The White Cliffs of Dover are an official icon of Britain for a reason.
Other cliffs would crumble for their dazzling white chalk faces and sharp edges reaching 350 feet (110 meters) above the sea level. And they’re decorated with a layer of wild, lush grass. They’re simply picture-perfect!
But it’s not only the beauty they’re praised for. They’ve also got a more important meaning.
This stunning coastline of Dover has been saying ‘farewell’ and ‘hello to’ thousands of people crossing the English Channel for centuries.
It’s a symbol of home, hope and freedom. And wartime defence.
It already sounds pretty grand, doesn’t it?
But we can still hear you say: ‘These are just white cliffs, what’s so special about them?’
If the nomination to the top 10 places to walk in the UK is not enough, have a look at our 4 reasons to visit the White Cliffs of Dover.
There are not many places in the world where you can see white cliffs. This is what makes the crags of Dover special.
What also makes them extraordinary, is the type of rock they’re made of.
You may find it difficult to believe, but this stretch of coastline is made of chalk.
Chalk is a soft white, finely grained limestone made of the remains of coccoliths. These tiny planktonic green algae once floated in the sea. When they died, their minute bodies sank to the bottom of the sea. Together with the remains of other creatures, they formed layers of chalk. If you think how minuscule these algae are, you won’t be surprised that it took millions of years to create these spectacular cliffs. It’s thought that they grew at a ‘staggering’ speed of half a millimetre a year! That makes geology much more interesting, doesn’t it?
Standing tall as guardians of the island, the White Cliffs of Dover witnessed many dramatic moments in English history.
If they could speak, they would regale you with incredible stories. They would speak of Julius Caesar who crossed the English Channel with his unsuccessful Roman invasion.
They would tell you about the fear of Napoleon’s invasion and British reinforcements, and the secret underground tunnels at Dover Castle.
You would hear that as a significant part of the defence system, they were on the frontline in the WW1 and WW2. It was here where two sound mirrors, designed to hear the enemy aircraft, were installed. The cliffs were also the location of the mighty gun batteries; ‘Winnie’ and ‘Pooh’.
The White Cliffs of Dover where the reassuring sight and symbol of the United Kingdom to the British and French troops evacuated from dangerous beaches of Dunkirk. This evacuation, called ‘Operation Dynamo’, was one of the most astonishing actions of WW2. It was a heroic feat of the Royal Navy and private boat owners who ferried the troops to safety from France.
When you’re standing on the edge of the coastline, you can spot two shipwrecks at the base of the cliffs. The SS Falcon which caught fire and ran aground in 1926. And Preussen, a German vessel wrecked here in 1910.
Try to ponder over these turbulent moments and heroic people connected to this place when you stare over the English Channel towards France.
Who doesn’t love ponies? These slightly chubby-looking creatures with short legs put a smile on everyone’s face. This is the cutest reason to visit the White Cliffs of Dover. Two herds of hardy Exmoor ponies were introduced here almost 20 years ago. But they’re here not just for our pleasure and photobombing opportunities. Their mission is to keep the coarse grasses, bushes, and trees at bay so that the chalk grassland of the cliffs can thrive.
Visiting a location which has been mentioned in a literary work or a movie gives you a special way to experience a place. And it’s the same with the Cliffs of Dover. This coastline has inspired pop-fiction, symbolic and patriotic songs, and one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.
Think of James Bond’s narrow escape from being buried under exploding parts of the White Cliffs in ‘Moonraker’. Treat the sheer drop of the cliffs as a symbolic boundary between the known and the unknown, as in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’. Hum or sing the popular WW2 song ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and think of people living in that turbulent time. By doing so, you turn an ordinary walk along the cliffs into an exciting experience.
So, there you have it. If this hasn’t convinced you to leave London to enjoy a stroll along the breath-taking views of the White Cliffs of Dover, then we don’t know what will. If you want to join a friendly guide and explore the spectacular south of England, check our 3 day tour here.