The White Cliffs of Dover was the first time I truly understood the meaning of the word sublime. As an adjective, this word means “of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.” As a verb, its archaic meaning is “elevate to a high degree of moral or spiritual purity or excellence.” The White Cliffs demand both parts of speech.
I hopped on the 007 coach from London to Dover, which I thought was just a funny coincidence to James Bond’s agent number. Turns out, Ian Lancaster Fleming, the author of the James Bond series and former naval intelligence commander, spy, and traveler, drew the 007 moniker from this very bus. He even had a weekend and holiday home along the White Cliffs in St. Margaret’s Bay, and the Dover Museum has all sorts of facts about Fleming and his novels. Moonraker is set in the Dover region, and the scenes in Goldfinger where Bond is at Royal St. Mark’s for a round of golf then clashes with Goldfinger himself is inspired by real places. The Royal St. Mark’s is actually Royal St. George’s, the golf course here in Dover. This movie is also the premiere of the British spy’s Aston Martin DB III, which he drives from London to Kent. So. That’s pretty cool.
When we arrived in Dover, we set off to our hostel (the only hostel in this tiny little coastal town) and waited for the owner, who wasn’t there yet. We called the number provided, and he showed up in a pretty well worn car with loads of rubbish in the back. He was on his way to dispose of the rubbish when he offered to take us up to the castle. Oh, I should have mentioned. There’s a castle. An English Heritage site, Dover Castle is pretty significant. It was forged in Medieval times and used from the Civil War to WWII, with Winston Churchill making a lot of crucial decisions and secret plans during the World War. You might also recognize it as the castle from Avengers: Age of Ultron. Superheroes of all kinds.
Anyway, as it was late in the afternoon and there was only so much sunlight left and the castle was going to be closing off for visitors soon, we hopped in his car and he drove us up – once again, a dodgy decision we made that turned out alright. He had a special admissions pass that got us in for free, which was AWESOME, because we might not have gone in otherwise.
We explored the grounds and happened to walk in line for the secret underground tunnels tour, being the last two people for the very last tour of the day. We were not allowed to take any photos in this tour, but the secret plans and decisions and innovations and advanced technology and hundreds of tunnels and the overall significance of this place is incredible. If you’re interested in learning more about Dover Castle and it’s amazing history and current uses, click here.
Our hostel was located right in the middle of the town, so we were walking distance from both the castle (which we could see from the common room window), the White Cliffs, and the beach. Since we had been in London for almost a month, we were definitely missing the ocean, so our first night (after the castle adventure) we ran down to the water of the English Channel. Leave it to California girls to always find the ocean.
The next day was when the magic happened.
We spent an entire day on the White Cliffs of Dover. It was so majestic. We took our time meandering through the fields, beckoning the wild ponies, eating hot soup at the White Cliffs Visitor Centre Coffee Shop, battling the raging winds, admiring just how white the cliffs are, and looking at France.
That’s right. You can see FRANCE from the top of these cliffs.
During the tour of the secret wartime tunnels, we learned a bit more about how vital this position and castle was to France and the war and the strategies used in various conflicts between the UK and other European countries. This is also where the chunnel goes under, which is the underwater train tunnel that takes one from the UK to France, as well as the harbor for the bus from London to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris (which I took a couple months later for Paris and was the longest nine hours of my life), and other European cities.
There isn’t enough to say about Dover. We loved it so much, we stayed an extra day and ate as much fresh fish and chips as we could. The White Cliffs of Dover are truly sublime. Majestic. Awe-inspiring. There are not enough adjectives to adequately equate the beauty of this place. My absolute favorite picture is below, where you can see my tiny outline stretched into Titanic arms, wind blowing in my hair, and the White Cliffs demanding the respect it deserves.
If you have a few extra days in London and are not sure what to do with them, please hop on the 007 coach and discover these Cliffs for yourself. I promise you, it’ll be worth it.