The White Cliffs of Dover
Ever since I was a kid I wanted to explore the white cliffs of Dover. I mean, I’ve seen them a few times on the ferry crossing to France, fading away in the distance (like on our recent trip to The Netherlands), but I’ve never actually explored them. So on Sunday morning, we decided to take the 3hr drive down to Dover to have a little wander around.
The cliffs are made of chalk, which is a very fine type of limestone made from the remains of planktonic green algae millions of years ago, which sank to the bottom of the ocean. As ocean levels dropped, the cliffs became exposed forming the white cliffs of Dover!
There are a few walks to do around the area, and as we’re (I’m) obsessed with lighthouses, we chose the two mile walk on the pink trail over to South Foreland Lighthouse. It’s a pretty easy walk along the cliffs, though there’s two ways you can go.
On the maps you follow the trail to the Fan Bay Deep Shelter and then just continue on to the lighthouse. But the signs are really poor for the trails, so we ended up going up and across through the farmers fields on a small dirt track, and the views were stunning (the dirt track is actually an easier walk, especially for prams etc as it’s gravel and is a lot flatter).
It took just under an hour to walk to the lighthouse, even with me constantly stopping to take photos and admire the view. On most days, you can see all the way over the channel to France, and I was so tempted to hop on a ferry and head over there (it’s a shame we forgot our passports and had to head to work the next day though haha).
South Foreland Lighthouse
We didn’t stay too long at the lighthouse, as there wasn’t really all that much to do there. I mean, you could go up the lighthouse but it was £6 per adult, and as there were rain clouds coming closer to us, we decided to skip the guided tour in favour of walking back dry. Or in Shanes words “they’re all pretty much the same inside anyway” haha!
There are actually two lighthouses there – the main one and a smaller older one to show both sides of the sandbank. There’s been warning lights on the cliff since the early 14th century, with men hanging lanterns on the cliff face to warn sailors. The first lighthouse was constructed in 1635 made of two iron braziers which held an open fire.
There were a few changes to the lighthouses made over the years until 1832 when Trinity House purchased them and improved them to the lighthouses that are standing today. Both lighthouses were refurbished and heightened in the 1840’s, and by the early 1900’s the lower light was no longer needed, so it was turned off. The main lighthouse was the first lighthouse in the UK to be switched to an automated light until it was eventually decommissioned in the 1980’s.
After our explore of the lighthouse, we headed back along the cliffs edge to the car park. The views across to France were stunning! There’s quite a few areas that you could sit with a picnic, and I really wish it was better weather and that we’d thought to bring one, because we could have sat there for hours watching the ferry port.
There’s no parking available at the lighthouse, but National Trust Members can park for free at the White Cliffs of Dover Tourist Centre, or for everyone else it’s £3.50. Entry to the lighthouse is by guided tours only and is £6 for adults or £3 for children.
Have you been to the White Cliffs of Dover before?