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A town guide to Dover and St Margaret's

PUBLISHED: 11:00 15 April 2019

A 'talking telescope' positioned to look over always-busy Dover harbour (photo: Manu Palomeque)

A 'talking telescope' positioned to look over always-busy Dover harbour (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Packed with history and forging ahead with modern regeneration, there's much more to Dover than its ferry terminal

The history of Dover is central to that of our country. Thanks its location, just 21 miles across the Strait of Dover from France, it became an important port during the Roman period. Later, it would become one of the original Cinque Ports, afforded special privileges in return for the use of its ships by the King.

Being so close to mainland Europe put it at risk and the town was literally in the firing line, particularly during the Napoleonic and Second World Wars.

The iconic White Cliffs (photo: Manu Palomeque)The iconic White Cliffs (photo: Manu Palomeque)

This vulnerability meant it needed strong defences so it's no surprise to see the mighty Dover Castle looking down from its lofty position. Built on the same site as an Iron Age fort and alongside a Roman lighthouse which still survives today, the castle as we know it took shape during the 12th century. Barracks in the form of underground tunnels were added during the early 1800s and repurposed as a military command centre in the 1930s. Operation Dynamo was famously planned in this secret complex beneath the castle.

Run by English Heritage, Dover Castle and its wartime tunnels are now the town's biggest visitor attraction. Others nearby include the National Trust's White Cliffs Visitor Centre, the South Foreland Lighthouse and the Fan Bay Deep Shelter – another fine example of wartime tunnels.

To look further into the area's history, a visit to Dover Museum is a must and it's home to everything from a collection of Dover postcards to a genuine Bronze Age boat. At around 3,500 years old it is quite possibly the oldest intact boat in the world. And visit the Roman Painted House, not far from the museum, for one of the best preserved Roman buildings in the country.

Port of Dover (photo: Manu Palomeque)Port of Dover (photo: Manu Palomeque)

There is no other view that inspires such nostalgia and national pride than that of Dover's coastline. The iconic White Cliffs have become a symbol of our independence and, famously, Dame Vera Lynn sang about them to rally the troops during the Second World War. These days the cliffs are cared for by the National Trust and are frequented by tourists and walkers. But for a truly breathtaking view of the cliffs, you need to take to the water. Dover Sea Safaris offer close-up tours from their 'rib' vessels.

If it's the wild beauty of Kent's coast that you're seeking, then this is certainly the right area for you. There are wonderful walks, suitable for both seasoned hikers and Sunday strollers. A recent addition to the many local trails is the CHALKUP21 route, which links nine interesting 21st century structures along a 17-mile stretch of coast between Deal and Capel-le-Ferne (visit www.chalkup21.com for details).

And nearby St Margaret's Bay is the perfect place to explore the shore. There's a pretty shingle beach with plenty of rock pools, perfect for young families, while its inland village offers cosy pubs, the charming White Cliffs Hotel and shops.

Dover Castle seen from the harbour (photo: Manu Palomeque)Dover Castle seen from the harbour (photo: Manu Palomeque)

While you're in the bay, don't miss the Art Deco houses set right on the beach beneath the chalk cliffs. Both Noel Coward and Ian Fleming had homes in this peaceful spot, waking up to the sound of the waves each morning.

Dover's regeneration

Postcard from DoverPostcard from Dover

With all the uncertainty of Brexit, the Port of Dover – Europe's busiest roll-on roll-off and passenger port – has faced rough times. As the gateway to Europe, it handles £100billion worth of trade annually and more than 13 million people travel via Dover each year – all reliant on speedy customs clearance.

In January the organisation said it had strengthened its infrastructure in preparation for new border processes, insisting it was prepared for any eventuality.

What happens next could have a knock-on effect for the planned development at the Port of Dover. Two new cargo berths, along with a new cargo terminal and distribution facility, are planned as part of the £250m Dover Western Docks Revival project. It would also free up space at Dover's Eastern Docks for ferry traffic and regenerate the waterfront area, allowing for new leisure, hotel and residential developments.

Elsewhere, two of the area's biggest developments have been completed over the past year. St James Retail Park officially opened in August and the £53m shopping complex is now home to a number of retailers including Next, Superdrug and an M&S Foodhall, along with a six-screen Cineworld cinema, a Travelodge hotel, Nandos restaurant and more.

And the new Dover District Leisure Centre, in Whitfield, has recently been opened. The £26m facility has the first county standard, eight-lane competition pool in Kent, along with spectator seating for 250 people. There's also a learner pool, sports halls, squash courts, gym, indoor climbing centre, sports pitches and a café.

Dover's Market Place also looks set for redevelopment and there are several large housing developments going on at the moment too, including the site of the disused Connaught Barracks and the massive Whitfield Urban Expansion project. But it's not just the big projects that are benefitting from investment in Dover. St Edmund's Chapel – thought to be the smallest church in England still in regular use – is to be given a £46,000 boost from the Coastal Revival Fund.

It will fund a project to protect and repair the tiny 13th-century chapel from further deterioration and allow it to offer more cultural activities and events.

Eating and shopping

When it comes to shopping, head to the new St James retail development, the High Street or the De Bradelei Wharf shopping outlet, with its range of discount stores.

Eat out at places including Cullin's Yard, Hythe Bay seafood restaurant, Dino's Italian, Il Rustico, The Allotment, La Scala, Blakes of Dover or The Happy Chef café. Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White launched his new Mr White's English Chophouse at Dover Marina Hotel and his Wheeler's Fish and Chips last year.

The White Horse was a finalist in the pub of the year category in our Kent Life Food & Drink Awards 2018, and is well worth a visit. Look out for the signatures of channel swimmers on the walls.

In St Margaret's, seek out The Cliffe Kitchen at The White Cliffs Hotel, The Smugglers, The Coastguard, The Pines Garden Tea Room and the charming Mrs Knott's Tea Room at the South Foreland Lighthouse. u

Getting there

Dover is easily accessed by car, train or coach. Dover Priory station has connections to London (high-speed trains to St Pancras take around one hour 15 minutes) and the town is approached by car on the M20 or M2/A2.

Sat nav: CT16 1JA

Property prices

One-bedroom flats can still be picked up from as little £85,000 in Dover, with two-bed properties priced between £100,000 and £325,000. Three-bedroom detached houses are on the market for up to £450,000 and there are larger properties right up to £770,000.

Postcard from Dover

I'm Victor Evans and, along with a small collection of like-minded individuals, I run the Breakwater Brewery and Taproom in Dover. Our goal is to make great beer, involve our local community with what we do, have fun and do something we love. Breakwater is both brewery and bar, a place where people gather to experience hand-crafted beer in company.

Our doors first opened Christmas 2016, with around 10 months of prior development work to the brewery.

With Dover already having a well-established real ale following, boasting two ale festivals and a few other real ale micro pubs (and a cider bar) to choose from, we knew were in a good area.

Our venue was the location of the former Harding's Wellington brewery, circa 1870. Dover was home to eight breweries at its peak, thanks to the superior water quality. Our aim was to use this valuable resource, so a borehole was drilled to access the natural chalk-filtered spring water beneath our feet and today every beer we brew is from this aquafer.

Since opening we have received unprecedented support from all our neighbours and friends, and even our local MP. In fact we recently had an invitation to showcase a guest ale at Westminster's Strangers bar.

As well as regular music events, we provide a venue for quiz teams to show off their expertise and our services are always available for our local charity, Dover Smart Project.

A few of our favourite places to eat and drink in the area are: Cullin's Yard, The Mash Tun micro pub, Blake's wine bar, The White Horse, The Lanes micro pub and The Thirsty Scarecrow cider bar.

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