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Clustered around the River Medway, Rochester and Chatham stand guard over an important gateway, not just to Kent, but to England – and they have the history to prove it. In Chatham, learn how the historic dockyard helped Britain stay afloat for more than 400 years, at Upnor discover the castle at the centre of a crushing defeat that helped shape the British empire and, in Rochester, see one of the oldest cathedrals in the country standing next to a towering Norman keep. Discover the literary links and many locations associated with Rochester’s most famous former resident, Charles Dickens, and enjoy the spirit of Medway with a glass of artisan gin.

Day 1 

© Marka Bond


Rochester Castle & Cathedral 
Rochester’s impressive castle and cathedral make a striking sight whether you see them first from the river the castle was built to protect or as you wander through the town. This morning, take the time to explore them both. Having been a place of worship since 604AD, the cathedral predates the impressive castle. Inside you can explore its medieval crypt and discover the library hidden behind a 14th-century door. The English Heritage-listed castle has an imposing Norman keep built of Kentish ragstone in 1127 on the site of an earlier timber and earth fortification.


Smoke & Liquor, Rochester
A family-run independent restaurant with seasonal menus for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.

© Simon Kelsey at PraxisDesign


Eastgate House 
Continue your tour of historic Rochester by making your way along the historic high street until you reach Eastgate House. You won’t miss it as this Elizabethan town house is one of the most striking buildings in the town centre. Built in the 16th and 17th centuries for Sir Peter Buck, Clerk of the Cheque at Chatham’s Royal Tudor Dockyard it is now grade I listed and opened to the public in 2017 after an extensive refurbishment. Find out about its 400-year history through the exhibitions and display boards within.

© Guildhall Museum, Rochester

Six Poor Travellers 
The home of some of Rochester’s less fortunate residents is your next destination. The Six Poor Travellers’ House is an almshouse founded by Elizabethan MP Richard Watts.In Dickens’ time the Guildhall was used as a magistrates’ court. It was here that Pip was brought by Mr Pumblechook, in Great Expectations, to be bound over as an apprentice to Joe Gargery.


Brettingtons Steak and Lobster House, Rochester
A steak and lobster restaurant using fresh ingredients with all sauces made in house and steaks cooked on the charcoal-fired Josper grill.



The Historic Dockyard Chatham 
Delve deep into maritime history at The Historic Dockyard Chatham. Start off by learning about the 400-year history of this important dockyard in the Command of the Oceans exhibition featuring an atmospheric Hearts of Oak audio visual gallery before stepping aboard three historic warships. Get a feel for what life was like on the Victorian HMS Gannet, a WWII destroyer and a Cold War submarine. You can also take a fascinating guided tour of the Victorian ropery and see the RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection.


McGuire’s Fine Foods at Copper Rivet, Chatham
Choose from sandwiches, Kentish cheese platters and ploughman’s lunches made with fine cheeses, charcuterie, bakery and fresh produce at this delicatessen.


Copper Rivet Distillery 

Discover one of the modern businesses establishing themselves in the historic riverside buildings of Chatham. The Copper Rivet Distillery is a craft distillery producing small batches of artisan gins, vodkas and whiskies. Inspired by the innovation and skills of centuries of dockyard workers, the distillery uses produce from Kent to make its spirits in a Victorian pump house that once housed machinery to pump water from the nearby dry docks. See the distilling process in action on a guided tour and enjoy a tutored tasting.

Upnor Castle 

Built on the order of Queen Elizabeth I, Upnor Castle occupies a strategic and scenic spot on the banks of the River Medway. Its purpose was to defend Chatham Dockyard, on the opposing side of the river, and warships at anchor. Unfortunately, when the fleet came under attack in the Battle of Medway of 1667, the defence was not successful. The 450th anniversary of this event has been celebrated in 2017 and a new exhibition within the castle explains the events of that fateful day.


Powder & Magazine Restaurant, Upnor
Surrounded and inspired by maritime heritage, Powder & Magazine is housed in a 17th-century former gunpowder store and offers an a la carte menu using locally-sourced produce.

Where to stay 

In partnership with Medway Council.