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Live and breathe the story of England at royal castles, historic gardens, forts & defences, world-famous prehistoric sites and many others.
Dover Castle is now open for you to visit. You now need to book your timed tickets in advance. We have introduced limits on visitor numbers to help keep everyone safe, and you won’t be able to visit without your booking confirmation. If you’re a Member, your ticket will be free, but you still need to book in advance. There will be other new steps in place to ensure everyone’s safety, so your visit will be a little different.
We have introduced limits on visitor numbers to help keep everyone safe, and you won’t be able to visit without your booking confirmation. If you’re a Member, your ticket will be free, but you still need to book in advance. To book your visit, click here.
Although things might be a little different when you visit, you’ll still be able to enjoy exploring the places where history really happened. And you’ll still be given a warm and safe welcome by our friendly – if socially distant – staff and volunteers.
On weekends from 18 July we will bring the castle’s WWII stories to life with live interpretation in the open air. Step back in time to 1940 when Dover was on the front line of the war.
The Allied army is retreating back to the coast of Dunkirk and in danger of annihilation. But in the tunnels at Dover Castle, Vice Admiral Ramsay is leading a top secret mission to rescue as many troops as possible. Meet Ramsay as he heads above ground and into the open air and question him about his plans for the Evacuation of Dunkirk. Then encounter other men and women experiencing these dangerous times – each of whom has a gripping story to tell.Book your Visit
Massive earth ramparts and ditches are constructed, which will provide the foundation for the medieval castle's curtain walls. Regular cross-Channel trading takes place.
The Romans build a lighthouse here to guide ships into the harbour, the base of the fleet patrolling the Channel.
Eadbald, King of Kent, founds a minster church for 22 monks in the 'castrum' of Dover - either the Roman fort in the town or the hillfort on the headland.
The church of St Mary in Castro is built beside the lighthouse.
William the Conqueror defeats King Harold, then turns to Dover. He takes the town, burns it, and builds fortifications there, before heading to London for his coronation.
Find out more about the history of Dover Castle
Henry II rebuilds Dover Castle, spending vast sums on it. It is the most expensive castle project of its time.
King John establishes the first royal fleet and completes the castle's outer defences.
After King John reneges on Magna Carta, Prince Louis of France invades England and besieges Dover Castle. It is successfully defended by a few hundred men.
Under Henry III, enormous sums are spent strengthening Dover, making it one of the largest and most strategically important castles in England.
Simon de Montfort challenges Henry III's government and captures Dover Castle. The future Edward I is briefly held prisoner here.
After de Montfort is killed in battle his wife, Eleanor, leads the defence of Dover, holding out with 29 archers. She is forced to surrender to Prince Edward when he brings troops from London.
On 25 May the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, arrives at Dover for a meeting with Henry VIII. The emperor probably stays in the great tower.
Henrietta Maria, the teenage French princess, occupies the castle but is said to be 'poorly accommodated'. It is later refurbished by George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham.
The garrison of 20 remains loyal to Charles I. A daring merchant called Drake and 11 men scale the cliffs and take the castle for Parliament, with few shots fired.
England faces the threat of French invasion, so the defences are upgraded.
Huge sums are spent on the town and castle defences. Barracks are constructed in a complex of tunnels beneath the castle.
Major renovations take place again with the threat of invasion from Napoleon III.
The top floor of the Great Tower is furnished with displays of armour and opened to the public.
The church of St Mary in Castro, Roman lighthouse and Colton's Gate are transferred to the Ancient Monuments Branch of the Ministry of Works.
The Napoleonic tunnels have a new role as naval and later combined services headquarters, where the Dunkirk evacuation is masterminded. Air attacks earn the area around Dover the nickname 'Hellfire Corner'.
The castle's last gun batteries are scrapped.
After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the tunnels are renovated and equipped to serve as one of 12 regional seats of government in the event of nuclear war.
The castle is transferred to the Ministry of Works for preservation as an Ancient Monument.
Learn more about the history of Dover Castle