A rich maritime past lingers long into the present in Kent with a royal dockyard, imposing coastal defenses and sinful smugglers' tales waiting to be discovered.
The Historic Dockyard Chatham offers more than 400 years of history in one fantastic day out, making it the most complete British dockyard from the age of sail. Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, was built on site, and a visit today takes in dry docks packed with historic warships, interactive displays and immersive audio visual tours, and an immense Victorian ropery that offers tours with costumed guides.
As early as 1050, the coastal towns of Dover, Hastings, Hythe, Romney and Sandwich, had formed the Confederation of the Cinque Ports, pledging ships and men to King Edward the Confessor in return for favours. These port towns can be explored today, each offering a range of attractions, sights and accommodation for intrepid explorers.
There are numerous defenses all along Kent's shores that welcome visitors, including Roman Reculver Fort, the mighty Dover Castle, Henry VIII's Walmer and Deal Castles, and Elizabeth I's Upnor Castle. Gravesend's strategic role as Port of London entry-point can also be discovered on boat trips
The eerie expanses of Romney Marsh offer more maritime tales, from the bands of brigands sneaking sheep fleece out in the 13th century to the 18th century Marsh Men spiriting brandy, lace and tea in. And in Kent you can also see how seafaring all began - at Dover Museum the remarkably well-preserved Bronze Age Boat is the world's oldest known seagoing vessel.
You can discover more by driving, walking, cycling or even sailing the Maritime Heritage Trail Stretching from Gravesend to Dungeness, its themed sections explore a wealth of stories from Roman legionaries and Viking invaders to Napoleonic-era engineers.