Eleanor Keymer, The Telegraph, November 29, 2018
With its iconic cliffs, captivating castle and smattering of Roman ruins, Dover has always been more than a gateway to the continent. Nevertheless, this busy port town has undergone something of a renaissance of late. Large-scale investments are funding a burgeoning bar and restaurant scene, transforming the waterfront, and creating a new marina pier, meaning there are plenty of places to explore before, during or after your cruise.
Cruise port location
The town of Dover nestles between the Western Docks, where Dover’s two cruise terminals can be found, and the Eastern Docks, where passenger ferries depart for Europe.
The Port of Dover is the UK’s second largest passenger port after Southampton, and is used by 20 cruise lines including Fred Olsen and Saga. Cruise ships dock alongside three berths; soon to be four following a £250 million redevelopment project to be completed in 2019. Terminal two is used by the larger cruise ships while Terminal one is located in the former Marine Railway Station, which still retains many of its original features.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
Frequent shuttle buses drop passengers at the Market Square in the centre of town. Once in the town, the majority of sights are within walking distance of each other.
Dover is compact enough to walk around although there is a reliable bus network linking the main streets. Taxis and buses can take you up to the top of the cliffs and the castle.
Dover is approximately 70 miles from London and, if you are driving, take the M20 motorway which merges into the A20 at Folkestone. Follow the road and you will see signposts to the Dover Cruise Terminals.
Trains frequently depart from London St Pancras to Dover Priory station and take approximately 65 minutes. It is about a 25-minute walk between the station and the cruise terminals, so a taxi is advised. Gatwick is the nearest international airport which is approximately 78 miles from Dover (a one hour and 20 minute drive) via the M20 and M25 motorways.
For those wanting a luxury stay in the centre of town, the Best Western Dover Marina Hotel and Spa is located on the seafront with excellent access to the cruise terminals and a first-class restaurant and spa on site.
Another city centre offering is the family-run Hubert House Bed and Breakfast; a Grade 2-listed Georgian townhouse situated in a quiet square close to the port with single, twin, double and family rooms available.
Located just outside Dover in the pretty village of St Margaret’s at Cliffe, The White Cliffs Hotel is a 16th century inn offering 16 rooms, a popular restaurant, strong links to the local community and the occasional art exhibition.
What to see and do What can I do in four hours or less?
If you’re tight on time, head to the Dover Museum in the centre of town and marvel at the remains of a Bronze Age boat thought to have sailed the seas some 3,000 years ago. Combine this trip with a visit to the Roman Painted House with its impressive murals and informative displays. Staffed by volunteers, it is worth calling ahead to check opening times.
Alternatively take a short taxi ride to Dover Castle where adults and kids alike will love the recreated medieval palace, spooky tunnels and incredible sea views.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
With more time, passengers can really stretch their legs with a bracing walk along the famed White Cliffs of Dover . If you’re feeling energetic, you can walk to the Langdon Cliffs and back (two miles east of Dover) or St. Margaret’s Bay (four miles east of Dover), while there are a myriad of shorter paths skirting the cliff tops for those who don’t want to venture too far.
While on the cliff top, you can explore Fan Bay Deep Shelter tunnel complex on a guided tour, which served as accommodation for an artillery battery during World War II.
Families, meanwhile, will love the South Foreland Lighthouse with its kite-flying opportunities, giant games played on the extensive lawns and excellent tea shop.
Further afield, popular day-long excursions include exploring Canterbury with its magnificent cathedral, cobbled streets and timber-framed houses or Hastings with its 11th century castle and Battle Abbey built on the famous 1066 battlefields (located eight miles north of the town). Art lovers should head to the Jerwood Gallery, found in the picturesque old town.
Leeds Castle, known for its associations with Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, is in beautiful location with extensive gardens, including a maze, and year-round family-friendly events.
What can I do with a bit longer?
Although you can easily travel from London to Dover, early arrivals should explore the glorious Kent countryside before embarking on their cruise. There are some charming seaside towns such as Margate and Broadstairs, with their independent shops and boutique hotels, fascinating maritime heritage sites such as the Historic Dockyard Chatham, and, perhaps unsurprisingly given that Kent is called the Garden of England, an abundance of gardens such as those at the home of Charles Darwin.
Eat and drink
Unsurprisingly, seafood is the order of the day in Dover. You can sample the town’s namesake, Dover sole, at the Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant, located on the beach for the freshest of catches.
In a further nod to the up-and-coming food scene, the celebrity chef Marco Pierre White has recently opened not one, but two, new restaurants in Dover. Wheeler’s Fish and Chips lends itself to a more relaxed dining experience while Mr. White’s English Chophouse serves meaty favourites in elegant surroundings.
Don’t leave Dover without…
Purchasing nautical knick knacks and history-themed souvenirs at specialist shops in the town centre, at the Dover Museum shop or at the Dover Castle Visitor Centre. That said, your best present maybe the photographs you take atop the cliffs gazing over at our continental cousin.
Need to know
Most visits are trouble free, if you take the usual precautions.
Best time to go
Cruise departures run from February to November. The annual Dover Community Regatta takes place on the August Bank Holiday weekend where you can watch nautical races, wander along the seafront sampling local food and drink and stock up on local crafts and produce.
Most museums and shops open daily.