Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham

Dockyards, drama and plenty of Dutch courage - the district of Medway has plenty to offer visitors and is a must see destination all year round.

The Medway towns of  Rochester, Chatham and Gillingham inspired Charles Dickens and were the setting of incredible moments in British history.

This summer marks the 350th anniversary of the Battle of Medway, a defining moment in British and Dutch naval history for the entire region - but one that is largely unknown to many. From 8th June onwards, come and enjoy a spectacular array of events, exhibitions and cultural activities, including a pageant on the river, a new permanent exhibition at Upnor Castle and numerous displays and activities at The Historic Dockyard Chatham, and a fiery finale on the river to commemorate the anniversary.

The naval connections continue at The Historic Dockyard Chatham where more than 400 years of life at sea can be seen through dramatic exhibits. This staggering site is perfect for a family day out, with plenty of events and exhibitions throughout the year. While in the area, be sure to get a touch of 'Dutch courage' and a taste the dockyard's sprit at Chatham’s dynamic new distillery, Copper Rivet, set in the magnificent Pumphouse no. 5. 

Visit Rochester Castle and you’ll discover a towering keep, one of the tallest in the country, alongside England’s second oldest cathedral, Rochester Cathedral, built in 604.  In Gillingham the compelling Royal Engineers Museum reveals an absorbing heritage, while Fort Amherst is Britain's largest Napoleonic fortress.

Here literary history is just as rich. This area is where Dickens' life started and ended; the places that pop up in his books still sit among its characterful streets, shops and ancient buildings today. Track down his literary locations on an expert-led tour or a self-guided trail. Highlights include the Six Poor Travellers House and Miss Haversham’s 'home', Restoration House. The Guildhall Museum is alive with interactive Dickens exhibits, while Baggins Book Bazaar, one of England's largest second-hand bookshops, is hog heaven for bibliophiles. For streets alive with stalls, carol singers and lamp-lit parades don't miss the atmospheric Dickensian Christmas each December.

Speed fiends can screech around the karting track at Buckmore Park (Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have burnt rubber here too), while Gillingham Football Club provides plenty of reasons to cheer. Sooth your soul at the stunning Hoo Peninsula, where the Heron Trail and Saxon Shore Way lead cyclists and walkers through an inspiring landscape of marshes, heronries and RSPB reserves. 

A knot of towns with a powerful history, looped along the tidal reaches of the River Medway proves the perfect no-nonsense mix of ancient and modern. 

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