are coming up at Dover Castle this summer…

Remember we mentioned this year's brand new project? As the castle opens up its northern defences for the first time ever, a day out will see you exploring medieval tunnels and Georgian casemates. This extensive conservation and reinterpretation project has brought a whole new life to the castle, featuring hands on experiences, exciting interpretations and a new interactive outdoor STEM play area. Reveal the dramatic, untold story of the most testing times in the history of the castle and of England itself.

It's also the Medieval Season at Dover Castle this summer, and there’s a whole host of activities ready to be discovered. From jester workshops, have-a-go archery, storytelling and squire training to lessons in courtly etiquette… There’s something for everyone to enjoy and each week there will be a different activity so be sure to keep an eye on their Facebook page for details!

Ahoy! Pirates have arrived at Dover Castle this August, so round up the family and set sail on a spectacular pirate adventure! Watch as history’s most famous pirates take to battle, listen to them tell their tales and take part in hands-on activities.

Grab your shiny armourer and shields because Clash of Knights will be battling it out at Dover Castle, and your little ones won’t want to miss it! The teams of knights will battle it out for victory and show off their skills and strength in this exciting combat. Plus, young knights can take part in drills themselves! With an open fire for cooking food, songs of the Middle Ages and the colourful surrounding of medieval banners, this is an unmissable event for the summer.

Walmer Castle

With over 8 acres of land to explore and stunning award-winning gardens, this Tudor fortress turned country house makes for a peaceful and historical day out or a great family-friendly visit with so much to see and do…

The gardens at Walmer Castle are a must for when you’re visiting and with three different gardens to explore, your senses will be activated by the beautiful colours, fresh air smells and sounds of nature. Enjoy the replanted herbaceous borders in the Broadwalk Garden, explore the range of fruit and vegetables in the Kitchen Garden and soak in the surroundings of the stunning Queen Mother’s Garden. If you’ve got the little ones, then they’ll be able to let off steam in in the Natural Play Trail along the woodland walk.

Don’t forget you can also visit the Wellington Room and quite literally step back in time through history and witness first-hand the room the Duke of Wellington spent 23 years in at Walmer Castle. And yes, you will get to see the original Wellington Boots!

Deal Castle

Our next stop is Deal Castle and there’s lots to see and do here, making this another must this summer, especially if you’re tying it in with a day at the beach! Built by Henry VIII almost 500 years ago, visit this stunning castle and you’ll be able to catch sight of the spectacular seaside views when exploring the castle walls and moat, so be sure to soak in those coastal views and extraordinary architecture of the fortress.

If you’re looking to learn a thing or two about the castle’s history, then take a look at the displays and exhibits, find out the role it played in defending the coast and hear the story of those who lived and worked at the castle. If you’ve got your little ones, then we’ve got just the thing. Grab a pair of wellies and a wooden musket and head down to the passageways beneath the keep, designed to defend the castle from attacks and get exploring!

Richborough Roman Fort

We’ve got another incredible English Heritage site that holds so much history, not to mention the fact it’s the most symbolically important of all Roman sites in Britain! Richborough Roman Fort dates back to AD 43 as the very location where Romans first landed in Britain. The site is now home to impressive ruins of the former trading hub and an amazing collection of artefacts that allow us to experience four centuries of life in Roman Britain.

So, now you know a little about the history, let’s tell you about what you can get up to whilst visiting. Want to spot break-taking views? Climb the ramparts to the top of the reconstructed Claudian Gateaway and you’ll witness the amazing views of Richborough’s Roman remains, and you may even spot the sweeping coastline in the distance where the Romans once arrived. Speaking of the Roman ruins, did you know the 'Saxon Shore' fort walls still tower over Richborough today? Now that’s impressive. You can also spot defensive ditches of an earlier fort, cut deep into the ground as a barrier to potential attackers. There are more artefacts to be discovered so make sure you visit the recently revamped museum and discover the artefacts excavated at Richborough during the last 100 years.

Fancy a little walk? Take a 5-minute walk to witness the buried remains of Richborough’s Roman amphitheatre, where gladiators battled to entertain thousands of people.

Got the kids? Great news, there’s a pop-up Kids’ Trail which leads you around the Roman Walls, up the Claudian Gateway and around the remains of the monumental arch – be sure to grab a map at admission!

St Augustine's Abbey

Step back into Kent’s history with a visit to St Augustine’s Abbey, set in the magnificent medieval city of Canterbury. The stunning St Augustine’s Abbey has remarkable ruins of the great abbey, which was founded shortly after AD 597 by St Augustine – an extremely impressive site that the whole family (even your four-legged members) will love! Browse the museum and spot the amazing finds unearthed during archaeology and excavation work at this former burial place for the Anglo Saxon Kings of Kent. An amazing, educational place to visit for the little ones and when looking to escape the busyness of the city.

So now you’re really caught up with the history of our wonderful county, the next step is to get out your diaries and pencil in the dates to visit. Don’t forget you can become an English Heritage member and receive a range of exclusive benefits, so if you’re a history lover or have little ones who are, be sure to check out the membership for ultimate days out and fun!

Did you know if you book online you can save 10% for all sites? Booking fingers at the ready!