Kent’s Castles: a window into the history of the Garden of England


Kent is not only one of the most picturesque regions of England, it’s also among the most historic, and is in fact where the identity of the nation was forged. The Norman Conquest of 1066 is perhaps the most critical event in the country’s formation, and all of the major battles took place in Kent, making the county a must-visit for anyone with an interest in English history.

Tonbridge Castle

Tonbridge Castle

Unsurprisingly, the Normans built a lot of castles and fortresses to help them maintain control after their military victory, so taking a trip to a few of these is the best way to get an insight into the story of this iconic period in England’s past. As well as being fascinating for their historical significance, many of these are also stunning and make for a wonderful day out, so you can be sure that kids and adults alike will find Kent’s castles of interest. As they tend to be dotted around the county, though, it’s worth hiring a car in London to help you get from one castle to the next. More info can be found here but for now we’ll talk about some of the most interesting ones.

Tonbridge Castle

Immediately after William the Conqueror’s victory at the Battle of Hastings, he went about appointing his kinsmen to maintain order across the country, and the building of castles played a vital role in this. Tonbridge Castle was constructed by Richard Fitzgerald in the immediate aftermath of the Norman Conquest to guard the crossing of the Medway, and is widely considered to be England’s finest example of a motte and bailey castle.

Visitors can learn more about the structure’s history courtesy of a number of interactive displays featuring lifesize models and special effects to help recreate the atmosphere of the castle’s early days, while guided tours are also available.

Sitting on the banks of the River Medway, the castle can be accessed from Tonbridge High Street, with the town itself being serviced by the A227.

Dover Castle

With the white cliffs of Dover being the first thing that any invading army would have seen as they approached England from France, it made sense for some sort of defence to be erected here, and archaeological discoveries have provided evidence of a fort dating back to the Iron Age. The modern-day Dover Castle, however, didn’t begin to take shape until Henry II ordered its construction in the 13th century.

Dover Castle is the largest and one of the most iconic castles in England, and its history spans more than 2,000 years, with significant events taking place here as recently as the 20th century. Underground tunnels built in the early days of the fortress were used as a military command centre during World War II, and these are now open for visitors to explore.

Special exhibitions have been set up to recreate the key events of the war, with the story of the Dunkirk evacuation being told via the use of film footage and sound effects. Costumed actors also help provide an insight into what life was like under the reign of Henry II.

Hever Castle

Once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle is arguably the most picturesque in Kent. Featuring two mind-boggling mazes and a number of award-winning gardens, it’s a truly stunning place to visit and also home to a wonderful exhibition on the lives of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.

Located in the banks of the River Eden, Hever sits just to the south of London, close to junction 6 of the M25.


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