The Cliffs of Dover are a popular day trip from London, and with reason - for starters, they're absolutely gorgeous. The cliffs are essentially layers of chalk that have formed over millions of years from the skeletal remains algae, and are set in the beautiful English countryside. Secondly, Dover and its cliffs are an important part of British history. Dover's location is right at the narrowest part of the English Channel (a ferry ride to Calais in France will take just 1.5 hours, and you can actually catch a glimpse of France on a sunny day!) which means one, that this area was a favourite for foreign invasions, and two, that the cliffs became a symbol with home for the many soldiers that left Dover or returned, being their last or first glimpse of the UK. In the Second World War, Dover also received thousands of soldiers as part of the Dunkirk evacuation. Lover of nature or history buff, the Cliffs of Dover are well worth a visit, especially on a sunny day!
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One of the pluses of visiting the Cliffs of Dover on a day trip is that they're SO easy to get to. There are over 150 trains that leave London everyday headed to Dover Priory, the station you'll want to get to. The journey can take up to 2 hours depending where you're leaving from (options are Victoria, Charing Cross, and St Pancras), but the quickest one departs from St Pancras and takes just over an hour. The trains run throughout the day, the first one going at 4:12am if you're after some sunrise shots of the cliffs, and the last one departing London at 23:49pm. A return ticket will cost you roughly £40, although the prices differ depending what train you take and when you go. I suggest using the Trainline app or website which will allow you to easily compare fares and book your ticket digitally - you can then pick up the physical ticket at one of the train station kiosks. If you're travelling as a couple (your significant other, best friend, sibling, whatever!) and plan to do a few train trips together from London in the next year, I recommend purchasing a Two Together railcard - this will set you back £30 and gets you a third off rail tickets in the UK for a year-long period.
what to do.
Once you exit Dover Priory, turn right on the road outside the station before heading left on Folkestone Road. To get to the trailhead, plug in Dover Adventure Backpackers on Google Maps or follow the signs that Dover's roads. Once you're on the path, you'll find that it's a quite doable trek (more of a walk than a hike) and there are lots of families enjoying the cliff as well (which is always a sign to me that I can do it haha).
From the visitor's centre, you'll see signage that maps out the different routes that you can do. We followed this roughly, trying to aim for the viewpoint and the South Foreland Lighthouse and Tearoom.
When we visited, the tearoom (called Mrs Knotts) was unfortunately closed due to lockdown measures but it looks like a super cute place to enjoy a scone and tea after a long walk. If for whatever reason the tearoom is closed when you're planning on visiting, make sure you pack some water and snacks to keep you going.
Along the way, you might see some people down below at a beach. You'll eventually run into a path that leads you to this beach down the Langdon Cliffs - it's quite narrow and winding, but doable as well. The last little bit to get down to the beach involves a dark tunnel and a ladder. A little nerve-wracking if you're scared of heights, but it's not that high off the ground and you'll be down in a minute. This beach is called Landon Bay, and is a nice place to hang out by the water and check out the shipwreck, the SS Falcon. This steamer was wrecked in 1926 after catching fire, carrying matches and hemp.
Once you've checked out Landon Bay and the lighthouse, turn around and head back where you came from. If you have some extra time or would like to grab a bite to eat, spend some extra time in Dover before making your way to Dover Priory to return to London!
how much time you need.
The amount of time you'll need at the cliffs depends on a bunch of different things, including how quickly you walk, how much time you'd like to spend hanging out or taking pictures, and whether you stop for lunch (and whether that's a packed lunch or at the teahouse or in town). We took a 10:12am train from London which got us to Dover Priority at 11:26, and we took a train back around 4pm, which means we spent approximately 4.5 hours in Dover. We brought a packed lunch and didn't linger in town, but if you would like to mosey around Dover or stop at the teahouse, factor in an extra hour or two. Dover is also home to the Dover Castle, a medieval castle dating back to the 18th century. It's rich in history and supposedly one of the largest castles in England. A visit here could be the next stop on your Dover day trip if you're hoping to extend it or if the weather turns sour - entrance will set you back £18.
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what to pack.
✧ sunscreen - dover is a super open area with little to no shade so if you luck out with the weather, you'll need this
✧ neutral cap to shield you from the sun